05 January 2011

Connie Leadership 2011: democratic deficit

The latest twists in the Conservative leadership story are starting to look a bit more like a soap opera than usual even in a place where the last seven years in politics have centred on how tightly knotted The Leader’s sphincter was at the moment.

With a mere three working days left to go in the very short deadline for nominations, convention co-chair Shawn Skinner wound up encouraging people to file nomination papers.

Now the comment only lasted until about noon on Wednesday and only on VOCM, the voice of the cabinet minister. Here’s what he had to say although the story has since been officially disappeared by VOCM:

Progressive Conservative Convention Chair Shawn Skinner is encouraging people to come forward as the deadline for nominations for the PC Party leadership, this coming Monday, quickly approaches. So far Acting Premier Kathy Dunderdale is the only person who has come forward. Skinner says the PCs are hoping someone else with some interest will enter the race for the party's top spot.

Only a half day hardly makes for a serious effort to scare up nominations and after all, Shawn knows full well the party isn’t really looking for a leadership contest.

If the Tories really wanted a leadership contest then he and his mates wouldn’t have busily done the back-room secret deal to keep Kathy Dunderdale in the job. 

And if Shawn and his pals really wanted an open and fair competition like the kind real political parties have in a democracy, then they wouldn’t be talking about how scared they are of a blood bath.

Shawn’s comments came after someone [Shurely not Tom Rideout] complained about the process to VOCM and the gang at VO reported the tale.

Shawn mumbled something into the microphone about how the party constitution is the reason for the really short nomination process.  As copies of the constitution started turning up on the Internet, though, that lame excuse disappeared faster than a completely spontaneous “Draft Steve Kent” movement started up last month.

What must really be troubling the crowd running the Conservative Party, though, must be a story that ran on NTV.  Political science prof Alex Marland is concerned about the lack of democracy inside the Conservative Party.  Marland makes a number of solid points, not the least of which is the importance of renewing and reinvigorating a political party through a leadership contest. The Conservatives are very consciously avoiding that renewal.  You can add to that the simple point that the Conservatives are also going to head into the next election with a leader everyone knows will not be the leader three years from now.

With the words “democratic deficit” swirling around the Conservative Party already, 2011 is shaping up to be a very interesting year in provincial politics.  There’s little fear of a new personality cult emerging and the fallout from the old one may just be starting to show up in public comments about the ruling Conservatives.  Bill Rowe made a rather telling observation the other day about how quick people are these days to say uncomplimentary things about the Old Man now that he’s out of power. 

Bill must be having a sense of deja vue. The locals are used to dealing with bossism.  They may say one thing when The Boss is in power but once he’s gone their true feelings have a nasty way of turning up.

- srbp -