Sunday, May 29, 2005

Another wrong turn for the Conservatives

Part of the problem for the Conservatives as they try to gain acceptance as a national party has been the perception that they have a right-wing social conservative agenda that is out of step with where the majority of Canadians stand. The dropping of the word "Progressive" from the party name did not help from the start. And the fact that a number of Christian activists are trying and succeeding in winning nomination battles in ridings in anticipation of the next federal election does not help this image and will only reinforce this perception.

John Reynolds is quoted in the Globe article, above, as saying essentially that, hey, that's democracy folks. We don't believe in an appointment process. We have riding battles and if members in a riding don't like it, they should sign up enough members to prevent a one-issue candidate from winning. I think that's a problem for the Conservatives. They're leaving their nominations wide open to activists that could really harm the party's efforts to reach out. I agree with Reynolds' democratic sentiments to a point but it can really create problems for a political party. Any well-organized group could target a number of ridings and put in place some really questionable candidates. If they leave themselves open to this kind of manipulation, they are shooting themselves in the foot once again. You'd think they'd be especially vigilant with their choice of candidates, knowing the perception problems they have had.

Why not have some balance in the process and allow for the riding association executive or the national executive to have some input to ensure the candidate is acceptable to the party? If the democratic choice is acceptable to the national party, then fine, there would be no need to change it. I would imagine that in the majority of ridings, there would be no issue about the choice of candidate. But if there are a few questionable choices, then do something about it. I guess the criticism is that interference in local associations by the national party is too top-down and antithetical to the "grass roots" philosophy of the party. Maybe, yes, but isn't it a small price to pay at this stage of a party's development? Once you can attract a broader variety of quality candidates there might be no need for such interference.

We shall see how this plays out. But if the polls are any indication, this altruistic practice at the riding level may come back to bite the Conservatives once again.