Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

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Resign to Run?

Resign to run laws are pretty self-explanatory: if you hold public office and wish to run for another public office, you must first resign the office you hold.  Five US states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii and Texas) and several cities (including Dallas, Philadelphia and Phoenix) have them.

The rationale behind them is simple: keep politicians focused on the job they were elected to do.

Source: draftcecil.ca

Source: draftcecil.ca

I thought I’d be all for such laws, but reading some of the pros and cons made me realize that they probably don’t solve the problems they’re intended to solve. Consider this commentary by Robert Wechsler, the former director of research with a US group called City Ethics:

From a government ethics perspective, the most important argument in favor of “resign to run” laws is that elected officials running for office tend to misuse government resources, including their staff. But, of course, they do the same thing when they run for re-election. A “resign to run” law is unnecessary if there is strict enforcement of the misuse of government resources provision.

Damn, he’s right. And he then goes on to raise a problem with elected officials running for office that I hadn’t even thought of:

Elected officials looking to higher office may act in ways that benefit the constituency they are considering, rather than the one they are supposed to be representing. But this would be just as true before they formally announce their candidacy (or whenever the trigger point is) and have to resign. This problem is generally accepted as one of the many unfortunate aspects of politics. In fact, the problem is more common where there are term limits, because career politicians are forced to move around more frequently.

Yikes, he’s right again.

Another problem with politicians running for office while holding office is that they are likely to neglect their duties. Those opposed to resign-to-run laws says forcing politicians to resign ensures such duties will be neglected by leaving a power vacuum until (expensive) new elections can be called. On the other hand, (expensive) new elections will have to be called if the politician’s campaign is successful, too.

I asked Mark Coffin of Springtide Collective about resign-to-run laws and he told me in an email:

For all intents and purposes, Nova Scotia does have a resign to run law for MLAs wanting to run for the position of MP.

This is provided in section 17 of the House of Assembly Act. Of course, it doesn’t preclude an MLA running for a seat on municipal council, nor would it cover councillors seeking election as an MLA.

He even sent along the relevant section of the Act:

Disqualification as member
17 (1) Except as hereinafter specially provided, no person who
(a)  is a member of the Senate
(b)  is a member of the House of Commons of Canada;
(c) causes, suffers or permits himself to be nominated as a candidate for the representation of any electoral district in the House of Commons of Canada; or
(d) accepts or holds any office in the service of the Government of Canada, or the Government of Nova Scotia to which any salary or wage of any kind is attached,
shall be eligible as a member of the House unless that person has resigned such office before nomination for election as such member, and given notice of such resignation to the Provincial Secretary, or shall sit or vote in the House during the time that person holds such office.

By the same token (and I looked this up myself, I’ll have you know), a member of a provincial legislature cannot run for a seat federally under Section 65 of the Canada Elections Act.

That’s actually stronger than some of the US resign-to-run laws, which only govern state or municipal officials not federal officials — a Senator, for example, can retain his seat while running for mayor of Philadelphia (or president).

The issue often arises in Canada when a person holding office, either provincially or federally, decides to run for the leadership of their party. In those cases, we don’t seem to have any set rules.

Jason Kenney, for instance, resigned his federal seat before running for the leadership of the provincial Conservatives in Alberta. He won that election and now must seek a seat in the provincial legislature.

But Jagmeet Singh remained a sitting MPP in Ontario while running for the NDP leadership federally. He also won, and will now have to win a seat in the House of Commons.

Both must have weighed the pros and cons of their decisions and they seem to have reached the right conclusions (assuming they both now get elected).

Maybe the answer is to vote for politicians who state unequivocally during their campaigns that barring illness, death or incarceration, they will complete their terms in office. (Yeah, I know, politicians say many unequivocal things during their campaigns which later turn out to be totally equivocal.)

So maybe the answer is to let the voters they’re courting for their new position judge their decision to resign (or not resign) their current office. Being branded someone who will abandon an elected office for a better opportunity could be a real liability for a pol. On the other hand, it might not be. (Oh my god, this is terrible analysis. I really should leave this to the professionals).

