By Jason Menard
Apparently l’affaire Emerson shows that the real game in politics is the ol’ bait and switch – and we still don’t seem to care.
The Conservatives were the ones who worked themselves into an almost apoplectic lather back in the day – you know, when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor. So how will they react now that the shoe is on a much more familiar foot? How will the public react?
More importantly, why do we let our elected representatives get away with this? Why do we have such a low expectation towards honesty?
As a public, we question the integrity of newspapers if they accidentally misquote someone, or misrepresent the person’s intentions in text. Yet, when an elected representative misrepresents him or herself throughout an entire campaign, we sit back, grumble a bit, but don’t really do anything about it.
How do you think David Emerson’s constituents feel? Cheated? Lied to? Played for fools? How do you think they feel now that the voices they lent to him are now forced to sing a different tune.
When we cast a ballot during an election, we are not giving our elected representatives carte blanche to do what they want. We are consciously giving them the right to represent us as constituents based upon the will and desire of the electorate – not personal preferences. Emerson’s actions essentially took all those Liberal votes – many of which were probably cast in opposition to the Conservatives, not just because of a coin flip – and turned them into Conservatives.
This action is no different than either the aforementioned Stronach or former London-Fanshawe Member of Parliament Pat O’Brien. All three assumed the voters of their region voted for them personally, not for the party. And that’s an assumption that’s plain wrong.
In large part, many of the voters of Canada vote by party or by leader. They are not sufficiently aware of the individual nuances of the candidate’s platform or personality. And, while this doesn’t excuse voter disinterest, it does place an added burden on the successful candidate to understand that a significant reason behind their election is the federal party platform and leader.
So what’s the solution? Simple. If they’re not going to do it on their own, we need to force our candidates to be accountable to their electorate. Understanding that philosophies change, life changes, and opinions change, candidates should be allowed to cross to another side, or run as an independent. But – and this is a big but – the voters should have the right to cast their ballot based upon these new factors.
The candidates were voted into Parliament with the voices of the electorate – and they must to ensure that those voices are heard when any change of affiliation is made. The best way to do that? Mandate the calling of a by-election within one month of a candidate’s decision to change party affiliation. That way, if they truly have the will of the people behind them, then their new stance will be granted the added validity of an expressed vote of confidence. And if their actions runs counter to the will and desire of the constituency, then they should be forced to be accountable to their new situation.
We have election campaigns so that voters can inform themselves about the issues and stances of each party. But when a candidate then changes their stance, it invalidates that previous vote because the candidate has run on false pretences.
This isn’t about Right or Left – this is about doing the right thing. This is certainly not a partisan issue and it’s essential that action must be taken to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.
Of course, if we let this slide by again, we deserve the government we get. If you want to make a difference, please sign my on-line petition athttp://www.petitiononline.com/Canvote/petition.html and make your voice heard.
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