Harper a threat to democracy: independent

Bitter former conservative candidate. Self-published book speaks of 'muzzled' MPs, financial trickery and PM obsessed with control

Dérives démocratiques - la société confrontée à sa propre impuissance

A former Conservative candidate who was sidelined by the party after he refused to participate in a controversial in-and-out financial transfer in the last election, is warning that a Conservative majority government could pose a threat to democracy in Canada.
In a sharply critical attack on the party he once supported, David Marler, says he has come to realize that candidates who stand up for their ideas and speak their mind are not welcome in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party.
"The pattern emerging from the Harper Conservatives' control of the selection of the candidates makes one wonder if Mr. Harper would not prefer to be the top guy in a presidential republic," Marler writes in a book he has self-published on his website.
Lawyer David Marler, running as an independent candidate in Brome-Missisquoi, fears a majority Conservative government would allow Prime Minister Stephen Harper to be "an absolute ruler without any constraint from members of his party," who would mutely follow him.View Larger

"If the Conservatives were to wind up with a majority government, then Mr. Harper would be an absolute ruler so long as his party were in power and without any constraint from the members of his party who would have been carefully selected to mutely follow him wherever he might lead."
In "Sixty-Six Said Yes; a Personal Account of a Campaign and a Scandal," Marler, who practised international law in Montreal for 37 years, outlines the experiences with the Conservative Party that have left him bitter and disillusioned, his concerns about the power unelected backroom party operatives wield and why he is standing for election this time as an independent candidate in the Eastern Townships riding of Brome-Missisquoi.
For example, at the same time Harper was telling the country he was going to clean up political financing by limiting donations to $1,000 per year, party officials were pressuring ridings to hold $5,000-a-head fundraisers, Marler reveals.
When the riding organized a cocktail party in the spring of 2006 and asked the party for a cabinet minister to attend, party organizer Nelson Bouffard insisted the entrance fee should be $5,000 a person.
"He said we must ask for $5,000 because, as everyone knew, Mr. Harper was going to limit donations to $1,000 per annum and so we should take advantage of $5,000 donations while the legal window was still open."
The riding refused to bow to Bouffard's pressure, he said.
Marler said Bouffard also tried to pressure him to be a part of the in-and-out financial transfer during the 2005/2006 election campaign. Elections Canada is investigating allegations that the Conservatives used the transfers to spend more than they were legally allowed on their national campaign.
"Mr. Bouffard explained to me that he was telephoning to tell me that the party was about to deposit $30,000 into my campaign account, but that I did not need to concern myself because it would be immediately withdrawn. A little startled, I asked him what this was about and what it entailed. He told me that it had only to do with the party and had nothing to do with me."
When Marler refused, "He said that the party would not be happy with me and hung up."
Marler said he then got a phone call from Conservative organizer Michel Rivard, who told him that the transfer was to allow the party to conduct a publicity campaign featuring the Eastern Townships ridings.
While other Conservative candidates in the Eastern Townships agreed to participate, Marler said he never saw any sign of a local ad campaign.
But the final straw came when after delaying the nomination meeting in Brome-Missisquoi for months, Marler was told that even if he won the nomination, the party would not sign his papers.
Marler said the Conservatives never told him why he was being sidelined to make way for Mark Quinlan, but he can only guess that it was because he was too independent of spirit and refused to take part in the in-and-out scheme.

Marler reserves his most scathing criticism for the way that Harper has "muzzled" MPs, sidelined those who question his actions, reduced the role of candidates and MPs and accepted things like David Emerson crossing the floor to remain in cabinet.
"I was almost physically sick when, shortly after the election, Mr. Harper persuaded David Emerson, who was voted in as a Liberal from a riding in Vancouver, to cross the floor of the House so that he could continue the work he had been doing in the previous government ... I felt deceived and foolish that I might have so blindly suggested that Mr. Harper would bring dignity to the democratic process."
Dan Dugas, spokesperson for the Conservative Party, dismissed as "nonsense" Marler's suggestion that the party was
only allowing candidates who were willing to mutely follow Harper's instructions.
Marler's book can be downloaded at www.votedavidmar ler.ca

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