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Friday, January 08, 2010

Did Danielle Smith Ignore WAP Floor-Crossing Policy?

What gives?  It now appears from a coupe of sources that the Wildrose Alliance Party has a policy on floor-crossing MLAs contrary to the comments of their leader Danielle Smith that there is no party policy. 

Brian Dell outlines some of his personal experience in trying to clarify the WAP policy on the issue.  A floor-crosser has to have the support of the WAP leader, the local constituency and be subject to a by-election if the constituency wants one.  Dell suggests an opinion poll in the constituency would suffice to determine if a by-election should be called or not. 

When citizens cast ballots it is unclear if they are voting for a party, a candidate, a leader, a platform, an issue of just name recognition or any combination of these motivations.  Do we elect politicians to exercise their best judegement or to reflect the majority opinion of their constiuents or perhaps some other controversial but perhaps more "enlightened" position on an issue? 

When a politician says "my constituents are telling me such and such how do we know that is a true reflection?  Who spoke to them, in what context and how is the will and state of mind of "the constitencyu" determined.  It is not.  It is totally subjective and most often framed as a convenience for the benefit of the politician or their political party or purposes. Let's be truthful here, almost every time you hear a pooiticina say "My constituency tells me..." it is all about spin, posturing and the self interest of the politician and nothing to do with the best interests or actual instructions of their constituents.

So to my point, thanks for waiting.  The WAP policy on floor-crossing MLAs is easy and practical so far as the requiremetn of the consent of the leader and the local party organization is concerned.  It is vague and vacuous when it come to the best interest and desires of the citizens that potential floor crosser is support represent.  How is the policy supposed to determine if the citizens in that constituency approve of their MLA joining another party between elections? 

Should a potential floor-crosser go public first and run a poll to see if they have citizen support for them to cross?  What happens if the citizens say no don't go?  Where does that leave the MLA?  Unwanted by the "receiving" party and distrusted by their current party.  It forces them into de facto independent status, something that the citizens in their constituency did not vote for either.

This is WAP policy on floor crossing is naive at best and pandering populism at worst.  It is impractical.  If a politician is unhappy in their current party or the party is unhapppy with them, the simple answer is they go independent - period.   Then they can explain to their constituency the reasons for them leaving or the leader who turfs them can do the same.  After that, if the independent MLA wants to join another party they can canvas and even poll their constituents to see if that is acceptable and judge themselves accordingly.

The reason this approach makes more sense is because we don't know how to respond to the wide array of reasons why people voted.  But there needs to be more respect shown by politicians, leaders and parties for all of those reasons.  If a politician is no long comfortable with their party, its leader or its policies,  they need the flexibility to leave, just as the party or the leader needs the power to kick someone out of caucus.  That should put them in an independent status and as far as the politician, leader or party power should come into play. 

Moving from there to another party is something that the citizens must have a say in before it happens.  A poll that asks if a by-election should be called if the independent wants to join another party is not a solution.  But a petition of say 20% of voters calling for one may be enough to trigger a by-election instead of a unilateral behind closed doors decision about joining another party is made.

I would be interested in thoughts from readers on this issue.  The WAP has not solved it and they have not even followed their own policy.  If we are to do politics differently the recent example of the floor-crossing by the WAP is not a shining example.