This is just a quick update for my readers who may have been following the Adam Giambrone Ontario NDP nomination contest “scandal” in the Scarborough-Guildwood riding. You may recall from my blog posted earlier this week that I essentially speculated that the “scandal” was a non-event from the perspective of the Ontario NDP having done anything wrong, and instead blamed Giambrone’s nomination on the NDP’s anti-democratic practice of enrolling members in both the federal and provincial political parties when they sign up.
Well, it looks like the former candidate for Scarborough-Guildwood, and the only other nomination contestant who faced off against Giambrone, Amarjeet Kaur Chhabra, may be taking her own party to court to make a determination that the nomination contest was invalid (see: “NDP fights for its soul in Scarborough civil war”, Martin Regg Cohn, the Toronto Star, July 18 2013). Chhabra’s concerns, shared by the Executive of the Scarborough-Guildwood riding association, have to do with 12 people who showed up at the nomination contest, claiming to be eligible to vote, but not appearing on the riding association’s list. I continue to be baffled as to why these 12 people were allowed to vote if the riding association and no one else present (including Party Secretary Diane Lawson) couldn’t locate their names on any list, but clearly the riding association had second thoughts after Giambrone took the nomination by a squeaker (allegedly by just 2 votes).
The riding association had asked the Ontario NDP headquarters to reveal what it knew about the 12 voters, but in a letter back to the riding association, Lawson said little more than the Party would deal with it after the election. That apparently didn’t go over very well with the riding association or Chhabra. Through her lawyer, Chhabra has now issued an ultimatum to the provincial Party – requiring a response by noon today (July 18 2013). If any response received by that time is deemed unsatisfactory, Chhabra’s lawyer communicated to the Party that Chhabra would seek an order invalidating the results of the original nomination meeting, requiring the NDP to hold another meeting.
Chhabra’s legal ultimatum may have put the NDP in a quandary in Scarborough-Guildwood, if it were successful. Judging by the lack of movement in the story today after the noon deadline, it seems that Chhabra’s case was not enough to convince a judge to quash the results of the nomination meeting. Further, Elections Ontario has already closed the official Nomination of Candidates – it closed at 2pm today. A quick check of Elections Ontario’s list of candidates reveals that Adam Giambrone continues to be identified as the NDP candidate for Scarborough-Guildwood. Given the official end to the nomination period just two hours after Chhabra’s ultimatum deadline, I’m not at all sure why Chhabra waited so long to make her demands of the Party.
Given the silence on this issue this evening, it’s not hard to imagine that someone in the Ontario NDP took Chhabra aside with her lawyer and laid out the reasons why the 12 voters were authorized to vote. Again, I suspect that this was not a usurpation of a democratic process, but more of an accounting error (and maybe “error” is too strong of a word; like it or not, the reality is that maintenance of an ever-changing membership list isn’t easy, especially when it must be done so on the sort of short notice that the NDP had when these by-elections were called for such a strange time of the year).
We may never know whether the 12 voters were eligible to vote or not – it may be that Party reps have convinced Chhabra to stay quiet for the good of the Party (although her actions so far in Scarborough-Guildwood have likely already impacted negatively on Giambrone’s chances for success – in by-elections where limited voter turn-out is expected, it’s important that the electoral machine run smoothly and get out all identified supporters on e-day. With Chhabra throwing a wrench into the gears, the NDP’s machine in Scarborough-Guildwood is running anything but smoothly, and many plugged in NDP supporters and members haven’t stepped up to help Giambrone and some have vowed not to vote for him. Those are exactly the people that a local campaign does not want to alienate during mid-summer by-election).
What’s the moral of the story here? While some might take home the message that Party Headquarters needs to do a better job of communicating with its riding associations, the fact is that the riding association itself allowed the vote to proceed without knowing whether the 12 voters in question met the Party’s own eligibility requirements. In absence of definitive evidence of eligibility, the riding association ought not to have let them cast their ballots. That the Party secretary was consulted is meaningless – if she couldn’t provide documentation conclusively proving eligibility, the riding association – charged with running the meeting – could have and should have prevented the 12 votes from being cast. That they’ve now backtracked and demanded answers from the Party HQ is meaningless. Do the job right the first time – it’s not hard. That’s my take-away from all of this.
***Update: The Torontoist is reported late yesterday afternoon (which I missed when I was writing last night's post) that Chhabra was forced to drop her legal proceedings, given the limited time available to her for success. As an aside, perhaps the NDP will be better served with the kind of political operator that Giambrone is, one who carefully manipulated the situation to his full advantage - and to the NDP's as well - as opposed to Chhabra, who showed very novice political instincts with a ham-fisted legal action against her own Party at the 12th hour. That being said, I understand that there remain those in the NDP who are more concerned about doing what's right than getting elected. To them I ask: Why are you still with the NDP?
(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Party of Canada)