Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Back to vote-buying

Following the resignation of John Tory, there will be a convention to select a new leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. How's it going?
The race is expected to heat up now that the deadline has passed for signing up new party members. Christine Hogarth, executive director of the Ontario PC Party, said the party has about 40,000 members after about 32,000 new ones were signed up by Thursday's deadline. (Globe & Mail)
32,000 people laid money down, or had it laid down for them, to purchase a vote.

I think it needs to be said again. Participating in a leadership convention in which the key transaction is either buying or selling your vote for $10 is not ethical behaviour. Which party it is does not matter; ethical Canadians should not participate in the buying and selling of public offices. Having 32,000 people do it more or less simultaneously does not mitigate the offence.

An example. Several months after Ernie Eves won one of these "races" in 2002 and became premier of Ontario, he released details of his campaign spending. It turned out the principal expense was for the purchase of memberships; enough memberships to provide his margin of victory in the race.

And a cautionary note. Tim Hudak, thought by the press to have been the frontrunner, is now reported (by CBC Radio, not yet online, it seems) to have failed to amass many members in his favour. He has also had a hard time fundraising. Meanwhile his rival Christine Elliott has been able to raise ten times as much money, under slightly dubious ("Who's your husband?") circumstances. She has access to lots of money, and gee, the frontrunner is not the frontrunner any more. Hmmm.

When every race must be conceded to the organization with the largest purse with which to buy the needed votes, in what sense are we talking about a democratic process?

Update, May 20: The Globe today reports that while Christine Elliott has by far the most money, the candidate who seems to have been most successful in amassing new memberships is the less well funded Frank Klees.
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