By Wyn Jones
There’s something to dislike in every election, but this year highlighted one of the hidden weaknesses of our electoral process, the rather arcane and confusing process that selects prospective candidates, and in particular, the practice of “parachuting” a candidate into an unsuspecting riding.
It was a new experience in this election to have five candidates with active and knowledgeable views on local issues and problems, and one candidate who “came in from the cold,” so to speak, with no history of recent local political involvement.
To have someone foisted on a community who has little familiarity regarding local concerns diminishes the possibility of choosing someone who really represents us. If party leaders in Ottawa want to run “celebrity” candidates in the hopes of picking off an extra seat or two, they should enter the celebrity’s name for nomination through the local party system before the writ is dropped.
I know that all the political parties have made use of this tactic. Granted, there are occasions when parachuting in a candidate is necessary, but it should be open and aboveboard—like the by-election in Central Nova in 1983 when Elmer MacKay voluntarily stepped down in order to make room for Brian Mulroney to take the seat as leader of the opposition.
But on other occasions, decisions as to who can run in a given riding can come directly from Party HQ without any reference or advice from the local party committee. The preferred candidate, selected by the Lords High Almighty in some office tower in downtown Toronto, is then introduced to a riding that he/she has little local knowledge or familiarity.
And if, as happened in the Conservative Party in Central Nova, a candidate who emerges from the normal nominating process should step aside, the local party executive ought to take the lead in picking a replacement.
We don’t know why the winner of the Conservative nominating process stepped down.
But we do know that the local party had nothing to do with the choice of George Canyon. According to all reports, party leaders did not bother to contact any of the candidates who ran for the nomination initially, several of whom went public with their unhappiness about this undemocratic process, damaging the party’s chances.
But that said, I believe we have been very fortunate in our riding for this particular election. With six candidates, representing a full spectrum of political discourse and with a broad range of ideas, opinion and solutions on offer, we had a choice and we had a fair electoral process.
So, to everyone else in the world……………… You should be so lucky!