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Delegate debacle

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This quote from the Selinger camp in

Bruce and Larry’s story

caught my attention this morning:

"While the leadership selection process has not been perfect, we are confident it has been fair -- and the independent rules committee has consistently agreed with that view," the spokesman said in an e-mail.

Are you. Freaking. Kidding me? Afghanistan did a better job running its elections.

I know everyone is fed up with Steve Ashton whining about the delegate rules, but the NDP leadership race has been a logistical and democratic disaster from the start, from the chaos of the first delegate selection meeting to this week’s hubbub over rent-a-delegates.

It’s easy to hide behind the independent rules committee when it consistently rules against your opponent even though any reasonable person can see the whole process has been made up as it went along.

Let’s recap:

The riding meetings were at best chaotic, slow and inconsistent. In ridings with big delegate counts, the voting was often delayed by an hour or more and counting the huge ballots was a nightmare.

In places like The Pas, many ballots were spoiled.

At the big meetings like Inkster, there weren’t enough NDP staffers to sign people in and there was often fights over memberships.

Members got locked out after the meeting began in some places, but allowed in at others.

Halfway through, they changed the rules for the Manitoba Young New Dems to use a proportional-style vote to pick the MYND delegates instead of a slate system. If it had been done the slate way, Ashton probably would have hovered up all the delegates. Instead he got about two-thirds.

Now, there’s the 80 or 90 rental delegates – the unused union spots that are being doled out to party faithful. Those are almost exclusively Selinger supporters who have virtually no union ties past or present. That includes tons of NDP Leg staffers who didn’t get elected in their ridings, NDP strategist and Viewpoints co-owner Leslie Turnbull, a senior guy at Treasury Board, Manitoba Hydro chair Vic Schroeder (whose staff just went on strike) and a gas station owner.

Even one Selinger supporter I know called the union delegate dole-out a "racket." Frankly, it’s completely anachronistic to earmark 20 per cent of the delegates for unions in the first place, especially when union donations are banned. But when the unions can’t even get organized enough to find a few hundred NDP members among the rank-and-file, the party establishment shouldn’t be seen handing out the leftover delegate spots to whomever they please.

Is this really how a modern, First World democracy picks a premier? Really?

As a post-script, I remember covering the NDP convention when the party voted to ditch the OMOV system. I was interviewing Doer and he argued that the delegate system is designed to make it harder for outsiders to hijack the party and cruise to victory on the strength of a big membership drive.

I told him about my mum in Alberta, who is decidedly not a Tory but who has, in the past, joined the party at leadership time just to exercise some small pinch of her democratic right to decide who will undoubtedly be the next premier for a bazillion years.

Doer politely called my mum a fair-weather party member and suggested it’s exactly her ilk that the delegate system is meant to exclude.

I wish now I’d had the foresight to ask him a much better and simpler question: Do you guys have any idea how you’re actually going to do this?

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