Elizabeth Thompson (iPolitics):
Publicly criticizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party or its candidates during the current election campaign could prove costly for former Conservative nomination contestants, iPolitics has learned.
Unsuccessful nomination candidates risk losing a $1,000 “Good Conduct Bond” they were required to post with the Conservative Party when they applied to seek a nomination if they do anything the party decides doesn’t meet its criteria for good conduct. If, however, they meet the party’s test they get their $1,000 back at the end of this election campaign.
One former nomination contestant describes the bond as “a gag order.”
“In my case, if I say anything negative, I forfeit the thousand bucks,” said the contestant, who spoke with iPolitics on condition they not be identified.
“In the case of the gag order money, that thousand dollars, if I am deemed to have (shown) bad behaviour, that money goes back to the riding association, not to me,” they added.
The nomination candidate said they were deeply troubled by the existence of the bond.
“It is anti-democratic and highly controlling: entirely inconsistent with how a Parliamentary democracy is supposed to work,” they told iPolitics. “An MP is expected to represent a constituency and should be free to express their views as well as his or her own. The system was never meant to function by squelching free speech by the edict of one man.”
“How is anyone supposed to bring up new ideas? And how can you test ideas if debate is forbidden.”
The Conservatives are the only major party that requires prospective candidates to post a Good Conduct Bond. The NDP does not require candidates to post a bond. The Liberals began requiring a $1,000 bond from nomination contestants in this election. It is non-refundable and there are no strings attached.