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Opinion  

Rethink nominations

By Dermod Travis

It was hardly front page news on the west coast, but St. John's lawyer Ches Crosbie, son of former Progressive Conservative MP John Crosbie, was elected the new leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative Party last month.

It's noteworthy because three years ago, the Conservative party of Canada, rejected Ches' federal candidacy, claiming in his words that "decision-makers at party headquarters in Ottawa decided I wasn't the type of candidate they wanted."

Papa Crosbie was characteristically a little more blunt: "The audacity of some small, unknown committee of people up in Ottawa that could have this power...is not only insulting, it's a disgrace...I can't explain my scorn and disdain. I am am really browned off!"

At least Ches received an explanation of sorts, former CBC producer George Orr was left high and dry by the B.C. Green party in 2016, when his candidacy was rejected.

Former B.C. cabinet minister Terry Segarty had the door slammed on him, when he tried to seek the B.C. Liberal party nomination in Kootenay East for the 2017 election.

Like Orr, Segarty received no explanation from the party, although he believes it may have been tied to the prosecution of an escort agency, the Top Hat, in 1985 that his name had been wrongly tied to, as well as his age.

According to Segarty, former Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett advised him that “the premier was recruiting persons of good character and high morals.”

Bennett also told the 69-year-old Segarty that his age and health were factors. West Vancouver-Capilano Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan is 84.

The B.C. NDP was not immune to similar challenges as it wrestled with its gender equity rules in Columbia River-Revelstoke.

The latest to fall victim to a green light crippling is Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA) councillor Hector Bremner – who was seeking that party's nomination for mayor until the backroom bosses did him in this week – despite the committee approving his candidacy.

Here's how NPA president Greg Baker explained the board's decision to overrule the committee to the Globe and Mail: “the committee “had significant concerns about his answers and about how he answered some questions on the application. They thought it was better for Hector not to put them on paper.”

Today, prospective party candidates are put through a rigorous vetting process. Some of it with reason, some of it that may cross a line, but all of it with one big proviso: lips sealed on the findings.

In its 51-page package the NPA asked candidates whether they or the potential candidate’s company has been involved in any lawsuits for cause, unfair or illegal employment or labour practices; ever lost judgment in any legal proceeding; or ever been audited by the Canada Revenue Agency?

The party also required a $2,500 application fee, a detailed plan to raise $250,000 in campaign funds, a list of the names of 300 eligible members who support his or her candidacy and within five days of being green-lighted “evidence [is required] of $40,000” in the potential candidate’s campaign account and a $25,000 nomination deposit payable to the NPA.”

A provincial political party asked prospective candidates for a “list of all full-time or part-time employment since you graduated from high school and a list out all email addresses and social media accounts the candidate used in the past 10 years.”

Vetting isn't always full proof. Former federal Conservative candidate Jerry Bance didn't disclose that he had urinated in a coffee cup in a customer's home, as captured on tape by CBC's Marketplace. 

For rejected candidates, though, the process often leads to the “wonder what that cloud hanging over their head is” – I heard he had a business problem, no someone else told me it's booze, no you have it all wrong he cheated on his spouse.

Orr may have had the kibosh put to his candidacy for the Greens over something he wrote in the 1960s, others over ill-advised social media postings (albeit sometimes rightly so) and the repugnant inferences that Bremner has experienced from Baker.

But lips sealed. No one who is privy to the vetting – or being vetted – can talk about it in most cases.

Bremner says he has “no secrets.” 

The NPA owes it to him – and other parties owe it to their future candidates – to lift the clouds that can get left hanging over candidates that a party feels are not up to snuff for members to consider at a nomination meeting. 

As a sometime lobbyist, Bremner may be a conflict of interest waiting to happen, but surely NPA members deserve more than “insinuations” from its president.

As one political observer put it: “how political parties function themselves must be as democratic as the system they operate in. They are not analogous to a private club.”

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC

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