We have recently seen a number of government leaders assume power elected not by the people but by their parties only, and the results have been less than satisfying.

The most publicized case is that of Liz Truss’s election to the prime ministership of Great Britain. Prime Minister Truss is already past tense as she was forced to resign after only 45 days in power. She has since been replaced by Rishi Sunak.

Then there’s the case of former attorney general David Eby becoming the new premier of British Columbia, essentially by acclamation as the only other candidate was disqualified for cheating.

And finally is the case of Danielle Smith, winner by a bare 54 percent of the vote on the sixth ballot to become the new head of the UCP and premier of Alberta.

Ms. Truss introduced herself as prime minister with a mini-budget based on her rabid free market fundamentalism that promptly scared the hell out of the markets and sent the British economy into a tailspin. She had been far from the first choice of her fellow MPs but won nonetheless due to her popularity among the Conservative masses. Truss was clear about her philosophy and policies during the election, so the masses should have know what they were getting. Apparently they either misunderstood the lady or are as benighted about economics as she is.

David Eby became the sole candidate for leader when Anjali Appadurai, his sole opponent, signed up so many new members who shared her passionate environmental views they threatened to overwhelm an election result in her favour. Unfortunately for Appadurai, her methods fell under suspicion and the was disqualified.

Smith has not fallen afoul of her party, at least not yet. But the UCP is seriously divided between moderates from the former Progressive Conservative Party and the rather flaky former Wild Rosers. And Smith won because of her appeal to the latter, of which she is proudly one. She was definitely not the choice of the UCP caucus.

So who should choose the new leader for a governing party when they lose their leader between general elections? Important to keep in mind is that the new leader will be everyone’s leader, not just the party’s.

In the above cases, allowing all members of the governing party to elect the leader undermined the legitimacy of the choice largely because many members held views antithetical to those of the electorate. In two of the three cases, the new leader brought in policies that their parties had not run on and therefore had no mandate from the people. In the third case, that real possibility was averted only because a leading contender was disqualified.

David Eby would have been the choice of the caucus so the point is moot. Liz Truss has been appropriately disposed of by her party. That leaves Danielle Smith. Smith is threatening to unleash a host of major policies for which she has never gained the consent of the electorate. She has no mandate. Her only honourable recourse is to call an election and present her program to Albertans for their approval or rejection. Anything else is an offence against democracy.

All three of these cases suggest strongly that the choice of a new leader in midterm is best left in the hands of elected representatives—the MPs or MLAs. Only they and the policies they presented in the last election have a mandate from the people. If midterm leaders are to be chosen by all party members, they must at least pursue the policies their party was elected on until a new election is held and a new platform presented. Legitimacy and good governance demand nothing less.

2 thoughts on “Who should choose?”
  1. In Canada the Premier or PM is never on all the ballots anyway.

    We elect parties and parties choose their leader .

    It seems just a little bit backward now with them being picked midterm but actually the way it has always been done.

    Danielle Smith has gained the consent of the electorate by gaining the consent of the electorate’s representatives. Thus she has a mandate. This is why representative democracy is such a garbage system. You only get to vote for a malleable meatsack that very seldom after the election represents you in any way. Direct democracy or Jamahiriya would be a much more honest system but always rejected here as corporate Canada would loose control.

  2. All three of these cases suggest strongly that the choice of a new leader in midterm is best left in the hands of elected representatives—the MPs or MLAs.

    I understand your point but in the case of Anjali Appadurai I would be much more in agreement if it had been the Chief Electoral Officer of BC who had disqualified her than a party investigation. It reeks of …… well something.

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