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Monday, August 14, 2006

Conservative Party Clips the Grassroots?

I read with interest William McBeath’s Blog (“Something About Glass Houses and Stones”) and his defence of the Conservative Party of Canada’s recent changes to the Nomination Rules and Procedures. He offers a rational explanation for the changes and takes on the federal Liberals for nomination process abuses as well…with justification I might add.

The point he makes, as I see it, there is plenty of blame to go around for both parties. OK but is mutual blame good enough? Does that restore faith in the ordinary citizen that, as individuals, their votes count and that there is a point in participating in elections? This behaviour reinforces the notion that party nominations seem to be manipulated. It gives a whole new slant to “fixed elections” don’t you think?

McBeath (Conservative) also takes on Nicole Martel (Liberal) and her comments on the recent Don Martin column lambasting the Conservative’s changes. McBeath "outs" the dismal record of the Liberal Party of Canada candidate selection processes. I like to see this, a respectful yet pointed and energetic dialogue that is both factual and principled and not the least bit personal. These two people are some of the brightest and most effective young political organizers in Alberta today. We are blessed to have such people and we need more.

Now lets look as some of the reality of the recent Conservative nomination process rules changes. Having consistent, comprehensive and enforced political party nomination rules and procedures are critical to an open, transparent, accountable and inclusive democracy. I have done a quick look at the Conservative Party website and can’t find any notice of the changes. Not saying they aren’t there – not just quick and easy to find. That raises suspicions in cynical minds. William – please do what you can to get the new nomination rules and procedures posted, or more at least more prominently, on the party web site.

Secondly, this action seems to run in the face of the traditions and values of the grassroots local autonomy principles of the Reform/Alliance and even the former Progressive Conservative elements in the new Conservative party. I remember the demands that local constituencies have the power of Recall over their MPs. What ever happened to that kind of grassroots populism? Surely local party members can decide who their local candidate will be without “advice” from National Party Office, or worse, the PMO.

Thirdly, it is not a practical process now. It takes more than a week of filling out forms, getting police checks and selling memberships for someone to decide to run for elected office. This is one of the most profound personal decisions an individual and their families can make. It takes reflection as well as action…and reflection takes time. This rule change seems to be more of a barrier to enabling more people to participate in politics. I am wondering just how this action enhances democracy and respect for political processes by ordinary citizens.

In a democracy efficiency is nice to have - but it is over rated when compared to effectiveness. Better to do things right rather than rapidly – especially if you want people to respect and respond to the results.