We may never get the full story behind this one, but one thing is certain, there was no love lost between Harper and Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley.
Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the innovative and occasionally controversial former hospital executive who has managed Elections Canada for the past 17 years, is stepping down from the job.Harper was less than effusive about Kingsley's performance during yesterday's announcement. One could have expected that Kingsley, who has modernized the Canadian electoral system while at the same time maintaining a tight grip on the election process would have been the subject of a great deal of praise. His work put Elections Canada out front in international circles with a reputation for scrupulous fairness and remarkably non-controversial electoral processes.
Mr. Kingsley tendered his resignation to Peter Milliken, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and Noel Kinsella, the Speaker of the Senate, in a letter dated Dec. 22. But his pending departure wasn't made public until yesterday afternoon in a news release issued by the Office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
But Harper's fight with Kingsley is an old one.
When he was president of the National Citizens Coalition, Mr. Harper challenged provisions in the Canada Elections Act prohibiting any third party from spending more than $150,000 to support or oppose any party or candidate -- or any issue linked to a party or candidate -- during a campaign. Mr. Kingsley appeared in court to defend the rule.Which prevents this kind of thing.
In that same capacity, Mr. Harper backed a British Columbia man's fight to post federal election results on the Internet before the polls closed -- another restriction introduced by Elections Canada under Mr. Kingsley.
Gerry Nicholls, the NCC vice-president, said in a release yesterday that Mr. Kingsley's resignation is good for Canadian democracy.Not that the National Citizen's Coalition has anything to hide. They would just love to be able to behave like a US 527 group, and even in the US, serious consideration is being given to curtailing the election campaign activities of such organizations. Nicholls comes off as weak and sounds like a persistent and unrepentant speeder who complains that the reason he gets traffic tickets is because the police are out to get him. Perhaps if it weren't for the internal secrecy and obvious political bent of the NCC, Elections Canada would not be so suspicious of their activities.
"He was not a disinterested bureaucrat," Mr. Nicholls said. "Kingsley had an ideological axe to grind and he used his powers to go after groups he didn't like."
The Globe and Mail had this to say about Kingsley's resignation:
It was a standoff that had been waged between the party and Elections Canada over several months. And, in the end, it meant that three party members, including Mr. Harper, had donated more than the legal limit. That prompted the Liberals to suggest there are political subtexts to the resignation.I wouldn't be too sure about that. Despite the enmity Harper holds for Kingsley, removing the Chief Electoral Officer from his post is next to impossible. However, Harper isn't beyond playing dirty and the timing of Kingsley's announcement is more than a little curious. It would take a real bit of investigative journalism to find out what's behind it all.
I wonder if we'll ever know?