Sunday, August 31, 2008

Blair Wilson MP, Green Party of Canada

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, it's been a big 24 hours for the Green Party. As most followers of the Canadian political scene are now well aware, the Green Party has accepted independent MP Blair Wilson's offer to join the Greens, thereby becoming the first Green Party MP in Canada. I must admit I wasn't entirely overjoyed when I read that Wilson had been "turfed" from the Liberals in fall of 2007 due to financial irregularities under investigation by Elections Canada. Various bloggers, including me, took the assertion by Canadian Press and other MSM outlets at face value.

Yesterday, I spent some time defending the Greens' embrace of what I referred to as a questionable choice for MP. Today, I did what I should have done yesterday. I looked into what really happened in October 2007 when Wilson and the Liberal Party disassociated themselves from one another. It turns out Wilson was not turfed. He was not expelled. He was not fired. He was not ejected.

He resigned. He voluntarily stepped down when he was being investigated by Elections Canada.

At the time, Liberal leader Stephane Dion praised Wilson's action.

Vancouver MP Blair Wilson resigned from the federal Liberal caucus on Sunday, following accusations that he didn't disclose all his expenses during the 2006 federal election.

Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion confirmed the news in a written statement Sunday night.

"I have accepted Mr. Wilson's resignation from his position as national revenue critic, and as a member of our national caucus, effective immediately," he said.

Wilson denied the allegations and said in a written statement that he is confident his name will be cleared.

He has not suggested he is leaving his post as MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast, which means he will have to sit as an Independent.

"I will collaborate fully with Elections Canada, and do whatever I can to help expedite its investigation into the allegations," Wilson said.

...

Dion praised Wilson for asking Elections Canada to investigate the matter. Dion said the allegations against Wilson are serious and that they raise questions that must be addressed immediately.

"I have instructed the Liberal Party of Canada to provide whatever assistance they can to Elections Canada as it reviews the allegations," Dion said in his statement.

...

Liberal MP Marlene Jennings said that Wilson did the right thing by stepping down "at the first hint" of any questions about his campaign expenses.
(Source: CBC.ca)

As he said he would, Wilson cooperated fully with Elections Canada. Recently, he was cleared of any serious malfeasance. Unfortunately, the damage had been done. The smear job that led to the investigation had sullied Wilson's reputation enough that, even after he was cleared, the Liberals refused to take him back into the fold. So much for doing the right thing.

Now that Wilson has joined the Greens, the Liberal long knives are out. BCer in TO Jeff contends that Wilson was asked to leave the Liberal caucus. Jeff may have some inside info that the CBC, Dion and Jennings didn't know about. Or he may be blowing smoke. Jeff rhymes off a litany of problems he says the Liberals have with Wilson. Among those, is a $1.9 million dollar lawsuit brought forth by Wilson's wife's stepfather. According to published reports yesterday, the amount in dispute was reduced to just $11,000. Let's not let facts get in the way of sour grapes, though.

Jason Cherniak also continues the smear job. Cherniak states that Wilson "(w)as kicked out of the Liberal caucus for allegations of financial and legal improprieties." Jason is Stephane Dion's number one blogging friend. I wonder how Jason squares Dion's October 2007 praise of Wilson stepping down at the first hint of impropriety with his own false statement that Wilson was kicked out. As a lawyer, I expect Jason to know the difference between allegations and convictions. As a lawyer, I expect Jason to grasp the concept of innocent until proven guilty. As a lawyer, Jason should know that those allegations were, for the most part, dismissed by Elections Canada after a lengthy investigation. Don't let the facts get in the way of a smear job, Jason.

Pogge also bought into the story that Wilson was kicked out of the Liberal caucus. So did a few others. I can't blame them. I thought that was the case, too. After all, that's the way it was reported by CP.

Now, however, I'm setting the record straight. As evidenced by Dion's praise and MP Jennings' affirmation, Wilson was not kicked out of the party. I left a comment on Jason's blog a couple of hours ago. I cited Dion's praise and quoted the CBC article. I am still waiting for that comment to be published and responded to, Jason.

