My first post on Team Mar giving away free memberships can be read here. My second post which contains an audio clip of a volunteer stating "a donor is paying for student memberships" can be found here.
Both of those posts caused quite a stir and I must admit that it was entertaining watching Team Mar try to spin their way out of a 'problem', although having myself accused of fabricating the entire thing or being a partisan hack was not, but here is the rub; there are absolutely NO rules ( according to the PCAA who I called to clarify before Fridays blog post and now also verified by the Edmonton Sun) as to anyone, including the candidates, buying or paying for the memberships of others!
Yes it is true. Giving away 'free memberships' breaks absolutely no rules what so ever within the PCAA and if a donor paying for student memberships the PCAA has no problem what so ever with them doing so as long as they get their 5 bucks. Honestly I was shocked to hear this, as I am sure most of you are as well, and that is why I never wrote or made the accusation that Team Mar was breaking the rules as some have claimed, because the sad reality is that they had not.
It makes more sense now as to why my emails to some of the other candidates campaigns on this subject went unanswered. It makes you wonder just how wide spread a practice this is. ( BTW: For the record only the Doug Griffiths campaign responded to my questions and condemned the practice)
The reasons that this practice is wrong are numerous. First off the optics are terrible. Not only does it lead people to believe that the entire process is corrupt, it brings back visions of the 'old days' when some good ol' boys would load up buses with people they found on the street, handing them $5 to buy a membership to vote for their guy. More serious than the optics is the very real possibility of someone just buying the leadership (and the Premiers office!). In theory with 250k of donated money someone could buy 50,000 memberships and pass them out to people, and 50,000 votes would have been more than enough to win the PCAA leadership on the first ballot in 2006. Sure it would not be an easy task to do for the average candidate but what about if that candidate had the backing of a large union/s (for example) where finding 50,000 people might not be that difficult of a task. The PCAA, and the Premiers job could be bought for a relatively small amount of cash and NOBODY could stop them!
This type of crap is not allowed in the Conservative Party at the federal level for good reason and looking towards Alberta, the Wildrose Alliance Party's constitution is very clear on this:
3.1.2 indicate their intention to join the Party by personally authorizing an application for membership in the Party...
3.2.1 have paid the prescribed membership fee, personally or through an immediate family member; (PDF)
So why is it allowed in the PCAA?
You know this entire thing stinks; it is absolute nonsense on so many levels but it is something that I have come to expect as of late from the PCAA. Antiquated rules for an antiquated party.
What happens now?
I guess the candidates have a couple of options. Call out this unethical practice for what it is and promise to make changes to the rules so this embarrassment never happens again, or go grab the cheque book, pass out memberships, and rent the buses for Saturday.
Now that the elephant in the room has been revealed and everyone now knows that paying for memberships is not against the rules, your guess is as good as mine as to what will happen.