University of Toronto
3 min

Ignatieff’s abuse of process

A constituent from the Mississauga East-Cooksville riding, where Michael Ignatieff recently appointed former Ontario cabinet minister Peter Fonseca as the candidate to the riding, spoke out on a video post about the decision. The gist of her message is that the people who were running for the nomination (and there were 11 of them) are the people who live in the riding, and parachuting someone in isn’t necessarily the best way to actually represent them.

The main point is that by appointing someone, it undercuts the engagement of the people in the riding who were hoping to run, and who were engaged enough in politics to make that decision, and who were garnering supporters to vote for their nomination. And this is really the key issue. The “democratic deficit” that we keep hearing about is not our electoral system. It’s the fact that people aren’t engaging in political parties at the riding level, with party memberships, nomination races and contributions to policy conventions. And this is amplified by the fact that leaders now have the power to sign off on who can get nominated, rather than the people of the riding, and that they have the power to appoint candidates. Now, that power can be useful when you’re trying to get more women and visible minorities into winnable ridings, for example, but that should be used sparingly. Peter Fonseca is not a woman or a visible minority. Using the power to circumvent a nomination process to parachute him into the candidacy when there were 11 other candidates, who Ms Arora spoke about in her video, who were more representative of the demographics of the riding, may give you a star candidate, but it isn’t helping the constituents feel like they’ll be represented.

It’s an abuse of process, and it disempowers an already demoralized and apathetic electorate. If Michael Ignatieff really wants to respect our democratic traditions, he’d let Fonseca run as a nominee like everyone else. If he’s that strong of a candidate, he’ll come out on top while having forged connections in the riding by going through that process. But parachuting him won’t give him that connection and damages democracy in the process.

As for Senator Larry Smith, he suggested that he’s going to be taking a “catastrophic” pay cut to become a senator at $132,000 a year, denying that it was a cynical attempt to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize his run for MP. Except that’s exactly what it is, considering the resources he’ll have available to him as a senator, as opposed to a candidate, will be what he’ll be drawing upon. And I don’t care how much he protests that he’s reading up on the legislation coming before the Senate and that he’ll be taking his job seriously – the only way to prove that he’s taking his job seriously is to actually be independent and show that he’s not able to be whipped like a newly installed Harper backbencher, like every other senator Harper has appointed. Oh, wait – that would interfere with his plans to run as an MP, where he’ll be required to be fitted with a muzzle and to only spout PMO-approved talking points. So really, he won’t be taking his job as a senator seriously, and he should really stop saying as much.

Elsewhere, I would hope that this Liberal press release quoting Charles McVety with regards to Conservative waste was meant ironically. Otherwise it’s perhaps time to review the staff in their communications team.

A deeply divided Supreme Court responded to a reference question on Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, and said that basically it’s up to the provinces to regulate assisted reproduction, putting a stop to an attempt to create national standards and gutting AHRC for the most part – but considering that Harper has been stuffing the agency with social conservative cronies, it’s not like it really did anything useful or meaningful anyway.

Catholic teachers and school boards are having a fit because the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association decided to partner with Egale Canada to help stop bullying in schools, and well, Egale is a gay organization and they couldn’t possibly have that. Seriously guys?

A WikiLeaks document suggests that Jim Prentice was about to step in and start regulating the tar sands, but seeing as he’s gone and John Baird has been falling all over himself to prove how doing nothing is actually doing something, well, I think you can see where this is heading.

And for those of you who are curious, here is Santa Claus’s NavCanada flight plan.
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