I expect it's too much to ask every blogger who bought into the "he was turfed" storyline to recant. I'm going to make the rounds and try to set the record straight and I do expect some bloggers to admit, like I have, that they jumped to a conclusion without investigating whether or not Wilson had really been turfed or fired or expelled or disgraced. We'll see.

I just went back to the original Canadian Press story that said Wilson had been "turfed." The story has been edited. It now states that Wilson resigned.

After that, I'll try to post another boog story on this whole Blair Wilson thing. I ain't quite as obsessed as some bloggers are but I've spouted off in a lot of comments sections and I'm aiming to recycle some of my copious verbosity here on my own little boog.

JB


19 comments:

pogge said...

1. A public resignation to avoid being publicly "asked" to resign, i.e. turfed, isn't at all uncommon either in the private sector or in politics.

2. Personally I put more emphasis on the fact that just two weeks ago Wilson was still trying hard to get back into the Liberal party. I think his concern for the "travesty" represented by May's exclusion from the debates looks a little too convenient and nothing you've shown here changes that.

Pale said...

Ummm.

Personal knowledge, cause, this is my neck'o'the woods?

Grain of salt with this going over to the greens, jimbobby. Serious. Its not all that.....auspicious.

Last time I wrote to ol'Blair he was condescending and prickish cause I critiqued his choice of Lib party leader.
Iggy? Ya. Still got the email.
He actually told me I was (paraphrasing) shallow and ignorant for believing the media hype about Iggy. I had outlined in the mail the hours of research I had put into this too.
Personal knowledge also from people in West Van. Cant disclose. I know that sounds weaselish, but just the way it is.

Im not a Liberal either. Just sayin.

matttbastard said...

Hyper-literal semantic parsing and nakedly partisan spin-doctoring aside, this is a very thorough response. Thanks for the links (and the backhanded compliment--this amusing homegrown distraction is a welcome respite from my primary "obsession", the USian presidential campaign).

Re: your party's first MP: congratulations. I only can imagine how proud you and other Greens must be to have such a paragon of virtuous public service like Blair "Nothing Serious" Wilson representing your interests in Parliament. Truly, this is, as Jimbo Harris noted, an historic occasion on par with the fall of Communism and the end of apartheid, if not the birth of Western Civilisation itself.

matttbastard said...

(With all that said, I've long believed the exclusion of the Greens from televised debates by the Consortium is a "travesty"--a lot longer, I'd wager, than Blair Wilson has.)

JimBobby said...

Yer right, Pogge. "A public resignation to avoid being publicly "asked" to resign, i.e. turfed, isn't at all uncommon either in the private sector or in politics." However, does anyone have any evidence to show that Wilson was being pressured to resign. Publicly, the LPC leader and at least one LPC MP praised him for doing the right thing. Just because something is not uncommon does not mean that it is what happened. The CP was magnanimous enough to correct their journamalistic report that he was turfed. Are bloggers less so?

Wilson did, indeed, tryt to get back into the LPC. He apparently thought that by doing the right thing and subsequently being cleared by Elections Canada, the Liberals would see the smear job for what it was. Maybe they did see it but they chose to keep him out. The smear job worked and, despite being exonerated by EC, the damage had been done. Innocent until proven guilty doesn't apply in either party politics or the blogosphere, apparently.

Wilson knew he would have a far better chance of re-election under the Liberal banner. That didn't happen. He likely looked at his other options and saw the Greens as an opportunity to try again. The idea that he did it simply so that Elizabeth would have a seat in the debates isn't an idea I'm latching on to too tightly. I really doubt that he sees the GPC's or his own chances as very good, though. I'm involved in my GPC EDA. The ridings don't get much by way of financial support from the central party. Our pockets are not as deep as those of the old line, established parties. I don't see a huge benefit to Wilson in running as a Green.

