Saturday, December 30, 2006

Exit of a politico

The resignation this week of Canada's Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, brings to mind the high-level bureaucrat's long-time appetite for remaking democracy in his own image… which turns out to be a pretty astonishing ambition for someone legislatively prohibited from voting himself. But in a country where no general interest remains in observing or recalling even statutory limits on power, it is no wonder that Kingsley would have chosen not to interpret a legislated prescription of his duties as anything resembling constraints or limitations on his authority. On the contrary, the lack of specific circumscription is taken to be an invitation to participate in the stage where powers are negotiated and distributed; that is, politics, where to whit Kingsley's 17-year tenure had included at the very least:

  • musing publicly and congenially about introducing compulsory voting,
  • promoting constituency-based voting by targeting particular identifiable groups in society over others for participation initiatives*,
  • haranguing parliament to restrict freedom of speech and, incredibly, acting as an intervenor in the National Citizens Coalition's challenge of Canada's election gag laws, and
  • entertaining the idea of breaking the law he was charged with keeping to share his "confidential federal voters list if he thought it would help public safety or security."
Le Loi, c'est Moi… and on this capricious principle Kingsley had acted consistently at least, inviting suspicions as well that his application of the law had been characteristically inconstant and self-serving.

Whether Kingsley resigned for his own reasons or whether he was somehow pushed out by the Conservatives is a tabloid question deserving of the non-answer that we're likely to get from it. The significant observation is that the subject's very disputability is is indicative of how politicized Kingsley had made his position as an Officer of Parliament. Good riddance to a bad politician… but it would be absurd to suppose that his successor will any more refrain from enjoying the the informal expansion of political authority that Kingsley obtained without much trammels or scrutiny for an office on which there are almost no checks.

*I do note that the House of Commons passed a resolution in 2004 enjoining the Chief Electoral Officer to employ these extra-curricular discriminatory practises… more fools, them.


Ian Scott said...

Just simply another example of "why" democracy in of itself, is not some goal. It's merely a method, which has shown itself time and time again, to be a method which in the end, means fuck all as far as individual inherent rights.

Ian Scott said...

P.S. Good to see you back, Mapmaster. Was going through some old emails this week, and planned on following up on one and emailing you. Will get to that soon!

Hope everyone has had a good Holiday.

MapMaster said...

Hey Ian, looking forward to the email. I've been enjoying the break (and the five or so pounds I've gained from it) but politics will move on without me… which, come to think of it, makes me wonder why I bother.

Re. your first comment: funny that your point should even need to be repeated, but the incessant incantation of democracy as an end unto itself has apparently divested the word of any meaning anymore. Thanks for reminding us.

Joe Molnar said...

I have had occasion over the years to assess Kinsgley in his post.
Admittedly I have no inside knowledge of the exact mandate of the office, but it seems that he had a hard-on for the likes of the NCC in particular and minor players which he could bully and coerce,letting the major media off the hook regarding compliance in some instances.
or in other word a Lib agenda.

His personality seemed to reflect the bureaucracy suited to a corrupt or even totalitarian state.
Good riddance is right.

MapMaster said...

From the Canada Elections Act:

The Chief Electoral Officer shall

(a) exercise general direction and supervision over the conduct of elections;

(b) ensure that all election officers act with fairness and impartiality and in compliance with this Act;

(c) issue to election officers the instructions that the Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary for the administration of this Act; and

(d) exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions that are necessary for the administration of this Act.

18. (1) The Chief Electoral Officer may implement public education and information programs to make the electoral process better known to the public, particularly to those persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights.

(2) The Chief Electoral Officer may, using any media or other means that he or she considers appropriate, provide the public, both inside and outside Canada, with information relating to Canada's electoral process, the democratic right to vote and how to be a candidate.

(3) The Chief Electoral Officer may establish programs to disseminate information outside Canada concerning how to vote under Part 11.

18.1 The Chief Electoral Officer may carry out studies on voting, including studies respecting alternative voting means, and may devise and test an electronic voting process for future use in a general election or a by-election. Such a process may not be used for an official vote without the prior approval of the committees of the Senate and of the House of Commons that normally consider electoral matters.

That about covers it… and although the mandate is open to interpretation, it would be hard to interpret it as a license to do as he has done, even according to his own official interpretation.