Thursday, May 14, 2009

On responsibility

The Hale report on the Dwain Lingenfelter membership controversy has been released. And as I'd figured, the biggest issue now looks to be less the contents of the report than Lingenfelter's response.

I'll start off by noting that the fact that the volunteer involved (named as "Morin" in the Leader-Post's coverage) apparently avoided any contact with Hale shouldn't necessarily be taken as a serious problem in assessing the report. Keep in mind that neither Hale nor the party had any jurisdiction to require Morin to do anything: from that starting point, it's not fair to anybody involved to criticize them for failing to do the impossible by requiring Morin to provide answers involuntarily. And while second-hand information is never ideal, the fact that two individuals have attached their names to those details - and exposed themselves to liability to the extent they're wrong - gives at least some assurances as to what Morin would have said in any event.

From that starting point, it seems fairly clear that the bulk of the responsibility was properly held by Morin. But that raises a serious question as to what the Lingenfelter campaign plans to do about Morin personally.

In that respect, Lingenfelter's response seems to signal that he doesn't intend to do anything more in the wake of the report. But at the very least, it's hard to see how Lingenfelter can avoid making a clear statement that Morin shouldn't have any further role in this campaign or any member recruitment in the future - particularly now that Morin has refused to cooperate with Hale's investigation and tried to pretend that no-consent signups are "acceptable in an aboriginal community" as well as causing the problem in the first place.

Likewise, there looks to be an open question about the various problems laid at the feet of Lingenfelter's campaign manager, Garry Aldridge. Based on the Hale report, Aldridge:
- was responsible for overseeing the membership process generally;
- pre-approved Morin's plan to pay for the memberships "if people could not afford them"; and
- arranged for payment for all of the memberships - in two batches a week apart - without following up as to whether or not any financial need existed.

And while Hale doesn't place any more direct responsibility with Aldridge, it seems to me highly significant that while the NDP's provincial office picked up on the problem immediately, Lingenfelter's campaign didn't apparently notice until it was provided with membership lists after the fact. That would seem to me to fall within Aldridge's oversight responsibilities, and make him directly responsible for the lack of "significant diligence to confirm that the applications are legitimate" which Hale notes should have been expected.

Even allowing for the stress involved in the membership deadline, it's hard to see how that series of problems can be overlooked. Which means that I'd expect to see either some action toward Aldridge personally, or a compelling explanation for failing to provide it. And if Lingenfelter chooses to stick by his declaration that the matter is closed, then NDP members will have to weigh very carefully whether they consider it a matter of appropriate governance for a campaign, a party or a province to let actions like Aldridge's pass without repercussions.

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