11 January 2011

Connie Leadership 2011: Brad and circuses

Conservative Party insiders are so desperate to block any leadership contest that they are willing to creatively reinterpret the party constitution so that only people they chose get to be members for the purposes of deciding who gets to lead the party.

CBC’s David Cochrane reported on Monday that the Conservatives evaluating Cabana’s nomination forms have decided that “members” are only the members of district associations and other similar people described in one subsection of Article 5 of the party constitution:

ARTICLE 5 MEMBERSHIP

1. All persons who are residents or domiciled in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and who support the principles and aims of the Party are eligible to become members of the Party.

2. Subjects to Article 5-1 all individual members of affiliated associations and groups who support the principles and aims of the Party shall be members of the Party.

3. Notwithstanding Article 5-1 and Article 5-2, all members of the Provincial Executive Council as defined in Article 7-1 who support the principles and aims of the Party shall be members of the Party. Any member of the Provincial Executive Council who ceases to support the principles and aims of the Party will automatically cease to be a member of the Provincial Executive Council and forfeit all rights and privileges associated therewith.

Now that’s not really ambiguous except to anyone lacking basic English language skills.  The sub-section da byes are relying on is the third one but that only makes sure that the district and provincial executive people get counted as members and that resigning from such a position has a price.

The main bits of the section define membership pretty broadly.

But if the back-room boys succeed in disqualifying Brad Cabana because he doesn’t have any Sub-section 3 “members” on his nomination form, that might not be the only problem they cause.  Cabana is reportedly planning a legal challenge to this bit of  legal tomfoolery, and that would normally be enough of a problem.

The Conservative insiders who are trying to dictate who gets to be Premier may also cause themselves some other embarrassment if not real legal difficulties.

You see, membership also affects who can be candidates in elections.  Plus, under Article 12 of the Conservative party constitution the definition of membership also determines who may vote in a candidate selection process:

Eligible voters entitled to vote for a person to be elected as the Party Candidate are those persons who are members of the District Association, ordinarily resident in the Electoral District at the date of the Nominating Meeting and who are not less than eighteen (18) years of age either at the date of the nominating meeting or at the date of the election, if the date of the election has been set.

So it doesn’t take too much imagination to see that if “members” are only people currently serving on a district executive, then the party will pretty quickly cease to exist.  The only people they can nominate as a candidate to replace Danny for example are one of the people currently sitting on the Humber west executive.

Underneath it all, though, what people across Canada  are really seeing here is the attitude some people have to political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador.  The attitude is consistent with the sort of patronage-riddled, paternalism that has defined the past decade or so of provincial politics.

Under that model, the party is merely the handful of back-room brokers who rule over everyone and everything else. They are accountable to no one except themselves.

Listen to how many people who have said already that if the caucus is decided then Cabana doesn’t stand a chance. That reflects the old-fashioned view of a party and ignores the fact that even under the Conservative constitution, a significant chunk of the delegates to a leadership convention are supposed to be elected in each of the districts.

You can also see the old-fashioned notions contained in this if you look at the complete lunacy of the Conservative position.  Danny Williams argued that Roger Grimes, elected by a convention of elected delegates couldn’t stay on as premier.  To make sure that couldn’t happen again – supposedly – Williams and his colleagues set new rules with changes to the province’s Elections Act that would require a general election under certain circumstances.

Yet, under the Conservative Party’s own constitution, the caucus gets to appoint an interim leader. If by some chance Cabana’s nomination stands, the Conservative caucus will select not one but two caretaker Premiers in as many months. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have not seen such transient premierships since the 1920s when premiers came and went with the shifting coalitions within the legislature.

Politics in this province is in a parlous state.  The fundamental rot of the whole structure could not be more clearly seen than in the circus that is the once-proud Conservative Party struggling to find someone who actually wants the job while fighting to exclude someone who apparently does.

- srbp -

14 comments:

Shannon Reardon said...

Bang on, Ed.

Edward Hollett said...

Poor Brad the Conservative from out west is discovering, as Shawn Skinner told us all this morning, that this is not a democracy.

Dylan said...

Boy, the PC's really shot themselves in the foot this time. By having nobody else running for the leadership and avoid party infighting, Cabana’s run at the leadership makes it a bigger story. Now, all the focus is on "what makes a PC a PC?" If there was a someone else caucus running besides Kathy this wouldn't be a big a story as it has become.

Are you sure that Cabana doesn't work for the Liberals? If so, that would be a stroke of genius on their part. :-)

Otherwise, I guess you guys are throughly enjoying the show provided by the PC party.

Brad Cabana said...

Good editorial on democracy Ed. Regardless of political stripe, democracy comes first. Minister Skinner's interpretation of a two class membership system seems to ignore the fact that convention delegates decide the convention - and they are elected in anopen membership format aswell.

blindacceptance said...

Hi,

I've been reading your blog for quite some time, and mostly agree with your points...

I'm not terribly engrossed in politics, so I wanted to pose a few questions that maybe would help me understand things a bit better:

1) Why are the PC's trying to keep Dunderdale as the Premier?

2) Why did Danny jump ship so suddenly, and do the rumours of him joining the Federal Liberals have any merit?

3) Is there a movement to have Dunderdale the scapegoat of a politicial mis-step (the proposed muskrat falls debacle perhaps?)

4) Don't the PCs have people to tell them they are being idiots, and look bad to the rest of the province?

Thanks very much if you can clear any of these questions up!