Why am I even talking about this? Oh, I think you know why I’m talking about this…

 

Dispensary raids

On Thursday, less than a week after the Cape Breton Regional Police raided local cannabis dispensaries, the province announced its plan for post-legalization cannabis distribution.

Cannabis (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Cannabis (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Justice Minister Mark Furey says pot will be distributed through the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission (NSLC), via storefronts and online, and consumers must be 19 and over to buy it.

More details on sourcing and distribution to follow.

Oh, and according to the CBC, Furey also said, “the dispensaries that exist today will be illegal.”

“Will” be illegal. So, what were they last week when the cops raided them?

I don’t know enough about the issue to write about it in detail (I will contact someone who does, although I do not think I will hear from them by the end of this item) but I’ve written about my worries about police response to cannabis legalization before and it’s something I’ve been trying to follow.

Last week’s raid in the CBRM made me wonder about similar raids across the country and I found that VICE has been keeping a close eye on dispensary raids since the federal government first announced plans to legalize cannabis. They frequently speak with marijuana activist Jodie Emery, who told them, after Toronto dispensary raids (code-named “Project Claudia”) in 2016:

It’s becoming clear that the Liberal government is listening to licensed producers and prohibitionists who want dispensaries shut down. If we saw Budweiser telling cops to shut down every craft brewery, there would be an outcry.

After further Toronto raids in March 2017 (code-named “Project Gator”), VICE reporter Manisha Krishnan wrote:

As for the public, who largely support both legalization and the sale of cannabis in dispensaries, a cursory glance of reaction to Project Gator shows many people questioning why cops would go after soon-to-be-legal weed dealers when a fentanyl crisis is gripping the country. It’s the same reaction we saw after the Project Claudia dispensary raids last spring.

Toronto police claimed they could not turn a blind eye to illegal activity but as Krishnan points out, police forces can exercise a great deal of discretion as to where they allocate their time and resources, and Vancouver police, for example, have declared raiding illegal cannabis dispensaries is not a priority.

Krishnan also points out that Vancouver, which has licensed dispensaries, has no problem with dispensary robberies, unlike Toronto which saw a number of violent dispensary robberies earlier this year. Toronto dispensary owners are reluctant to call the cops precisely because they are operating in a legal grey area so, as Krishnan says, “the heavy-handed enforcement is likely contributing to the problem.”

VICE also broke the story that the vast majority of charges laid after the Project Claudia dispensary raids would not go to trial. As a result of the May 2016 raids, Toronto police laid 180 charges against 90 people. Charges against 72 of those people were later withdrawn or stayed “meaning the Attorney General declined to pursue the charges to a verdict.”

Jack Lloyd, a Toronto lawyer who represents “many clients facing cannabis-related criminal charges” told VICE’s Rachel Browne he was “heartened” to see so many of the charges dropped:

“It’s like using a bazooka to swat a fly,” said Llloyd. “And every time they raid one of these shops, it causes someone that wants to access their medical cannabis to access it in a less safe manner. The police have manufactured this unsafe atmosphere.”

It will be very interesting to see what happens with the three charges laid after the local raids.

 

On the Record, Off Script

A friend (you know who you are) turned me on to the Springtide Collective’s On the Record, Off Script podcasts.

That, coupled by my interaction this week with Springtide’s Mark Coffin (who hosts the podcasts) reminded me what an interesting glimpse they provide into the highs and lows of public life in Nova Scotia. I’d heard some of the interviews but far from all of them, so I’ve added the podcast to my list and plan to do a lot of my holiday preparations (cleaning, decorating my tree — or, as another favorite podcast host, Jon Lovett, would have it, my “faith-based triangle” — cleaning) while listening. I sometimes think podcasts are the only reason I get anything done. I recently stripped my kitchen wallpaper and applied two coats of primer and one of color while listening to all of this year’s Massey lectures.

But I digress. Springtide, whose mission is to help “people everywhere learn how to lead change through politics with their integrity intact,” did what could be considered exit interviews with Nova Scotia MLAs and you can hear them all at the link above.

They also do weekly Govern Yourself Accordingly podcasts, which look really interesting. (The second episode features an interview with Adam Kahane who has written a book called, Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with, Like or Trust.

I am going to get so much done this weekend…

 

 

 

 

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