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Posts Tagged ‘Curtis Brown’

AP Photo / Hasan Sarbakhshian

Voting in Iran - AP Photo / Hasan Sarbakhshian

doer

Gary Doer, Premier of Manitoba

I’ve been pretty timid about the election financing issue, and this is mostly because I myself have a return to submit to Elections Manitoba, and I understand how daunting the procedures are.  I certainly hope that I haven’t made any mistakes, since the personal and political repercussions can be huge.  But I decided that I should voice my opinion on the issue because it doesn’t feel right to be silent just because the issue is a sensitive one for those of us who have stood for election.

I can’t honestly say that the situation in Iran, where electoral fraud is suspected by supporters of the runner-up, is the same as the situation in Manitoba, where the opposition Tories and Liberals are publicly stating that they have lost confidence in the Chief Electoral Officer.  But what I can say is that there’s a slippery slope between having an independent elections office that does not need to answer questions from the opposition and a guardian council who refuses outside or independent observers and limits possible candidates to those they deem worthy.

There are many people with knowledge and experience of Iran on both sides of the electoral fraud argument.  There are convincing arguments that it’s highly unusual that voters who overwhelmingly chose reform in 2000 would have switched their allegiance to the hard-line Ahmadinejad, while there are also strong arguments that the official result was realistic and expected.

The problem with the Iranian election is that there is really no way to know if there was any vote-rigging because the process was not transparent.  Apparently some of the candidates’ representatives were not allowed to supervise the vote count as they are supposed to be able to do.  While there was an apparent leak of results that showed Mousavi having won with 19 million votes (from an Interior Ministry official who is reported now to have died in a mysterious car accident), no hard evidence has been presented so far.  It’s unlikely that any hard evidence will be found of wrongdoing, and it’s also unlikely that the Iranian government could ever convince the protestors that the election was fair.  This is the result of a closed and unaccountable electoral system, where outside observers are not allowed and where the Guardians Council (six clerics and six legislature-appointed legal experts) make all decisions on recounts and even which candidates are allowed to run in the first place.

Here in Manitoba we have an election financing debacle.  As a former candidate, I know that it’s hard to keep track of expenses, donations, and advertising during the campaign.  It was hard enough for me to even remember where I was supposed to be on a given day.  So I don’t want to presume that whenever there is an irregularity in a candidate’s return, that it’s a malicious attempt to commit elections fraud.  But there are some things that need to be explained by the NDP and Elections Manitoba:

1.    Finance Minister Greg Selinger felt that the false returns were dangerous enough for him to request a letter exonerating him of any wrongdoing.  This act seems to indicate that he felt that someone in the NDP was involved in wrongdoing.
2.    There are many unanswered questions involving the conduct of the NDP towards the auditor chosen by Elections Manitoba, as well as the conduct of Elections Manitoba itself towards that auditor.
3.    The Premier of Manitoba has refused to indicate who informed him of the false expenses in 2001, and will not indicate a more exact date for when he was told.
4.    The NDP has freely admitted that it has been filing the same type of false returns since the mid-1980s, yet Elections Manitoba and the NDP held private negotiations resulting in only the $76,000 from 1999 being paid back.

So why do questions need to be answered on these concerns?  Is it so that the Tories and Liberals can win more seats in the next election?  Or is it to force Gary Doer to resign?

The reason these questions need to be answered is because the integrity of Elections Manitoba is being questioned by both major opposition parties and many Manitoba voters.   There is a discussion on Curtis Brown’s blog about this issue, with several anonymous posters (2 or 3, from my count) who are disagreeing strongly with Curtis’ views.

I also disagree with Curtis’ opinion, as I believe this situation was not manufactured by the opposition.  While they obviously hope to gain advantage from the issue, that does not preclude other, less partisan, motivations.  The fact that Tories and Liberals are working together on this issue shows that they believe it to go beyond politics.  This situation was caused by the secretive behaviour of both the NDP and Elections Manitoba.  We do not know that there was a conspiracy, collusion, or any wrongdoing by Elections Manitoba; it’s the Chief Elections Officer’s refusal to answer questions that is leading a good number of Manitobans to assume that they are complicit.

It’s true that the opposition parties could gain support by pursuing this issue further; however, there is also the chance that there will be a backlash as voters decide that the opposition is dwelling on the past rather than confronting the issues that matter to Manitobans right now.  In the end, unless Premier Doer calls an inquiry (which is about as likely as the Premier actually committing funds to a better Disraeli/Louise plan, so not likely at all), the only thing that’s clear is that Elections Manitoba will lose its aura of independence and fairness.  The fact that the Premier and his NDP government are willing to sacrifice the reputation of Elections Manitoba is a clear sign of their lack of concern for our electoral system.

In Iran, the Guardian Council knows that the number one threat to its power is any public perception that the government is corrupt.  Voters may very well have forgiven Ahmadinejad’s failed economic policies because he is known as a strong leader who fights against corruption and who stands up to foreign governments.

In Manitoba, we seem to believe that the NDP’s corruption is just politics as usual.  It seems that we are able to withstand the various scandals, whether it’s Crocus, the WRHA, Photo Radar, or the To-Be-Announced Scandal of Fall 2009, as long as we still post modest economic growth.  We seem to believe that it’s okay for Manitoba’s murder rate to skyrocket as long as our cars aren’t getting stolen as often these days.  And we seem to believe that the death of an independent body for overseeing elections is not so bad since we do have that ban on union and corporate donations.

Will someone in the NDP stand up for Elections Manitoba?  Rather than spewing empty words about trust, this government needs to ensure that Elections Manitoba is cleared of any wrongdoing through a public inquiry.  This government needs to protect the integrity of Elections Manitoba and of free and fair elections in our province at all costs.

Again, it’s a slippery slope between an electoral process where no one can have their questions answered and an electoral process where no even knows for sure if the votes were counted properly.  We need to call a stop to this slide, and restore the public confidence in how elections are conducted in Manitoba.  If we can’t do that, there’s nothing to stop us from becoming a place where elections are more theatre than they are democracy.

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