Friday, 15 February 2013

Respect democracy, respect Crombie

There are several election fraud lawsuits progressing across the GTA. Most involve violations that the candidates spent more than the limit for candidates in local elections.  The problem with these regulations is that violations are often quite small and arguably had little impact on the election outcome. Such campaigns are costly for both citizen and defendant and are little more than nuisance lawsuits that dangerously dilute the notion of election fraud.

Asking a judge to overrule the results of a democratic election is troubling and ought to require a mountain of evidence that the violations were egregious and may have made a difference to the election outcome. More often, these concerns should be raised when the elected official next seeks election.

Several opponents of Mississauga Ward 5 councillor +Bonnie Crombie have tried to overturn her narrow victory in the Ward 5 by-election to replace +Eve Adams. Crombie is right to ask these opponents to move on. Crombie is accused of illegally spending money on a poll before entering the race, and for failing to report the fair market value of products used during her campaign - specifically yard signs recycled from her previous candidacies as a Liberal MP. +Cecil Young and +Mark Cashin and their supporters argue that such signs should be valued like new signs or as illegal gifts from the Liberal Party. Crombie argues - correctly- that the value of old yard signs is virtually nil.

Ironically, Crombie was not the only candidate to recycle signs during the campaign. Most egregiously, Eve Adams' then-husband used her signs even if they said "re-elect."

Strategically, it was a wise move for Crombie to reuse her Liberal-red signs and those signs arguably played an important role in educating voters about their options. If her use of those signs was against the law, the law should be revised. She was a Liberal MP and that was part of her "brand" and her appeal. As a councillor, she is non-partisan, but reminding voters of her past record of public service and some of the stances she took as a MP would be vital tasks in any election campaign. Such information is necessary for voters to make educated decisions. Party labels play an important role in providing such information to voters who have little other knowledge about the candidates and the issues. Her past record as a center-left Liberal helps many voters fill in the gaps of their own knowledge!

If voters think that Ms. Crombie won her place on council through underhanded tactics, and I find that unlikely, they should wait until the next election to cast her out. In the meantime, they should find other reasons for voters to choose to elect someone else as Ward 5 Councillor or, perhaps soon, as Mayor!

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