The Reform Act — Party Candidates

In Micheal Chong’s Reform Act, 2013, we have seen how this bill would give power to the elected MPs of a party to remove their leader, and how it takes power away from the leader to both kick MPs out of the party and bring them back in, giving it to the caucus. The final piece of the bill is how the decision to allow a candidate to run under the party name is made.

In the past, this was not an so much of an issue because MPs didn’t list the party on the ballot. But that changed in the 70s, and with it the decision to allow someone to run for a particular party was given to the leader of that party. Is was up to them to sign off on any new candidate. But this directly contradicts all the changes we have established that this bill does. So now we must change how a nominated candidate becomes and official candidate for their party in an election.

Why was it decided that the leader should sign off on who can use the party name? As Dale Smith from Loonie Politics puts it, it was to stop candidates from tricking voters:

While there were concerns about this amounting to “free advertising” for the party, there were more concerns around spoofing party listings — that unless there was a control mechanism that anyone could simply declare on the ballot that they were the Liberal candidate, or that they might instead put down “Progressive Conservative Party for Canada” instead of “of Canada.”  That fail safe mechanism was determined to be the party leader’s signature.  Not once in the debates recorded in Hansard was there the concern that the party leader might use this power to blackmail any rebellious MPs — and yet that is what ended up happening.

But now leaders do use it to blackmail MPs, even though no one saw it come. It was an unintended side effect. How does the Reform Act try to fix this? By empowering local Electoral District Associations (EDAs) to sign off on their own candidates. Most ridings have at least two and sometimes many more EDAs (for example, a Conservative EDA or a Liberal EDA). The EDA take care of the local business of a political party. Between election they trying to prepare for the next election by raising donation, getting volunteers and looking for candidates. They hold nominating contests to vote on which local member of that party will run to represent the citizens of that riding in the next election.

Once a candidate wins the nomination contest in their riding, their name gets sent to the leader of the party. The leader then signs off on that candidate when the next election is called allowing that candidate to run for the party using the party’s name.

This bill would change that. Instead it creates the position of a nomination officer for each EDA:

“nomination officer” means a person who is appointed by the electoral district association of a political party to endorse the prospective candidate for the party in that electoral district in accordance with section 68.

The local nomination contests I’ve attended have all had an appointed returning officer who counts the votes and declares the winner. This bill may require the nomination officer to be elected, which I will speak more on below. In this case, the nomination officer could do that as well as the new duty of signing the nomination papers of the winning candidate:

(2) The definition “nomination contest” in subsection 2(1) of the Act is replaced by the following:

“nomination contest” means a competition for the selection of a person to be proposed to the nomination officer of the electoral district association of a political party for his or her endorsement as the party’s prospective candidate in an electoral district.

3. The Act is amended by adding the following after the heading “Nomination of Candidates” before section 66:

Nomination contests

65.1 Nomination contests shall be held by the registered association for the electoral district to which the nomination relates at a time and date fixed by the association and in accordance with the rules established by the association.

4. Paragraph 67(4)(c) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(c) if applicable, an instrument in writing, signed by the nomination officer of the political party’s electoral district association for the electoral district that states that the prospective candidate is endorsed by the party.

5. The Act is amended by adding the following after section 68:

Endorsement by nominating officer

68.1 (1) A prospective candidate for a political party in an electoral district must be endorsed by the nomination officer of the party’s electoral district association of the party in that electoral district.

Appointment of nominating officer

(2) The nomination officer referred to in subsection (1) shall be appointed by the members of the electoral district association by a majority vote.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the nominated officer must be voted by the members of the EDA by majority vote and not appointed by the executive. In this case, either there must be elected with the executively another officer with this position or they would merely be appointed at the start of a nomination meeting. That seems cumbersome to me. A nomination officer could be elected at an AGM year after year without having a nomination contest.

On the other hand, you could have a special meeting to elect the nominating officer, or elected the nomination officer before elected the nominated candidates. I’m not sure if this is required.

But the ultimate point is that it’s up to the local EDA to approve or reject a candidate. This has benefits and drawbacks. The benefits are above. The drawbacks are that this means the central party cannot do a background check on the candidates and reject them. However, they can still recommend that the members call a new nomination meeting if they find anything incriminating. It would be up to the EDA to decide what to do in that case.

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