Saturday, August 7, 2010

Quebec's Pathetic Electoral System Part II: The Farce Continues

This is no way to deal with illegal political contributions.
 Just what does the chief electoral officer do with the $27 million he gets every year?
Don MacPherson, THE GAZETTE, August 7, 2010

Another revelation this week concerning an engineering consortium engaged in electoral fraud and influence peddling made it into the news. This time, thanks to Quebec Solidaire's (QS) sole elected deputy Amir Khadir and a group of QS volunteers, it was confirmed by Quebec's Director of Elections that the Axor group had repeatedly used the names of its employees to make illegal donations to Quebec's three major political parties, the lion's share going to the governing Quebec Liberal Party.

The question that remains is whether this is an isolated case or the tip of the iceberg?

I got a laugh when then Minister responsible for the reform of Quebec's democratic institutions, Claude Bechard, appeared on television to do some serious damage control. For months now, the Liberals have been refusing to hold a public inquiry into links with province's construction industry and the financing of political parties. He denied that the problem was systemic, only an isolated case that did not reflect on the political parties, which of course raises the question that if this were true, why has the government tabled legislation to penalize companies who make illegal contributions.

Moreover, in what appears to be Premier Jean Charest's complete disdain for the intelligence of the population, we have Minister Bechard, charged with responsibility of ensuring the democratic nature of Quebec's political institutions, trying to reassure the population, yet this is the same Minister who has tabled another piece of legislation that would prevent the electoral map from being redrawn according to the democratic principle of one person, one vote, in order to prevent his own electoral district from disappearing. Talk about a conflict of interest.

As for the Director General of Elections, Marcel Blanchet, has this guy completely sold out? Where is the leadership? His office keeps saying that it is difficult to establish whether individuals are respecting the electoral law, yet a small group of volunteers backed by a very small research budget can uncover a major instance of fraud. Too bad, he doesn't utilize more of his department's resources to protect Quebec's democratic institutions.

But maybe that's why he hangs on to his job and doesn't do the honorable thing and resign like the Chief of Statistics Canada, Munir Sheikh, who had the courage of his convictions not to go along with what he felt to be an unacceptable compromise of the integrity of the institution he headed.

Perhaps, Mr. Blanchet is not really a democrat. Cutting a deal with Axor so that the group would only have to pay a fine and not have the details about how the illegal acts were committed made public suggests that his institution is also engaged in damage control and lends credence to Quebec's former Minister of Justice Marc Bellemare's refusal to appear before the Director General of Elections concerning his allegations of wide spread influence peddling within the Liberal government.

Things are starting to heat up during the dog days of summer. It's going to be very interesting once the fall rolls around. Unfortunately, it has already taken on the appearance of a farce, with the three stooges, Charest, Blanchet, and Bechard, leading the way.

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