Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What part of "neutral" do the Conservatives not understand?

The ongoing saga between the Chief Electoral Officer and the Conservative Party is getting to the point of incredulity. For the second straight day, Con MPs at the House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee have accused the official -- the servant of the House, not the government -- of being biased in favour of the Liberals. This relates to the ongoing investigation into the "in and out" allegations where it is alleged official spending rules were circumvented and the national party spent over its limit by $1.3 million by monies that had been floated out to local campaigns then back again to headquarters. (No transcripts have been posted at the committee's website yet -- for shame).

As usual, we're getting the usual Karl Rove finger pointing from Republican Lite. No doubt the Liberals aren't totally clean when it comes to musical chairs -- if memory serves over a million dollars had to be paid back to the taxpayer from the sponsorship scandal when it became apparent some of the money from Sponsorgate was embezzled into Liberal coffers. But we're dealing with the most recent general election and the attitude we're getting is coming down to, "We didn't break any rules; but so what if we broke the law, even if we did, at least the Liberals lost."

Sorry, but rules are rules. They're made for everyone and are there to ensure everyone has an equal chance of getting elected. If someone got elected because of some extra advertising that was outside the rules, then the elected candidate should be disqualified and the second place candidate declared the winner by default. It's as simple as that.

Unlike the United States where the person in charge of running and auditing elections is a partisan official -- and we've seen how that works in Florida and Ohio -- Canada, like most democracies, make the job a deliberately non-partisan official and by law must be neutral. By custom, it is the Prime Minister that nominates a candidate (after consulting with the opposition parties) but it is the House of Commons as a whole that formally confirms the Chief Electoral Officer. We want someone above politics, and usually someone who's been relatively outside the political fray although he or she knows how to play the percentages as they say. The previous incumbent, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, was a health administrator. The present officer, Marc Mayrand, last served as the federal Bankruptcy Superintendent.

Therefore, it is irrelevant that Harper nominated Mayrand (such choice ratified by the House). Once appointed, the Chief (along with the Information and Privacy Commissioners, the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Librarian) becomes the employee of the House of Commons and not the government in power. It is a neutral position, on purpose.

The post is important enough that the lucky man or woman gets to serve until age sixty-five (unless he or she retires or is impeached for lack of "good behaviour"). The chief is also only one of two Canadians (the other is the Chief's deputy) who are stripped of their right to vote. (The Governor General technically can vote, but doesn't to retain the same essence of neutrality.)

If bias can be shown, truly demonstrated, I'd like to see the Conservatives demonstrate proof of this. Far as I can see, like his predecessors, Mayrand is doing his job exactly as prescribed. If anyone from any party shows irregularities or are late in filing their returns, he pounces on them regardless of party. That so many from one party -- in this case the ruling party -- are being called out should send the message that someone is taking this very seriously. If the Conservatives' claim that this is always the way it's been done (the Aunt Myrtle etiquette excuse) can be proved with precedent from previous Liberal and Progressive Conservative regimes then close the loophole.

Otherwise, butter up and face the music, just as we Liberals did 2½ years ago.

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leftdog said...

A couple of observations. The Conservative Party is currently led and dominated by former Reform Party individuals such as:
-Stephen Harper
-Jason Kenney
-Stockwell Day
-Pierre Polievre
-Rob Anders
-Art Hanger
etc - etc - etc

The Reform Party was born out the fundamentalist bible belt of Alberta and the names I listed all are firmly entrenched in their 'holier than thou', self righteous right wing ideology.

They run the party. None of the former old PC's have control of the operation.

These neo-Reformers have changed the face of Canadian politics by bringing a nasty, hate-filled approach to the way they operate politically and as a government. They are so completely convinced of the righteousness of their political cause, they are not capable of EVER admitting that what they did with 'In & Out' was wrong. Without any evidence of their own, and in spite of contrary evidence laid before them, they will never apologize and they will NOT repay the money.

It is as simple as that. Canadians (even those who call themselves Progressive Bloggers) fail to understand the dynamics that are at play with Harper and crew.

They are as close to a proto-fascist movement as this nation has ever seen.

Think I am being extreme? Just keep watching how these guys operate. I can give lots more examples (like the Canadian Wheat Board - the current military mission in Afghanistan - media relations - etc).

PeterC said...

A Canadian researcher wrote a free "web-book" on the subject of right wing authoritaran thinking. It can be found here:
It is an attempt to explain why...
"they are not capable of EVER admitting that what they did with 'In & Out' was wrong. Without any evidence of their own, and in spite of contrary evidence laid before them, they will never apologize and they will NOT repay the money."

It is not in how they think.

Of course, this is a very broad stroketo brush, but I think it is useful. The question I keep asking is how can we reduce the divide between left and right? It is hurting Canada now much as it has hurt the US.

Also, good on the Public Service, try to keep your heads up guys.