Yes, Pale, politicians are arrogant pricks. My MP, Diane Finley, is condescending too -- that is, if she even condescends to respond to my letters. I am fairly doubtful about Wilson's chances of re-election. He won't have much party money behind him this time. I suspect you'll have some other arrogant prick to write to after an election.

As I mentioned in my boog story, I believed the media hype about Wilson being turfed from the LPC. I also believed the media hype about his "father-in-law" suing him for millions. It was ignorant (and maybe shallow) for me to buy into that narrative. As for Iggy, I'm glad he didn't win the LPC leadership and I ain't a Liberal, neither.

JB

Jennifer Smith said...

It's my understanding that the big problem wasn't so much the alleged election financing irregularities or even the various lawsuits against him - it was the fact that he failed to disclose the fact that he had lawsuits against him and liens on his property when he applied.

Wilson claims that the forms he filled out didn't ask about that stuff. I haven't seen the forms so I don't know, but I don't think it's unreasonable that the Party would have wanted to know about such things. Isn't that SOP when doing a background check?

That said, I think it's a great thing for the Greens to finally have an MP in Parliament. So the guy has some baggage... meh. There's way worse than him in the House right now.

JimBobby said...

Thanks for chimin' in, Matt. Thanks, also, for the backhanded congratulations. ;-)

If I had my way, we'd have proportional representation and there would be 12 or 13 Green MPs sitting in parliament today. Unfortunately, we have a flawed system. Like I said over at Pogge's yesterday, climbing the greasy pole is greasy work. If this gambit does get Elizabeth into the TV debates, as we hope it will, I suspect the Blair Wilson connection will be less an issue than her performance against the gang of four men in suits. I've seen her enough times that i know what to expect. I think a lot of average voters are going to be surprised at her ability to think on her feet and at her grasp of political reality.

JB

JimBobby said...

Thanks for the comment, Jennifer. You're right. There are way worse MPs -- not that that is much of a ringing endorsement. :-)

I'm involved in my local EDA. The Elections Canada regulations are very confusing. We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to decipher the meaning of many rules and requirements. Ignorance is no excuse, I realize, but if you've been exposed to some of the more arcane missives from EC, you'll have a little sympathy for an inadvertent slip-up. Personally, I tune out when these official rules are being discussed. It's like you need a lawyer on every EDA to determine if you're in full compliance. Makes my head hurt.

JB

Chrystal Ocean said...

The key for me is that the media consortium can no longer state May as ineligible b/c the Greens have a MP.

I wouldn't be surprised is it changed its arbitrary rules once again to exclude her however. But if it did, there'd be a backlash and likely in the Greens' favour.

As I wrote in my own blog post, the GPC is damned if it does, damned if it doesn't on this issue. I prefer to see them in the debates, so am glad they took the chance.

Would I have preferred another indie moving to the Greens? Of course.

JimBobby said...

I wouldn't be surprised is it changed its arbitrary rules once again to exclude her however.

Nor will I, Chrystal. You'd think they'd understand that Elizabeth's presence at the debates would simply make for better television viewing. I was just discussing this with my friend, a top Canadian political cartoonist. He speculated that the Greens are being stonewalled out of the debates dues to pressure from corporate TV sponsors who see the party as anti-consumption, thus anti-business.

Interesting times ahead. My cartoonist friend is gleeful at the wealth of topics for his daily Op-Ed drawings.

JB

matttbastard said...

However, does anyone have any evidence to show that Wilson was being pressured to resign. Publicly, the LPC leader and at least one LPC MP praised him for doing the right thing. Just because something is not uncommon does not mean that it is what happened. The CP was magnanimous enough to correct their journamalistic report that he was turfed.

The lack of evidence is likely why the CP changed their original report, rather than magnanimity. Canada's notoriously stringent libel laws usually make editors extra cautious when it comes to questionable statements that could eventually bite them in the legal arena.

