Fresh back from the Ontario NDP convention in London, Ont - my first one actually, as a member of only a few month's standing .....
All was fine and fun (and it was, I really enjoyed the people) until a particular piece of business arose as follows ...
Bruce Cox, outgoing secretary, had two documents (x circa 600 copies each) circulated to the floor delegates. They were both entitled: "The "Official" Slate" (quotation marks around the word 'official' were in the documents). One was for the main executive positions on Saturday, and one for member-at-large elections on Sunday. They were both indicated at the bottom as "signed by Bruce Cox", with no written signature appeared, and no mention of his status as secretary. The slates listed the names of sufficient candidates to fill the available positions, but no more.
In response to a question from the chair (who deserves credit but I forget his name) on Sunday AM, Cox confirmed that the slates were not in fact formally passed by executive council or any committee of the ONDP, but were rather formulated by himself, in informal consultation with other executive members. When confronted by the chair he noted - in a possible attempt at defence - that he had not named himself as 'secretary' at the bottom, but he failed to explain his use of the term "Official" at the top. He further indicated that his motivation in compiling the slates was to facilitate the maintenance of gender and other social parities in the elections.
With his admissions of authorship and responsibility for distribution, there was some booing - mine included - from the floor but no delegate or executive member stood to speak against the behaviour or to question the legitimacy of the election results to that point in time in light of this revelation.
Perhaps I should have - I will have to examine my own conscience as to why I did not.
But I WAS outraged. In a personal - and remarkable civil - conversation I had with Cox afterward he did little - in my opinion - to justify these actions. He did say that he located his authority for his actions in his general administrative authority as secretary and not in any express delegated authority. I responded with outrage that such behaviour, influencing the very heart of the sovereign authority of the convention - and thus membership, could possibly be defended under a general administrative delegated authority rather than an express constitutional or at least resolution-grounded authority. I was and am unaware of such authority, and Cox did not cite any.
If I was legally representing someone who was defeated in the election - and barring the discovery of some hitherto forgotten authority legitimizing his behaviour and that of those participating in the actions - I would advise that the case for voiding the election for misrepresentation is promising.
NOT though that I want my first substantial involvement with the party to be litigation against it. I was actually searching for a comfortable and ethical political home.
Any conclusions regarding consequences (of all forms) to those involved should be reserved until a fuller examination is made of the situation - IF it ever is. But given the silence with which this revelation was met by the executive, the prospect of investigation with an eye to sanctions or correction (past and future) does not appear good.
And the party wonders why it can't attract new blood .....
Any rebuttals, corrections, justifications out there from a co-delegate? executive member? Bruce? anybody?
[ June 23, 2002: Message edited by: Simon Shields ]