The Liberal leadership race is getting ugly with Michael Ignatieff's camp urging the party to negate most of chief rival Bob Rae's delegate support in British Columbia.
In an appeal filed Friday and obtained by The Canadian Press, Ignatieff operations director Sachin Aggarwal accuses Rae's senior B.C. organizer of perpetrating "systematic fraud" during the sign-up of potential delegates in the province.
Aggarwal contends that fully 78 of Rae's 111 B.C. delegates are tainted by the fraud and he urges the party to strip Rae of those delegate spots.
Such delegates, he argues "are the uncurable poisoned fruit of fraudulent activity, which the Rae campaign should not be entitled to benefit from."
If Aggarwal's argument is accepted by the party's permanent appeals committee, Ignatieff's lead over his former university roommate would widen by about two percentage points.
There is no question that Rae's organizers in British Columbia didn't play by the rules. However, it is relevant that it was the Rae campaign that brought these irregularities to light and took its own internal action. Cynically, you could argue that the campaign knew these problems would surface and simply attempted to get ahead of the story.
Whatever the motivation, the decision to simply replace the suspect delegates seems like a fair decision. Liberals voted, the delegates are merely representative of their opinions, so in my mind Rae shouldn't be punished beyond what has already been done. Rules were broken, but I don't see how that translates into affecting the overall percentages for candidates. The Ignatieff campaign actual admits this when they attempt to widen the net of suspicion:
Aggarwal also suggests that if delegate forms submitted by Loh were fraudulent, that "raises a reasonable apprehension of fraud by Mr. Loh with respect to memberships." In other words, he casts doubt on Rae's popularity with genuine Liberal members in the province.
That is a serious charge, that shouldn't be levelled without some evidence to support. Did the Rae camp act improperly? It would appear so, but stripping delegates effectively renders the voters judgement irrelevant, and ultimately that is the primary concern.