I am a bit hesitant to write anything about the Ontario NDP leadership race. Not because it isn't interesting - well actually, it isn't. And not because it isn't important - okay, it really doesn't matter much. No, because the Ontario NDP have clearly adopted the mysterious, secretive Papal conclave selection method to choose their next leader. That is the only possible explanation for the sworn secrecy that the leadership candidates have taken that has led to the absolute and total lack of coverage of the leadership race. As we all await the white smoke to emerge from Copps Coliseum next month, word comes that Peter Tabuns (who played Ross Perot's veep candidate Vice Admiral James Stockdale - "Who am I? Why am I here?" - in a past life) has a bit of trouble from the most important element within the Ontario NDP. And by a bit of trouble, I mean something that could only possibly happen to the Ontario New Democratic Party (and as you read through the article, please remember that Tabuns is, by most accounts, the front runner and therefore someone who hopes to travel the province in two years claiming that he wants to be Premier without having people burst into laughter). So what trouble is Tabuns in? "Peter Tabuns has been accused of violating the union agreement covering his party's staff...Tabuns' decision to lay off his executive assistant at Queen's Park last year has sparked a grievance from unionized NDP caucus staff, who are upset he hired another worker at his constituency office, which is represented by another union."
I know most of you will stop reading here but please stay with me - it gets so much better. (Okay, not SO much better, keep your expectations low, this is the provincial NDP leadership race, after all.) "Tabuns noted that fellow New Democrat MPPs Peter Kormos and Gilles Bisson did not have executive assistants and the union did not file grievances in those cases. " For those of you who don't know much about politics, in opposition, an EA is an MP's most senior staffer - the one who is responsible for organizing the office, managing the other staff, providing the member with political advice and doing most other tasks on behalf of the boss. It turns out that a third of the NDP provincial caucus has nobody doing that job - including two of the four leadership candidates. But so there is no confusion, this decision - to leave their offices rudderless - has nothing, I repeat nothing, to do with the union representing EAs. But here's the money shot:
"I've been in a situation where in order to contain my costs within my budget, I reduced my staff at Queen's Park," Tabuns said. "And the union wants me to increase my staff at Queen's Park ... I do my work; I open my own mail; I advise myself."
Beyond being an example of why unionizing political offices is about as silly as Lindsay Lohan getting the lead role in Macbeth, read those last eight words: "I open my own mail; I advise myself". Ladies and gentlemen - your next leader of the Ontario NDP.