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January 22, 2011

Credibility of Next Premier

Could BC's next Premier win by fraud? Can the BC Liberals verify the integrity of their leadership race?

Both of BC's main political parties have challenges but those challenges are of immensely different magnitudes. The NDP has embarrassed itself with internal power struggles; the Liberals have lost trust with the public as a result of repeated lies: HST, BC Rail, broken contracts, budget deficit and dozens of quarrels with the Representative for Children and Youth and the Auditor General. Their responses to damning reports from independent officers of the Legislature has been: "we disagree". Who do you believe?

Can British Columbians trust the largely secret process that the BC Liberals will use to replace Gordon Campbell? They start the contest with a credibility gap; what have they done to restore trust? Their constitution and leadership rules are secret but Sean Holman's Public Eye revealed a segment of their constitution which required members to be in good standing for 41 days prior to a leadership vote. Without being able to produce an updated constitution or say when section 64 of their constitution was amended, Liberal insiders have asked the news media to trust them that their rules were lawfully changed to allow members to sign-up as late as February 4th.

Early in the Liberal leadership campaign George Abbott said he expected the Liberal membership to grow from 30,000 to 60,000 as a result of membership recruitment. If just one third of the new members signed through paper membership applications, it would mean that the Liberals would have 10,000 applications to verify in the three weeks between February 4th and 26th. While some Liberal pundits are having fun with the NDP membership controversy, the NDP has 90 days to verify memberships; the central party and the three main leadership races will have ample time to verify the NDP list. With only 22 days it is unlikely the Liberals will be able to attest to the integrity of their voters list.

The Liberals also refuse to disclose their election financing. NDP leadership contestants cannot accept more than $2,500 from any donor and the names of anyone who donates over $250 will be made public on the party's website before the leadership vote. The Liberals allow anyone to provide a blank cheque to finance candidates who can spend $450,000 with no rules on disclosure other than what is required by the BC Elections Act, disclosure 90 days after the leadership vote.

The party that has lost the trust of British Columbians will chose a new Premier with a largely secret process so as to go on to continue governing largely in secret. No wonder they don't have, and are challenged to regain, the trust of British Columbians! The Liberals may have sufficient discipline to keep their process hidden from BC voters, but few in BC can trust that the next Premier will be legitimately selected by the Liberal's secret process.