An adult talk on can­di­date nom­i­na­tions

Waterloo Region Record - - EDITORIALS & COMMENT - John Mil­loy John Mil­loy is a for­mer On­tario cab­i­net min­is­ter who served as Lib­eral MPP for Kitch­ener Cen­tre. He cur­rently teaches at Water­loo Lutheran Sem­i­nary, Wil­frid Lau­rier Univer­sity, and the Univer­sity of Water­loo. A ver­sion of this com­men­tary first

Have you no­ticed a com­mon theme around what passes as “scan­dal” in On­tario pol­i­tics these days? The ma­jor­ity of po­lit­i­cal shenani­gans seem to re­late to the se­lec­tion of lo­cal can­di­dates by po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

The On­tario PCs seem par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble on this is­sue. Lo­cally, the Cam­bridge Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives seem to be tear­ing them­selves apart over what ap­pears to be ef­forts to im­pose on the rid­ing a “star” can­di­date from Al­berta. Sim­i­lar episodes in other parts of the prov­ince have led to mass party res­ig­na­tions, ap­peals to party brass, and folks even call­ing the po­lice.

Lib­er­als are not im­mune to these trou­bles. At the core of the cur­rent court case in Sudbury is a de­ci­sion by the party’s lead­er­ship to favour a sup­pos­edly ideal can­di­date in the 2015 by­elec­tion over some­one who had run pre­vi­ously.

And that is what it re­ally is all about: Find­ing the “ideal can­di­date” for ev­ery rid­ing. Par­ties de­vote con­sid­er­able time and re­sources search­ing for that per­fect in­di­vid­ual who can­not only win the lo­cal rid­ing but help boost the over­all team pro­file in terms of tal­ent, gen­der, back­ground etc.

Although ev­ery party has its own rules, the ba­sics are the same. Each lo­cal rid­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion works closely with the leader’s of­fice and cen­tral party to iden­tify an ideal in­di­vid­ual to run.

Some­times lead­ers openly ap­point that per­son to be the can­di­date. Other times, an ac­cla­ma­tion is chore­ographed to make it seem more demo­cratic. And ev­ery so of­ten, an ac­tual nom­i­na­tion fight en­sues where the es­tab­lish­ment’s pre­ferred choice is forced to take on all com­ers through a mem­ber­ship vote.

Some­times it all goes smoothly. In other cases, it gets messy — par­tic­u­larly if the pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship and the lo­cal party dis­agree.

Things can also fall apart when long­time party mem­bers ac­cuse so-called out­siders, of­ten rep­re­sent­ing a cer­tain eth­no­cul­tural com­mu­nity or in­ter­est group, of hi­jack­ing the process through a seem­ingly end­less sup­ply of new mem­bers.

Maybe it’s time to have an adult con­ver­sa­tion about the nom­i­na­tion process: A dis­cus­sion where no one holds back and isn’t afraid to share their most can­did ob­ser­va­tions.

What would such a con­ver­sa­tion look like?

On one side, you would have those at the top: Cen­tral cam­paign staff and aides to the party leader. They might point out that they are con­cerned with the big pic­ture. For a leader to be suc­cess­ful, they would ar­gue, party mem­bers must fall into line and take some di­rec­tion from the top. A can­di­date that may not be overly wel­come lo­cally may make sense from a pro­vin­cial per­spec­tive.

They might also point out that many rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tions are closed shops, re­fus­ing to wel­come new peo­ple and ideas. They might also men­tion that many lo­cal cam­paign gu­rus are more leg­ends in their own minds than any­thing else.

On the other side, you would have lo­cal party mem­bers. They might re­spond that they know their com­mu­ni­ties bet­ter than some­one sit­ting in Queen’s Park. They might point out that the tal­ented whiz kids in the leader’s of­fice are of­ten not that tal­ented, and are hor­ri­bly over­worked and prone to mak­ing hasty de­ci­sions. Forc­ing an “ideal” can­di­date on a rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tion that doesn’t want them of­ten does more harm than good.

Those in charge cen­trally might counter by point­ing out that at­tract­ing “star” can­di­dates is cru­cial to provincewide suc­cess, es­pe­cially in cre­at­ing a more di­verse can­di­date pool.

Per­suad­ing non-tra­di­tional can­di­dates to run, es­pe­cially those with­out po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, of­ten in­volves promis­ing them a smooth nom­i­na­tion process where they don’t have to be­come mired in the hand-to­hand com­bat that of­ten ac­com­pa­nies lo­cal bat­tles.

Lo­cal party mem­bers might counter that these “star” can­di­dates of­ten look bet­ter on pa­per than in real life. Many act like prima don­nas and their lack of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence makes them poor per­form­ers in the gen­eral elec­tion. They might also ask how these “stars” ex­pect to win a gen­eral elec­tion if they can’t win a nom­i­na­tion.

Lo­cals might also ex­press their frus­tra­tion at the ap­par­ent ease in which some eth­no­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties or spe­cial in­ter­est groups can take over nom­i­na­tion con­tests with in­stant mem­bers. They might tell sto­ries of bus­loads of strangers ar­riv­ing at nom­i­na­tion meet­ings with ques­tion­able mem­ber­ship sta­tus, vot­ing ac­cord­ing to the di­rec­tion of some lo­cal boss and never be­ing heard of again — es­pe­cially at elec­tion time.

The party lead­er­ship might re­spond by point­ing to steps taken by ev­ery party to strengthen the rules around mem­ber­ship. They might also point out that try­ing to pre­vent blocs of eth­no­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties from vot­ing in a nom­i­na­tion could eas­ily be por­trayed by crit­ics as be­ing anti-new Cana­dian (at best) or racist (at worst). And so the con­ver­sa­tion would con­tinue. Would it be frus­trat­ing? Might it cause headaches and re­sult in some cathar­tic yelling? Yes, but it might also lead to some con­crete sug­ges­tions about how po­lit­i­cal par­ties can re­spect the author­ity of those at the top, cap­i­tal­ize on the per­spec­tive and ex­pe­ri­ence of those on the ground, and op­er­ate within a demo­cratic con­text.

It sure beats call­ing the po­lice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.