Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On fixes

The Sask Party's refusal to agree with a consensus among all five of Saskatchewan's political parties (including its own members on the provincial Board of Internal Economy) has to raise serious questions as to whether the Wall government is holding out for its own Kenneth Blackwell. But Murray Mandryk nicely points out the other factors which figure to be at play:
By way of background, the post of Saskatchewan's chief electoral officer has been vacant for almost 18 months -- unusual for such a senior position. The government's explanation -- at least before Monday -- was that it's difficult finding a candidate with suitable electoral office experience and "managerial skills".

However, there has clearly been more to it than that. For one thing, sources said that applicants were being asked questions like where they stood on voters requiring photo identification. Coincidentally, voter ID just happens to benefit wealthier Sask. Party voters than poor voters who tend to support the NDP. There's also the issue of the electoral boundary changes after the next election and Justice Minister Don Morgan confirmed at the legislature Monday that government caucus members had special interest in both issues.

But even more interesting is the suggestion that a Sask. Party MLA or candidate is under investigation and government members were queasy about appointing the acting chief electoral officer, David Wilkie, who would have responsibility for bringing forward any such investigation.
Is a government MLA or Sask. Party candidate being investigated? It was a question Quennell asked in the House Monday.

Well, Morgan said after question period, he has no such knowledge. (However, he did strangely admit that his caucus members' only ability to independently assess the acting chief electoral officer's performance would be through whatever encounters they might have had with him on election expenses.)
Now, one can perhaps give the Sask Party points for gall in listing "experience" as its explanation for unilaterally rejecting a candidate who's actually doing the job in question (and has been for a year and a half). Indeed, from that starting point I'd fully expect their next line of messaging to be that they had to reject Wilkie in hopes that they could persuade their first choice, Wilkie, to take the job instead.

But however entertaining the spin may soon become, there's a serious issue when it comes to the question of who's going to be overseeing the next two Saskatchewan elections. And the worse the Sask Party's excuses for pushing any appointment past a point where it'll be too late to assemble consensus around any one candidate, the more reason for suspicion there will be that the Wall government is looking to rig the system in its favour.

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