Saturday, October 1, 2011

On MLA's "Greeting" At The Polls

Nation, much has been made about the fact that incumbent MLA's, many of whom have very publicly endorsed and campaigned for one of the 3 remaining PC Leadership contenders, are "greeting" party members at the local constituency polling stations.

What do you mean, "greeting"?

Well, if you believe the MLA's in question, they're just saying hello, and thanking people for being involved with the party. After all, these party members are that MLA's built-in volunteer and donor network leading into the next provincial election. It would be sheer insanity to expect those MLA's not to come out and try to shake the hands of these people.

If you believe the reports leaking out of the various campaigns, however, the MLA's are there to advocate for the candidate they've endorsed. A handshake, a wink, a button hidden under the jacket lapel, flashed for a quick reminder. "Hi, how ya doing, thanks for coming, remember who 'our guy' is..."

I don't know who's telling the truth. So let's go to the guy who enforces the rules.

Says Chris Warren, Chief Returning Officer for the PC Leadership Election:

MLAs should not be “greeting” people within 50 m of the entrance to a polling station... We have told this to the Caucus liaison and he has sent emails to his colleagues. MLAs may volunteer at a polling station, but they need to be actually working (not campaigning) at the polling stations.

DROs have been told they may bar an MLA from the polling station where they are directly, or indirectly, campaigning.

Frankly, MLAs need to understand that when they are “greeting” people, they are not doing either themselves, nor the candidate they support, any favors. We have had members phone us to tell us they were upset to see their MLAs engaging in this type of behavior and were planning to vote on the second ballot for another candidate, not endorsed by their MLA, solely because of how the MLA conducted themselves at a polling station.

The above was the statement on September 24th.

The problem, it seems, is a communications issue.

Caucus liaison Cal Dallas sent a memo to all of his caucus colleagues a few days before the first ballot, informing them that greeting of members and volunteering at the polling place was perfectly acceptable for MLAs (who are also dues-paid members of the party, and have as much a right as anyone else to volunteer, with the local DRO's approval). The caveat was that there should be no campaigning, no wearing campaign clothing, nothing meant to affect the result. This was the practice in 2006 as well, and also in 1993 for that matter. Many MLAs offered to volunteer at their local poll as back-up Commissioners of Oaths (for statutory declarations), at the discretion of their local Deputy Returning Officer.

The problem is, Deputy Returning Officers never saw this memo from Cal Dallas. He's not supposed to talk to them, he's supposed to talk to Chris Warren. Local DRO's didn't know what Cal said to the MLAs.

Or, at least, that's ONE of the problems.

The other one being...  Cal was wrong.

Cal is the Caucus liaison to the party. But he doesn't make, or interpret, the rules surrounding MLA involvement in the leadership vote. Chris Warren does. And Chris Warren said: "MLAs should not be 'greeting' people within 50 m of the entrance to a polling station." But he didn't send that info to MLAs - he sent it (as he should have) to the Caucus liaison. Cal Dallas.

So the Caucus liaison says it's okay. The Chief Returning Officer says it's not.

It's a party election, not a caucus election. CRO wins. It's not okay.

So IF the local Deputy Returning Officer - who in my experience is sitting at the polling place from open to close, making sure everything runs smoothly - feels the MLA is overstepping or otherwise breaking the rules, s/he can kick him out.

Odds of this actually happening?

Buy a lottery ticket.

DRO's take their jobs seriously, and that's to their credit, but at the end of the day it would take GROSS misconduct for a local DRO - who is also a loyal local party member and likely a member of the constituency association board, along with the MLA - to bar the party's local MLA from the poll. Tomorrow, all of these people have to work together under the new leader and try to win their local riding.
Are there shenanigans going on?

Ultimately, it comes down to trust. Do you trust your local MLA to do the right thing today?

And, if you don't... why have you been voting for them in the first place?

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