Lonenewfwolf said...

you have the ear of the people mr cabana.

what is it you have to say about our current state of affairs?

perhaps a statement about nalcors books? that would surely get you some attention and perhaps even a landslide of support.

Jerry Bannister said...

So, in order to avoid creating the conditions for a divisive leadership contest, the Tories have instead created the conditions for a divisive contest over their leadership process.

And in order to avoid fostering a media feeding frenzy on an actual battle for the right to succeed Danny Williams, the Tories have instead fostered a media feeding frenzy on a battle for the right to challenge Kathy Dunderdale.

Mark said...

Brad, if "democracy comes first", you might want to reconsider which politicians you choose to put on a pedestal on a go-forward basis.

Ursula said...

@Capt. Cabana :

Did I hear correctly , are you a native of Canmore , Alberta ?

If so , that makes you a "come from away", and that moniker carries a lot of baggage in these parts .

Barack Obama is a native of Hawaii , yet people still think that he is not an American and shouldn't be president .

Edward Hollett said...

That's pretty much it in a nutshell, Jerry. Brad - a staunch Conservative and Danny-lover - is being introduced to the very old-fshioned parochial, paternalist patronage riddled system of local politics.

As Mark has pointed out elsewhere, Brad is already experiencing the full range of Dannyism. He's being attacked for being everything from a Liberal troublemaker, to a Harperite saboteur to just plain old not being from here. Every cynical, narrow-minded argument is in play and the staunchest of Tories make absolutely no bones about the fact this is being decided entirely by select people according to rules that are, apparently, arcane and secret. It is the definition of anti-democratic and none of them seem to be bothered.

Some will even go so far as to say it is right to block people like Brad so that he cannot hijack the agenda of the insiders. One cannot have a better study of the local political culture at least the one that has been driving the Tories the past decade or so.

Ursula said...

Is Cabana under the delusion that , he can establish some quixotic dream of an offshoot government, using William's style of governing ?

Brad Cabana said...

Ursula, I believe in an open democratic government that represents the people. I refer to Mr William's drive and determination in defending NFLD's interests, as it is those interests that will fund our development.

Ed, as I see it, Article 5.(1) refers to the eligibility for membership, and with no further direct qualifier it would seem obvious that any member who qualifies would also become. Some of the primary grounds I am appealing on have more to do with the democratic process. Specifically the Aims, Principles, and Objects refer to the election of a Leader and the nomination of Candidates as a part of these. The final point is the most important: 'to provide for democratic procedures and practices to effect the purpose, aims, and objectives of the Party.' These Principles are the 'commandments' if you will of the Constitution, and everyone who is a member must agree to support them.As you know, no matter which definition you look up for democracy you will find equality of the person as it's foundation. That directly translates into equality of membership. Which means if you become a member of the PC's by attending a public meeting, declaring your support for the Principles and Aims, and sign on the dotted line then you are automatically a member.

We used the identical acreditation sheet used in any nomination meeting. The people who signed committed to the very same principles. The democratic procedures and practices must be followed or the principles, aims and objectives will be violated.

Not to mention the simple fact that, in accordance with the Constitution, you are not entitled to receive a list of ex officio, executive, or District members until you are an accreditted candidate - which makes it tough to find signatures. It would be the electoral equivalent of not getting a voters list until after the election, thereby rendering a strict definition of memberships fundamentally undemocratic. Again, I refer to the democratic procedures and practises.

The Constitution actually protects those rights:
' Any member of the Provincial Executive Council who ceases to support the principles and aims of the Party will automatically cease to be a member of the Provincial Executive Council and forfeit all rights and privileges associated therewith.'

The purpose of this clause, I believe, is to provide a safeguard against an abuse of power should it be necessary. The PC Party is an open party. In many ways it is a coalition of centre right people - including Liberals. I believe it was meant to be that way in order to defend the interests of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians - naturalized or not. In truth, this is not a partisan issue, but rather a change in the way politics will be done from here on in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Brad Cabana said...

Ed, just an aside. For the record: I am not a Liberal (as you know); I am not a Harper plant; I am not some nutty Reform guy; I am not delusional; and I am definately not niave. What I am is exactly who I say I am. I love this Province, and believe it will be the envy of Canada in the near future. I believe our resources will provide for a secure, caring society. I believe that investing in rural NFLD is critical to our future. However, one thing I don't believe in is a closed shop when it comes to rights and opportunity. Hope that clears some things up for your readers. Brad

Edward Hollett said...

Two things Brad.

1. You are what you have said you are. Some people have decided to concoct all sorts of stories and make other comments that are irrelevant. That is sadly par for the course these past seven years.

2. On the membership thing, Brad, I'd go a step further. Since the constitution does not appear to define directly what a member of a district association is, or how one can be in good standing, I think you can get there logically. The constitution does say that only members of district associations may vote in nomination meetings. Since those associations hold open meetings, all eligible voters in the district are - by that construction - deemed by the party to be members of the party itself. They've just confirmed that for Humber West.

As such if you had 73 eligible voters under the Elections Act who signed your papers, you had 73 members of the PC Party. It is not for anyone to pass comment on the foolishness of that idea but it is exactly what the party has held consistently for the past decade or more.

The attitude that the Conservative caucus has taken to its own constitution should be instructive to everyone since it reveals much about the attitudes toward the rule of law and democracy currently dominating the party.

Good luck in your efforts, Brad although I suspect you may only find justice outside the confines of the current Conservative Party executive. Perhaps there are other like-minded Conservatives in the province who will join you and wrest control of your own party from this anti-democratic cabal.