Good-behaviour bonds a free-speech issue, Tories say

Wildrose point to maverick MLAs ousted by Conservatives

The Wildrose party's $1,000 "good conduct" bonds for those who attempted to win a party nomination are "undemocratic," says Progressive Conservative Leader Ali-son Redford.

"I think that if you have a political party and you have people that run for nominations, that those people I presume are still members of the party, are still entitled to have points of view," said Redford, campaigning in Calgary on Sunday.

Redford was commenting on the Wildrose policy of holding back a $1,000 deposit paid by each person who ran but lost a party nomination race. The cheque will be returned after the election if they don't "sabotage" or speak out against the winning candidate, according to party Leader Danielle Smith.

"I don't know what they would or wouldn't say but the fact that as a party they're worried about that, I find ridiculous," Redford added.

Edmonton-Castle Downs PC candidate Thomas Lukaszuk, said Wildrose claims to be the party of free speech have no credibility given the $1,000 no-talk bond.

"An election is exactly the time for dialogue with the voters, yet these party members are not allowed to talk?" said Lukaszuk. "How can you reconcile that party policy with their claim to free votes and an open caucus?"

Wildrose organizer and senate candidate Vitor Marciano downplayed the internal party rule, saying they borrowed it from the federal Conservatives.

Stephen Harper's party put the rule in place after the 2004 federal election, said Marciano, who worked for the newly unified party at the time.

In that election, some Conservative party members who failed to win their nomination race then went out in the election campaign and publicly endorsed the Liberals, said Marciano.

"We thought it was a good rule so we brought into to our party," said Marciano.

He also brushed aside suggestions that the bonds are an infringement of free speech.

"You can say what you want, but you will lose the $1,000."

"This is about party discipline before the election," he said. "Once they are elected, MLAs are obliged to represent every-one in the constituency."

Marciano said for the Tories criticize the $1,000 bond is "ludicrous" since that party that has kicked out of caucus MLAs like Guy Boutilier who dared to speak against the party line.

But Lukaszuk questioned why the party does not let local MLAs take part in election debates and requires them to check in with the party's headquarters before they can speak to the media.

Instead, party relies on "a few trusted operatives" like Marciano who has been appearing at some all-party debates, including three forums on education in Edmonton - even though he is a federal candidate, said Lukaszuk.

"Education is 100 per cent a provincial responsibility, yet I was debating a federal candidate," said Lukaszuk.

Marciano said since forums were not tied to local constituencies, it was decided he would be the spokesperson.

The Progressive Conservative party does not require a deposit from members running in a nomination race, party president Bill Smith con-firmed. Some constituencies may require those who enter the race to pay $500 to help defray the costs of the nomination process.

The Wildrose good con-duct bond is "highly unusual and speaks for itself," Smith added.

The rules for a leadership race are different, Smith said, and the party requires a $15,000 deposit from the handful of candidates running in that contest.

Jim Lightbody, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, said he doesn't think the $1,000 bond is a major issue in the campaign and would not prevent party members from speaking out if they felt strongly about an issues.

"The Wildrose have a lot of new party members who are aren't sure of their footing or skilled in the political arts," said Lightbody. "And they have a lot of sharp people running the campaign."

election calendar

- A day-by-day list of 2012 campaign activities, focused on party leaders and Edmonton-area candidate forums.

Contact Journal reporter Sarah O'Donnell by email at sodonnell@ or on Twitter @scodonnell to add an event to the list.

Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor

- Campaigning in Edmonton be-fore returning to Hinton

NDP Leader Brian Mason

- Campaigning in Lethbridge be-fore heading back to Edmonton

PC Leader Alison Redford

- Campaigning in Calgary

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith

- Campaigning in Edmonton, Nisku, Devon and Camrose

Edmonton Journal, Mon Apr 16 2012
Byline: Sheila Pratt

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