Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Is it still a vote-buying scandal if no one but me is scandalized? I guess not. Pity

I have been saying the Ottawa turmoil is politics, not a crisis, but I'm weakening on that. One of the scariest things I have seen all week was a line in Jane Taber's Ottawa Notebook in the Globe & Mail last Saturday. It's in a note about Michael Ignatieff's leadership run:
"This week, one of his supporters said he faced “major reluctance” from a potential money donor who was concerned about shelling out cash to a party that he believed had been “hijacked by the NDP and separatists.”
I like to make the case that leadership contests are simply massive competitive vote-buying exercises, in which the candidate whose supporters buy the most votes ("memberships") gets to buy control of a political party. But this is even more striking.

In exchange for a (five or six figure?) fee, some anonymous guy gets to buy out the policy of the probable future leader of the Liberal Party on a fundamental question.

There is endless complaint in Canada that our MPs are spineless nobodies, that they fail to represent us. We hear endlessly that this represents an integral flaw in parliamentary democracy. And yet, somehow, at the same time, we seem to have this vast undebatable consensus that the uniquely Canadian folly that exempts party leaders from accountability -- by having them chosen by an extraparliamentary process driven mostly by money, instead of being put in and taken out by our legitimately elected representatives -- is the acme of democracy.

Here are some principles of citizenship I'm pondering. It is not ethical to join a political party during a leadership process. It is not ethical to be a delegate to a party leadership convention or to participate in selecting delegates for one. It is not ethical to give money to any candidate in such a contest.
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