Monday, March 16, 2009

Full unaccountability

While there's been some discussion of the Cons' move to prevent any nomination challenges to incumbent MPs, let's point out just how many roadblocks they've set up - and whether the combination is best classified in reailty as a complete bar to any challenge rather than merely "some protection" for Rob Anders and his ilk.

- The 66% standard for a nomination vote is that normally applied to constitutional changes - as the Cons happily point out in the article. Which means that if a mere majority - or even two-thirds minus one - of the members in a riding want their MP gone, the Cons don't think that fact deserves to be taken into consideration.
- As in the case of other Con nomination fiascos, the membership cutoff for the challenge vote is set for a date before the policy was made public. So challengers don't have any way to actually sign up members to support any effort to unseat a sitting MP.
- Nor do they have any apparent ability to get in touch with actual members, as all indications are that it's the party alone communicating with the members in a particular riding. Indeed, there doesn't even seem to be any way to figure out how many members' votes would be needed in order to set up a nomination race: even a challenger well enough organized to have some membership support would have to proceed on blind faith that he or she is guessing right as to the number of members in good standing as of the cutoff date.
- In contrast, the sitting MP has exactly the information needed to know how many votes are required to hold the seat. So to the extent any disputed campaign comes about, the incumbent will be able to target exactly the members needed to support his or her cause.

Of course, it might not be surprising that the Cons are using the Libs' weak attempt to claim that a scheme which make challenges all but impossible somehow represents middle ground between actual open nominations and full incumbent protection. But while there are serious issues with the arbitrariness in the Libs' process as well, the Cons look to have taken several further steps toward removing any prospect of accountability for their MPs. Which means that for voters who actually care whether or not a federal MP is accountable to party members, the NDP remains the only national party in Parliment who values the concept.

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