The current political upheaval in Manitoba is historic. Never before has a party that won a record 40 of 57 seats only five years prior seen its autocratic premier forced to resign. Never before has an election for a new party leader and premier led to disarray and dispute due to party members being unable to vote.

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This article was published 4/11/2021 (205 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

The current political upheaval in Manitoba is historic. Never before has a party that won a record 40 of 57 seats only five years prior seen its autocratic premier forced to resign. Never before has an election for a new party leader and premier led to disarray and dispute due to party members being unable to vote.

Manitoba politics is not new to drama. The vote-rigging scandal in the 1990s, the 2014 revolt of five cabinet ministers, the defeat of a government on a budget vote by a government MLA. All these bring the mechanisms of party nominations and internal party divisions out of the shadows and into the light. The current crisis in leadership of the governing Progressive Conservative party suggests we need new regulations for internal party democracy, especially when that party is electing a sitting premier.

Shelly Glover can now take to court the results of the PC election for premier, given that the margin of Heather Stefanson’s victory, 363 votes, is far less than the number of people who signed up for the PC party membership but didn’t get to vote, some 1,200 people. It doesn’t matter whether these PC members didn’t get to vote because their membership was not added to the database or some other reason. They did not receive a ballot in time.

One new regulation that could be put in place is a reasonable time frame for membership sign-up, then a reasonable time between the close of membership deadline and the voting period.

Challenger Glover had raised the unfairness of the short duration of the campaign period and the delays in receiving membership lists and nomination forms. The PC party cannot be the accused, the judge and the jury on this. It was right to engage the Court of Queen’s Bench on Tuesday. Even though Elections Manitoba and other bodies do not oversee internal political party operations and ethics, political parties are not above the law, or outside the law.

PC party members have been disenfranchised. But really, we have all been disenfranchised, as the stakes are high. This is an election for our premier, not for class president.

We will see whether Glover can be convinced by PC party management to take one for the team. She may be promised the Fort Whyte nomination and a cabinet position. Or she might be more interested in changing politics. We need game-changers.

Gatekeeping in politics is a real problem and, essentially, is the current role of political parties. Parties seek to ensure that qualified and responsible, yet partisan, people have their name on the ballot for public elections. Fundraising and finance rules attempt to ensure money does not undermine democracy. We have banned corporate and union donations and it is illegal to buy memberships for other people.

Now it is time to get the bullying, scapegoating, gatekeeping and other abuses of power out of politics. We must prevent democracy from being determined by cronyism, and elite power plays as well as private wealth. Political parties must be better regulated.

Our global village is facing compounding crises. We must make difficult decisions about climate change and inequity that challenge our comfortable ways of over-consumption and privilege. It is becoming clear that colonial and patriarchal political procedures and structures do not serve today’s reality.

Parliamentary procedure was designed to protect the privilege of white male property owners, who were originally the only ones who could vote in our current parliamentary system. These outdated political structures and systems were designed to protect the status quo and are blocking progress on making our world more equitable, sustainable, inclusive, fair, more democratic and participatory.

Politics must be about ideas and evidence-based policy, about leadership skills and social innovation, about fair and equal engagement of decision makers. We need innovations to enhance our ability to bring diverse people together in common cause and make decisions collaboratively.

Just like the vote-rigging scandal of the 1990s led to the current ethical code for political parties, the current leadership crisis must lead to new regulation for political parties to ensure they adopt these fair and inclusive procedures that do not favour party insiders. This is in the interest of all Manitobans.

I am not a supporter of either Heather Stefanson or Shelly Glover. They are Conservative, and I am not. However, we all need to be in support of political parties, candidate selection and endorsement processes that do not see themselves as above the law, no matter our political stripe or politics.

Marianne Cerilli was a three-term MLA and mayoral candidate. She has taught university courses in Women in Politics, Women and Gender Studies, as well as in community development.