Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s democratic reform proposals to ban parachute candidates, establish a fixed election date and get rid of appointed Senators is a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do”.
“In recent years, there have been too many examples of political parties imposing candidates against the will of local constituency associations. This is particularly anachronistic. A prime minister demeans local democracy when he parachutes a candidate in to a riding over the objections of local members,” Mr. Harper told reporters at a Vancouver press conference today.
Mr. Harper’s election conversion is particularly transparent since he was himself a parachute candidate, who was imposed on his current riding of Calgary Southwest against the wishes of the local riding association, in 2002.
After Harper became Canadian Alliance leader that year, he participated, along with current Conservative election chair John Reynolds, in a very public campaign to pressure the nominated candidate in the riding, Ezra Levant, to step aside so he could run for a seat in an upcoming by-election.
At the time Reynolds said that the party would “assist with any debts [Levant] may have had.” which media reports claimed were at least $120,000. (Calgary Herald, March 22, 2003, National Post, April 8, 2002)
The incident deeply divided party members in Harper’s riding association resulting in Levant and three other Calgary party members filing a $5.8-million lawsuit against other party members and executives over alleged defamation related to the nomination battle. (Calgary Herald, November 22, 2003)
Nor is Harper alone as a Conservative parachute candidate. Both former Alliance leader Stockwell Day (Okanagan—Coquihalla, 2000) and current star candidate Allan Cutler (Ottawa South, 2006) are alumni.
As for fixing election dates, if Mr. Harper supports fixed dates, then why did he conspire with the Bloc Quebecois and NDP to jump the gun on the Prime Minister’s firm and longstanding commitment to hold an election 30 days after the second Gomery report was released?
Finally, while Harper may have no respect for appointed Senators, they are apparently useful enough to be his provincial co-chairs in two provinces for this election: Sen. Gerry St. Germain (British Columbia) and Sen. Pierre-Claude Nolin (Quebec).