Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Riding associations?

We don't need no stinkin' riding associations.

Note that the members of one of those outmoded grassroots organizations that used to choose the local candidate are referred to in the linked article as "rebels." Wow.

It has to be said that the Liberals set the precedent two decades ago. They were worried, and rightly so, about candidate selection meetings being taken over by single-issue groups. Their instinctive response, however, was an affront to democracy. If instant memberships are a problem, deal with it locally. Establish rules setting out a reasonable length of time that one must be a member, and a minimum number of riding association meetings that one must attend before qualifying to take part in a candidate selection process.

Instead, Jean Chrétien took the power to decide out of the hands of riding associations. He would decide, and decide he did.

It's tempting, for those of us who support various forms of affirmative action, to look favourably upon this tool as a method of ensuring a sufficient number of women or minority candidates in a general election. I might have defended this once upon a time, but I now think it's a temptation best avoided.
Fight those battles locally. Democracy means that the people decide--not someone sitting in the Langevin Block. Local party candidates should have the support of local party members.

But by now this autocratic top-down approach to local candidate selection has become part of our political culture. And trust Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take it to the next level.

Sitting Conservative MPs, regardless of their performance, are no longer accountable to the folks who made them candidates in the first place. They are guaranteed their names on the ballot, if not their seats, by Stephen Harper. Riding associations, like Parliament, have been kicked to the curb by the PMO. And that means that grassroots Conservatives, bless 'em, have to put up with the likes of Rob Anders.

Anders is surely the worst, the dumbest, the most incompetent underperformer in Parliament today. As one commentator has observed, "In a Commons loaded with lightweights, Calgary West's MP almost defies gravity." Another, referring to Anders' opposition to making Nelson Mandela an honorary Canadian citizen, said, "Rob Anders is a callow 29-year-old Canadian Alliance MP for Calgary West, an Opposition cipher of high dudgeon and low intellect, a sadly misguided voice who knows little of history and shamefully less of global politics...."

Harper, however, rewards his friends: "Rob is a true reformer and a true conservative. He has been a faithful supporter of mine and I am grateful for his work."

Now, to be fair, many of the anti-Anders quotations cited above may not have come from people predisposed to vote Conservative. But when the Conservative riding association of Calgary West, desperate to rid itself of this political cretin, has to be hammered into submission, you know that something has gone badly amiss.

Recently I posted some reflections on the nature of democracy, which attracted a thread that continues still. Perhaps we might discuss candidate selection as yet another aspect of the significant erosion of democracy in Canada today. Over to you.

UPDATE: (February 11) More. And.

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