Thursday, November 21, 2019

History of electoral corruption

Kenney: what parliament have instead of impeachment
Since the appointment of an independent Chief Electoral  Office about a century ago, and of electoral boundary commissions more recently, electoral corruption in Canada has been confined mostly to contests within the political parties -- where, unfortunately. they run rampant and largely uncontrolled.

It is entirely typical that the Alberta government is bringing forward legislation to vacate the office of Alberta's independent electoral commissioner, who is currently investigating the unseemly processes by which now-premier Jason Kenney secured the leadership of the United Conservative Party of Alberta earlier this year. Across the country, party leadership contenders routinely change the rules, overspend the limits, defy the reporting requirements, and buy votes ("memberships" they call them), and then retroactively give themselves a free pass.  Somehow, this culture of corruption rarely becomes much of an issue for the political science academy or the media. And by winning power, the winning contenders have the means to exculpate themselves.

Nevertheless, we should hope that Rachel Notley's call for the lieutenant-governor to refuse to assent to Kenney's bill is simply a performative protest, one Notley feels she can make to express her revulsion without expecting the lieutenant governor to take her seriously. Lieutenant governors do not get involved in political decisions, and we'd have a whole new crisis if they did.

Cleverer, and more seemly, is Notley's latest proposal -- asking the Alberta ethics commissioner to rule that members of the UCP caucus, having a vested interest in avoiding the electoral commissioner's investigations, should note vote on the government's bill. If legislatures are going to create these appointed commissioners, they ought to be prepared to abide by their judgments. 

Update, same day:  the post has been slightly reordered for clarity.    
Follow @CmedMoore