Pro-life Liberals are getting support from some unlikely sources in their bid to keep the party open to the rank and file.
Prominent Liberal Styli Pappas says a growing number of party members have become dissatisfied wit the “draconian measure” which allows the leader to appoint candidates in whatever riding he chooses.
Jean Chrétien assumed the power to appoint candidates after the Liberal convention in Hull Quebec. Liberal strategists said it would avoid the kind of fractious meetings which have become an embarrassment to the party.
But Pappas has joined many party workers and a number of Liberal MPs to create an informal group calling themselves Liberals For Democracy who maintain the party’s interest won’t be served with the leader’s new powers.
“This clearly reveals a hidden agenda,” Pappas said in an interview with The Interim. “It’s not a question of preventing rancorous meetings.” He said the fact that Chrétien has people around him who have this unprecedented power means “we’re giving out blank cheques to people we don’t know.”
Liberals For Democracy say the “blank cheques” have been used twice already and they want to make sure the practice ends.
The Liberal leader has traditionally had the right to refuse to endorse a candidate in any riding. Pappas said this was a “defense mechanism” which prevented undesirables from representing the Liberal party. According to Pappas the new power represents an “offensive weapon” allowing an inner circle to put favourites in strategic ridings.
At the time the measures were introduced in Hull there was “four minutes discussion” on the matter, he said. It was presented as “the bottom line is the leader wants it.”
He said rather than taking on the issue from a legal basis, the group opposed to the measure plans to use moral arguments to fight it.
Chrétien is aware of the group’s concerns but plans to stick to his guns, Pappas said.
Liberals For Democracy has made a splash in the media and includes members who were shut out after Chrétien used his new power. Pappas said the informal group doesn’t maintain a membership list and decline to list Liberal MPs who have joined.
The new powers have been used twice in Toronto already – Art Eggleton parachuted into York Centre and Mila Velghin into Don Valley West. Rumours abound that Liberals plan to drop candidates into other ridings in the province including Rouge River, and Etobicoke-Lakeshore where Liberals for Life candidate Dan McCash plans to run for the nomination.