Is section 67(4)(c) of the Elections Act the only thing protecting parties from Holocaust deniers?

Peter Van Loan is unimpressed with the Reform Act
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Peter Van Loan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Wednesday April 25, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Section 67(4)(c) of the Elections Act explains that to be on the ballot as the representative of a political party, a candidate must have “an instrument in writing, signed by the leader of the political party or by a person referred to in subsection 383(2), that states that the prospective candidate is endorsed by the party in accordance with section 68.”

Michael Chong’s Reform Act would replace that with the requirement of “an instrument in writing, signed by the nomination officer of the political party’s electoral district association for the electoral district that states that the prospective candidate is endorsed by the party.” Mr. Chong would then add two other clauses. First that, “a prospective candidate for a political party in an electoral district must be endorsed by the nomination officer of the party’s electoral district association of the party in that electoral district.” And second that, “the nomination officer … shall be appointed by the members of the electoral district association by a majority vote.”

If those changes were implemented, Government House leader Peter Van Loan worries that convicts and Holocaust deniers might get on the ballot.

Van Loan believes there are “real problems” with the Reform Act. He says the bill may be well-intentioned but it isn’t needed and doesn’t provide for sufficient vetting of potential candidates. Chong has suggested riding associations have the final say over selection of candidates, rather than a party leader.

“I don’t want to be on the same team as people who have been convicted of fraud, charged with influence peddling or are holocaust deniers,” Van Loan said.

Though I didn’t ask him about the specific possibility of Holocaust deniers, Michael Chong and I discussed the impact on riding nominations a week ago. I have, perhaps naively, suggested that the Reform Act might require more engagement at the riding level. Radical Centrist has argued that the British seem to do okay with their system of nominations. And Jeff Jedras has offered a couple of suggestions to improve this particular aspect of the Reform Act. Probably there needs to be a very specific discussion about the mechanics and politics of riding nominations, how the parties handle candidate selection, what the Reform Act would make possible and how the process established by the Reform Act would interact with party processes.

Liberal MP Ted Hsu suggests a mathematical amendment.

That said, there are a few cases where this proposal might not work. Many riding associations are so small that they are not representative and thus not democratic. Sometimes they don’t even exist. These organizations may be further challenged when there is a snap election. In these cases, it might make sense for a party’s leader to be able to designate a person to represent the party on the ballot.

My suggestion for an amendment would be that if more than, say, one-half of one percent of the electorate votes to choose a party’s candidate, then the party leader must accept that democratic will. If fewer people showed up to vote for the party’s candidate, then it vote has the possibility of being undemocratic (Was it held at an accessible time and place? Was it dominated by a special interest group? ) and the party leader should retain his or her ability to choose the party’s candidate.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel has spent the day debating democratic reform with the Internet. And Paul Thomas explains how different things are in Britain.