Categories
Justice

Fixing the Vote

What Ottawa City Councillor Tim Tierney did is a matter of public record:

Last November, Ontario Provincial Police charged Tierney with corrupt practices under the Ontario Municipal Elections Act for trying to induce another candidate to drop out of the 2018 election.

according to OPP documents filed in court last year, Tierney called Schurter on his cell phone. Schurter put the call on speaker phone, and three people in the Elections Ottawa office alleged they heard the councillor offer to make a donation to a local food bank if Schurter withdrew his candidacy.

Now it’s not my place to presume guilt of innocence, especially given that the Crown has withdrawn the charges and agreed to a settlement with Tierney yesterday. But I’ve seen nothing beyond this prima facie evidence of a pretty strong case that could have been made.

And the reasons for dropping the case are transparently flaccid. It “would have been a ‘lengthy prosecution’ and that, if it had been successful, would have resulted in an expensive byelection.” Also, “the allegations of bribery were made public during the campaign, and noted the people of Beacon Hill-Cyville still re-elected Tierney by a massive majority.”

All that could well be true, but those aren’t the bases on which we decide whether to proceed with a prosecution. It’s like saying “sure, maybe he murdered the man, but it would cost a lot to find out, and the man would have died anyways.”

It’s not the sort of justice that would be meted out to you or me. But it’s the sort of justice the rich, powerful and connected have come to expect. It’s the sort of justice where we can overlook the allegations with a slap on the wrist if a full prosecution would be too inconvenient.

We’ve entered into an era now whether the foundations of democracy are under attack, where there are concerns of influence from external powers, where money is playing an increasingly oversized role, and where we are not even sure whether to trust the voting process itself.

We can’t simply allow a person to violate the rules and allow the results to stand if the win is big enough.

The result should have been overturned and a by-election held. I don’t care whether Tim Tierney agreed to pay two months’ salary. He shouldn’t have been entitled to it in the first place, as his own admission of wrongdoing shows.

This is a principle that should apply generally, shouldn’t it?

Image: Ottawa Matters

Categories
Political Parties

The Greens and the NDP

The defection of 18 NDP candidates in New Brunswick to the Green Party raises once again the question that has been on my mind for a while, specifically, whether to align with the Greens rather than the NDP.

It could have been so different. Had the NDP not ousted Thomas Mulcair in 2016 as a result of the ill-conceived and tone-deaf LEAP Manifesto, he would have spent the last three years in the media holding to Trudeau to account, and would be viewed as a viable candidate for Prime Minister. And we would be having a very different conversation.

But he was ousted, and instead we got Jagmeet Singh who, on being chosen leader, immediately disappeared from view, leaving a dispute between the Alberta and B.C. NPD governments simmering, losing ground in Quebec, and never actually visiting New Brunswick at all.

By all accounts, the results in a few months in the general election could be historically bad. The party has yet to nominate anything close to a full slate of candidates, there’s mismanagement and mixed messaging in the campaign (“We’re in it for you”), and Jagmeet’s choice of issues to comment on seems… odd.

We have no idea where he stands on China, on relations with Trump, on a post-Brexit deal with Britain, on environment and pipelines and carbon pricing, on education… but we know he’s very proud of his brother, he’d like lower cell phone costs, and like every NDP candidate since ever, he supports pharmacare.

All this makes me take a closer look at the Greens. They have been running on a consistent message for a long time now, we know they will not compromise on environmental issues, and they seem progressive on other issues. They recognize, I think, that environmental issues are also social issues, and that fundamental Canadian rights like health care need to be protected.

So… good, right? But the Greens also have a long history of accommodating corporate interests. And their campaign slogan “Not Left. Not Right. Forward Together.” is ambiguous to the point of distress. I agree with the subtext: “The real divide of the 21st Century is not left versus right, but insiders (the one percent) versus the rest of us.” The question is, are the Greens the party to deliver on that?

Through the election I’ll be watching both NDP news releases and Green news releases not so much for the content – the two parties often echo each other – but for the selection of issues to care about. What will the parties do specifically to wrest control from the super rich and return to traditional Canadian values of respect for the environment and for people?