Party candidate nominations are inside ball. Most people don’t have party memberships in any party and they only pay attention to candidates during an election period. Nominations occur outside of their radar until and unless there is something controversial in the race.
Being an internal sort of race, a party nomination can and often does become heated as a political civil war can form within a constituency. No battle is more intense than one between former allies. Some constituencies never recover from nominations as divisions from dirty and personal races run too deeply for the association to come together as a functional unit after the race is over.
Despite all that, nominations are still the best and only manner to date for parties to choose candidates with member participation.
Nomination winners are not always those who best represent the membership of the party much less the electorate at large. A nomination race is based on who can sell the most party memberships and best get them out to vote when the time comes. Nothing more, nothing less. Successful nominees are those who can gather a group and organize them. Those groups are often based on a cultural or religious basis which gives a good base from which to draw supporters. There is nothing wrong with people organizing to win nominations in this way of course. They are using their existing strengths. It has to be kept in mind however that candidates who won in this manner were often propped up by a base that is not actually representative of the party.
The only nominations that go trouble free tend to be uncontested ones. The only nominations that tend to go uncontested are ones in constituencies where a party likely has no chance of electing a member to the legislature.
Right now, the United Conservative Party is the hands down favorite in most constituencies outside of Edmonton. That is why the vast majority of the nomination races have been contested and hundreds of aspiring nominees have been applying for the job. Due to the volume of applicants and the high stakes of the races, some nomination eruptions are expected and inevitable.
Parties such as the Alberta Party have pretty much no hope of winning any seats. They are simply trying to find rational contestants to run for them in the general election thus acclamations are common and what few races there are tend to be pretty subdued. It spares them of nomination flare ups.
The NDP have many seats in play but are a top down party that discourages open nomination races. Hell, one can’t even find information on their website directing folks in how to even apply for the job much less encouraging them. Because of this, nomination aspirants for the NDP run into the dozens rather than hundreds as with the UCP. While being terribly undemocratic, it does spare the NDP the untold grief of managing open nomination races.
Partisan folks and media members love jumping upon nomination race issues in hopes of tearing down parties that they don’t care for. It is cheap politics but it can be effective as many folks in the public don’t understand just how little a nomination can actually represent a party as a whole.
The latest nomination mess is a pretty striking one as an image was released of a group of men violently attacking a man on the ground. Apparently this attack was motivated by a UCP nomination race in Northeast Calgary.
This is politics at its ugliest. No party condones or encourages these sort of actions. That won’t stop the unprincipled from trying to claim as much though.
Northeast Calgary is a political nightmare when it comes to politics and it has a long history of dirty politics on every level. There is no sense beating around the bush, that part of the city is dominated by people of South Asian heritage and that culture comes with an acceptance of dirty political play that we are not accustomed to. Many in that part of the city view rules as things to be stretched or broken at any and every opportunity and they will do so without hesitation. They see strict adherence to party rules as a sign of weakness. This is not true of every person of South Asian decent of course but anybody claiming that this sort of political attitude is not dominant is simply being disingenuous. It will take time to shed those old attitudes but for now, it leaves NE Calgary as a political hornets nest.
In 2011 I was on the Wildrose Party provincial executive while the nomination race in Calgary McCall was called. Four candidates vied for the position. They were Deepshikha Brar, Khalil Karbani, Braham Luddu and Grant Galpin. Astoundingly almost 6000 memberships were sold by the first three mentioned candidates within weeks. This is well beyond what is normal and we looked into things. We burned up the phone lines and literally sent people to hundreds of doors to check the veracity of these memberships. It was immediately apparent that cheating was occurring. Countless memberships had been sold to people who didn’t exist. All of the candidates aside from Grant Galpin had duplicate members in their list as they unwittingly shared lists and signed people up without their knowledge. We covered our bases carefully and did what we had to do. We disqualified the three proven cheaters. The optics were still terrible. We punted the three brown people and kept the one white one. What else could we do though?
This was hardly unique to the Wildrose in Northeast Calgary. Alison Redford had to deal with a Calgary McCall nomination race that had nine candidates and devolved into death threats.
Federal Liberals, the old Reform Party and the contemporary CPC still wrestle with trying to keep the scandals and cheating to a minimum in Northeast Calgary ridings. Its just a political reality in that part of the province that every party will have to deal with.
Are nominations important? Of course they are. Should we pay attention to them? Of course we should. Should we jump up and down and try to paint entire parties when a race goes off the rails? Not if we want to be honest about things.
There is no perfect system but this is the best we have right now. Lets not waste the hysterics on nomination races that have little to do with the attitudes of the parties as a whole and save it for the general election when they truly contest for the seats of power.