Party officials acknowledged that Edmonton–Mill Woods resident Varinder Bhullar was not their preferred candidate, but they told The Huffington Post Canada they barred him from contesting the nomination only after an audit found that he had violated party rules by signing up a significant number of people who did not pay for their own memberships.
“The man cheated. He was caught. And it was a pretty flagrant violation,” a Liberal party official said, insisting on anonymity.
I'm actually happy this anonymous Liberal party official has spoken up against the practice of memberships being paid for by third parties. It's too bad they didn't use their name, though - but I can hazard a guess as to why that might be the case.
Here's a dirty little secret, one of many in the political closet - this happens all the time. All the time. I've had more than one chat with highly successful political operatives - the ones who get party phone calls to come in and put campaigns in order - where they will smile and say they don't really see this as a moral issue, simply a PR issue.
Politics is war, after all - people don't like war, they don't like to hear what happens in war, but they're not exactly rushing out to put their own skin in the game, are they? If they're not willing to stand up, then the next best thing they can do is stay out of the way of the big boys and girls willing to do what it takes to win.
I have no knowledge of this specific campaign, or any of the candidates involved, nor any of the interactions with the Party. What I would comfortably hazard a guess on, though, is that this buying of memberships thing was selected as the "official" reason to block Bhullar from getting the nod. It's simple, easy to explain, makes the rejection of the guy they don't like (or removal of opposition to the one they do like) look like a moral victory instead of a cynical tactical play.
This being the case, one would assume the Party worked doubly hard to make sure there was no chance of any evidence being available that could suggest their preferred candidate, Amarjeet Sohi, had played the same game. After all, if it came to light that their preferred candidate played just as dirty as the one they openly dejected, it might make them look hypocritical, right?
If all this is accurate and the "shocked, shocked to find their is gambling going on in this establishment" play is being used as a one-off in this one particular contest, it's fair to think that this level of moral scrutiny may not be as present in other ridings. Meaning that if it came to light that any of the Centre's green-lit candidates had equally committed the moral outrage of blatant vote-buying, the Party should rush to flush each of them out the door.
All of this is symptomatic of a bigger problem, however - the overall ill-health of our electoral system. If Parties are arranging for preferred candidates to get in and bribing/threatening others to stand down, what message do green-lit candidates take from this? How much is their fate tied to pleasing the Party vs representing constituents?
Independents don't win. You need Party brand to have access to the press, to debates, to resources and templates and seasons campaign teams, etc.
So people don't win - Parties do. Parties that want to form government. Parties that place their leader at the top of a rigid hierarchy. Leaders who rely on unelected inner-councils to do the real administration work of the Party and of government to ensure Party interests are maintained.
It's a system of government, this - just not a democratic one. It can't last.