Fiasco puts riding in the news

Okanagan Coquihalla has made the national news. The April 20 edition of Macleans magazine describes the recent Conservative nomination fiascos as “distasteful shows of inside corruption”, “nepotism, cronyism, coronations” and “an abandonment of democratic values”.

MPs Chuck Strahl and Stockwell Day both announced their retirement on March 12. Candidates had to have papers, including an RCMP check, filed in Ottawa by the 18th. Many possible candidates were effectively denied participation in the process.

Candidates who did file on time were all either party executives or employees. Mr. Strahl and Mr. Day both claimed that their decision to retire was not revealed to anybody prior to the formal announcement. Who are they trying to kid? Is it credible that Chuck Strahl’s own son wouldn’t have been aware? Is it credible that those working for Mr. Day weren’t aware? Mr. Day put his West Kelowna home on the market in early December of 2010. Wouldn’t those close to him draw some conclusions from this?

In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen on March 13, Stockwell Day said that he “determined several months ago not to run again”. He also said that he knew that “Strahl and Cummins (another Conservative MP) were standing down”. Mr Day also said that he “wanted to leave ample time to nominate candidates in his riding” and that “it takes time to nominate a candidate, and they want to be ready.”

Both Strahl and Day knew they were going to step down long before they announced it. Both knew that a democratic process would require ample time to for potential candidates to make a decision and to get their paperwork in order. Yet both announcements allowed only five working days for these potential candidates to get it done and ship it to Ottawa. One can only conclude that either there was a high level of incompetence or that the fix was in. Or both. In any case, it is unacceptable and a violation of democratic principles. We don’t anoint people in this country, we elect them.

What did we get for all this? Mr. Strahl’s “safe” Conservative seat will be inherited by his son Mark Strahl. He is a candidate with no education beyond high school, and no experience other than a few years as MP Randy Kamp’s office manager.

Thirty-something Dan Albas is contesting the “safe” Okanagan-Coquihalla riding. He has similar educational qualifications as Mark Strahl, owns a martial arts business and is currently a Penticton alderman.

The most important qualification that both these men have is their political connections.

If they win, they will become part of a Parliament that manages a country of 33 million people, with expenditures of $279 billion. They will step into jobs that have a salary of $160,000. If they stay for two terms, they will get nice pensions.

If you are serious about democracy and the value we get for our $160,000 MP, you might take a hard look at all the candidates before you make your mind up.

John Harrop