Oh, and what you said re: Prop Rep and 12 Green MPs. My primary stake in Canadian electoral politics is to fight for reform of our parliamentary system so that our current FPTP system will someday be nothing more than a memory and sitting Greens will be a foregone conclusion. I do understand that one has to do what must be done to succeed in our current less-than-perfect system; but I think May is taking a reckless gamble by choosing someone with the questionable history of Wilson to be in the vanguard of Green Party history.

JimBobby said...

So, Matt, lack of evidence is no reason why bloggers shouldn't label a resignation as a firing? We should be holding ourselves to higher standards than the MSM, not lower ones. By writing slipshod over evidence and proof, we discredit bloggers and blogging. If the MSM must stick by the letter of libel and slander rules, so must bloggers. To do otherwise is to surrender the high road to the mass media.

JB

Ryan said...

I don't know about this one. If the Greens are trying to portray themselves above partisanism, as the new "party of integrity," I'm not sure if this fellow, regardless of the technical facts, appears to be the man to do it.

Though, I must admit that it will be worth it to get the Greens into the debates, if nothing else.

JimBobby said...

Though, I must admit that it will be worth it to get the Greens into the debates, if nothing else.

I don't think anyone expects Wilson to win back his seat. We have a flawed electoral system that shuts out smaller parties. We have a flawed television debate situation that places all the discretion in the hands of 5 powerful network executives.

Be definition, no "party" can be above partisanship. It's part and parcel of party politics. It's a dirty game, the Brits refer to it as "the greasy pole."

While the Green Party has been steadily growing over the past 20 years, our support has been spread out across the country. Unlike the BQ or Reform, we do not appeal to strictly regional base and, as such, have been unable to elect a member in the FPTP system.

The network bigshots have stated that they'd only allow our leader into the TV debates if we have a sitting member. We feel that inclusion in the debates is essential to increasing our voter base and eventually electing some MPs. When Wilson made his offer, it was no surprise that Elizabeth accepted it as a way to comply with the arbitrary and unwritten rules of the Broadcast Consortium.

I'm looking forward to seeing Elizabeth on the stage with the gang of 4 old boys.

JB

Law Librarian said...

As my friend Bubba from Arkansas says:

"It's the unfair electoral system, stupid!"

Lizzie May pulled a good move to point out the absurdity of our system.

It's great there is now a Green MP. 10% of the people - the rulers in our democracy - plan on voting for Lizzie's party. Yet, the private media consortium, with the support of establishment parties like the NDP, the Bloc, the Tories and the Liberals, don't want the leader of the party 10% want to vote for to be allowed into a national debate.

In 2 weeks, no one will care who "crossed" what floor.

In 2004, I met Jack Layton at an election meeting in Toronto. To my face, he promised he would push hard for electoral reform. He obviously lied to me, to my face, personally.

Lizzie May did what she had to do.

"It's the broken electoral system, stupid!"

That's the issue, not Lizzie's tactical move to draw attention to the unfair exclusion from a national debate of a leader of national party receiving public funding.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Thankee fer chimin' in, Librarian.

I agree that few will remember the Wilson thing once the campaign starts in earnest and we all get a chance to see Elizabeth go head to head with the other federal leaders and the BQ leader (he ain't a federal leader or even a federalist).

JB

Aurelia said...

Well, I'm glad you guys finally got an MP, even if it's one everyone seems to be freaking about.

Now down with the NDP! (grin)

Scott in Montreal said...

Great discussion going on here. I didn't notice much in the media about Mr. Wilson, but yesterday's move got some play. I think Ms. May is schooling ol Layton and Dion right now on how to attract media attention. This should be one humdinger of an election.

WV-SC-STSC voter said...

I don't think Wilson has a hope in Hell of being re-elected, unfortunately, but I will be voting for him. He's the victim of a very successful smear campagin instigated by his wife's step-father, who is known to be s sh*t disturber.

Wilson has been an incredibly active MP in all parts of this incredibly large riding.

If a Liberal candidate enters the race, I'll likely go for him/her -- in a (purely cynical, I admit) move for anyone but the Tories.