Wednesday, February 04, 2004

THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD... BUT NOT AS LEGAL AS THE PENCIL

The topic in Ed Broadbent's seminar today was trade unionism and democratic rights. I'll comment on the more political theory oriented stuff later, but first, another interesting personal anecdote from Prof. Broadbent.

Broadbent first won election to the House of Commons in 1968. During that election he was running in Oshawa against the incumbent Conservative labour minister Mike Starr (scroll down). The race was extremely close and the final vote was taken to a judicial recount. The judge assigned to preside over the recount was Justice Alec Hall. Hall had been the mayor of Oshawa during the precedent setting 1937 Oshawa GM strike (scroll down). Further, Hall had been appointed to the bench by the Conservative government of which Starr was a cabinet member.

The central issue in the recount came down to the question of whether or not it was legal to cast a ballot using a ballpoint pen. Broadbent pointed out that in 1968, ballpoint pens were not as ubiquitos as they are today. Further that it was far more likely for one of the middle class managers of the local GM plant to be carrying a ballpoint pen as opposed to one of the working class men on the line.

Justice Hall's final decision was that ballots marked with pen were void and as a result Broadbent won the election by a margin of 15 votes. Broadbent commented that had he not won that election he very well might have ended up as a full time professor and not in politics.

I'm constantly struck by the small details and accidents of life that end up shaping history. Let it also be a reminder to always strictly adhere to procedure when in the voting booth.

Posted by Matthew @ 7:50 PM