On Feb. 26, British Columbians will get a new premier, but not all British Columbians will get to have a say in who that person is; only those who took out a B.C. Liberal party membership before last Saturday have that privilege.
Unfortunately, British Columbians have no guarantee that the people who hold those memberships are real, human, have signed themselves up, are registered B.C. voters, or are even Canadian citizens.
Recent news reports have provided ample evidence that the front runners in the Liberal leadership race have lost control over the integrity of that process. A cat was signed up for Christy Clark and she’s now being accused of using invalid membership forms. A few members of a hockey team in Kamloops were signed up for Kevin Falcon’s bid, unbeknownst to the hockey players. Mr. Falcon’s membership submissions also include at least 25 people whose residential address and phone number is a restaurant in Kelowna. The NDP’s leadership race also started with a membership scandal, as “frontrunner” Adrian Dix admitted to handing in bulk memberships and cash against the rules of the party.
But, for some reason, those memberships have been deemed to be valid by the party brass. Political parties get to make their own rules about who can become a member and therefore get to vote in leadership and candidate contests.
The problem is that these parties control our legislative democracy and determine who our premier is. Their lax rules and scandal-ridden candidate and leadership competitions form the very foundation of our governing system. If the foundation is rotten, is it any wonder we have a hard time getting good government under the party system?
At a minimum, political parties’ leadership and candidate races should be regulated and be subjected to independent oversight. Leadership candidates should also have to declare, in advance of their party’s leadership vote, who funded their campaigns. Elections B.C. is the best agency to provide this oversight and both the major political parties should commit to making this change as soon as possible. Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.