Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday September 21, 2017
What happens when the big tent is a mirage
At this rate, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown will be fighting the looming election on crutches, the result of his own party repeatedly shooting him in both feet.
Already facing numerous controversies and even a police investigation around candidate nominations, the PCs wounded themselves yet again, this time with the local riding association in Cambridge accusing party headquarters of rigging the nomination process in favour of its preferred candidates. The party apparently shortened the nomination deadline, arbitrarily and without consultation, so that local candidates planning to run were left with insufficient time to sell enough memberships to be competitive. The preferred candidates, critics charge, are already signed up and selling so locals won’t have a legitimate shot.
Party brass deny the allegations, but the damage is done, especially considering that this scandal is just one of many all around the same thing: PC party management overriding local members in making nomination decisions. Three local riding associations and numerous executives have resigned in protest. A former minister under Mike Harris has said electing Brown would be the worst possible choice. Allegations include ballot-stuffing, falsified membership forms, party-funded memberships and other irregularities.
Criticizing Brown and his team for this is like shooting fish in a barrel. Suffice it to say they’ve had months to make an impression. They’ve made one, all right, but it features corruption allegations, disdain for the grassroots and undemocratic behaviour. Hardly the sort of momentum they had hoped to create heading into the election next June.
In fairness, the PCs may be the poster children for this sort of nonsense, but the NDP and Liberals have had their own troubles, though not to the same degree. And the worst part? It’s completely unnecessary.
Parties have the right to choose their candidate in any riding, and party HQ is the final authority. They just need to be honest and transparent. It’s a tough sell, admittedly, but surely just saying out of the gate that a candidate has been chosen is preferable to making promises of grassroots inclusivity, accepting party membership fees and then kicking sand in the face of local riding associations.
The optics of having party central choose candidates are not good, granted. It’s tough to sell a big-tent, inclusive party vision while suits in boardrooms quietly make critical candidate decisions. But in the case of the Ontario PCs, that’s what is happening, and they’re compounding the problem by claiming to be one thing but demonstrating through their actions they are the polar opposite. Hand-pick candidates if that’s what you want to do. But at least have the integrity to be honest about it. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)