Roundup: Protected nominations and the suffocation of the grassroots

Oh, Liberals. You’ve really gone and done it again, haven’t you? All of your grand talk about respecting parliament, and now you’ve decided that you’re going to go and protect the nominations of your incumbent MPs, so long as they meet a set of criteria that, while better than nothing, is not all that onerous. Never mind that four years ago, it was all about how open nominations were about community leaders devoted to community service, but now? Now it’s about ensuring that your MPs simply have a big enough war chest and participate in a bare minimum of door knocking over the course of a year. You’d think that with this list of requirements, ensuring that there still remains an actual nomination process wouldn’t be too difficult – after all, if the excuse is that they’re so busy in Ottawa that they can’t be also running for their old jobs, then ensuring that they’re still doing the work that would be associated with a nomination process seems like a pointless self-inflicted black eye, no?

I’m not going to re-litigate this too much, but I wrote about why protected nominations are a Bad Thing in Maclean’s last year, but it really boils down to one basic concept – accountability. The biggest reason to ensure that there are open nominations is to ensure that a riding can hold their incumbent to account without needing to vote for another party to do so. Protecting nominations removes more power from the grassroots party members and enshrines it in the leader’s office, which is exactly the opposite of what should be happening. (And yes, Trudeau has centralized a hell of a lot of power, especially after pushing through the changes to the party’s constitution). And by imposing those thresholds to ensure that the nomination is protected, it creates incentive for the incumbent MP to treat that riding association like a personal re-election machine, rather than a body that holds that MP to account at the riding level.

To be clear, this isn’t just a Liberal problem. The Conservatives also set a fairly high bar to challenge incumbent nominations, some of which we’ve seen in recent weeks, but that’s been accompanied by rumblings that some of these challenges have been stickhandled out of the leader’s office, which is even more distressing for grassroots democracy. The erosion of grassroots democracy is a very real crisis in our political system, but most people don’t understand what these changes mean, more content to chide the Liberals for broken promises about open nominations than be alarmed at what the bigger picture result is. It’s a pretty serious problem, and it’s bigger than just a broken promise.

Good reads:

  • Justin Trudeau met with his caucus yesterday, and noted that sexual harassment is a “systemic problem” on the Hill, and that it’s time for change.
  • More allegations were made against Kent Hehr, this time including groping and that women were warned that he is “handsy.” Hehr remains in caucus.
  • With Parliament back, here’s a look at what’s on the Order Paper in both chambers.
  • In light of the various allegations and resignations, here is a look at how parties attempt to vet candidates.
  • In NAFTA talks, Canadian and Mexican negotiators are pressuring the Americans on dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • The CF-18s may have to keep flying until as late as 2032 as new planes (whichever they may be) are slowly phased in. We can’t procure anything in this country!
  • Lisa Raitt has removed herself from competition for the Ontario PC leadership.
  • Jagmeet Singh plans a first wedding in Brampton next week, followed by a second one in Mexico on the 19th.
  • Former Green Party staffers say that they were “bullied” by Elizabeth May…for relatively normal high-stress behaviour. The Party shrugged off the complaints.
  • Scott Moe was chosen to replace Brad Wall as leader of the Saskatchewan Party, and he will soon be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor to be premier.
  • In Ontario, PC party president Rick Dykstra (a former MP) resigned after Maclean’s asked him about a 2014 sexual assault complaint.
  • Chris Selley notes the lack of justice in politics, which is the nature of the game.
  • Adam Radwanski looks at how the rumours about Brown’s proclivities never brought him down (and it reinforces why caucus selection could have stopped him).

Odds and ends:

Former Conservative MP Royal Galipeau died of cancer over the weekend.

Quebec’s provincial long-gun registry comes into effect today.

As is customary, the GG will attend the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

One thought on “Roundup: Protected nominations and the suffocation of the grassroots

  1. Justin Trudeau’s decision to protect his MPs from the unseemly business of standing for renomination in their ridings is deplorable. This is especially so given the fervour with which he campaigned during the Liberal leadership – and afterwards – on the pledge of open nominations. The fact that he failed in that pledge leading up to the 2015 election and in by-elections afterward shouldn’t release him from it.

    But as egregious as this may be, an even greater concern for Liberals should be way the Party’s newly released “National Rules for the Selection of Candidates” neuters the role of EDAs in the selection of candidates. That this was entirely predictable following the constitutional changes made at the Party’s 2016 convention doesn’t make the outcome any more palatable.

    This isn’t the place for a chapter and verse discussion of the changes but I’ll just note that the document uses the phrase “sole and unfettered discretion” 11 times – and you can rest assured that the aim of the Rules is not to put that “unfettered discretion” in the hands of local Party supporters. This is not good for the Liberal Party and it’s most definitely not healthy for Westminster democracy.

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