One of the most important parts of a well run party in the 21st century is a solid organizing team, one that is able to not only get members activated but can also find those big time candidates to run for them. While we keep downplaying the importance of individual MPs in Parliament, the importance of high profile or “star” candidates is much more important that ever. The fact is a strong candidate with their own track record and good name can not only really help to boost a party’s chances in the riding that they are running in, they can also help to boost the fortunes of a party across the board. We saw an example of this just last week, as the Conservatives were touting some of the new, young women running for them across the country.

But another places where a solid organization comes into play is the vetting of those same potential candidates, especially in this day and age when we live so much of our lives online. An overlooked embarrassing or offensive episode from a candidate can have the same effect on a party, attaching all of their candidates to that one act. Remember this one from the last campaign?

Oh yes, we all remember Jerry Bance, his cup video and that episode. That didn’t kill the Conservative campaign in that race, but it did hurt, so much so that we still remember it to this day. Not only was his act nasty, disrespectful and just down right wrong, it was something that should have been easily caught, because it aired nationally on CBC three years before. It shouldn’t have become a story because a good candidate vetting would have ensured that he was never a candidate to begin with.

As we go into the 43rd General Election candidate vetting, or lack there of, stands to be another important factor. And last night APTN News broke a story that has the potential to be much worse than Mr. Bance’s kitchen episode, involving one of the star candidates that the Conservatives were promoting just last week:

A human skull….. as a birthday present. Seriously, what the hell? And this was found on Facebook, just sitting out there in the open, because where else do you gloat about the human head that you got as a birthday present. Appalling doesn’t feel appropriate enough to cover just how disgusting this is, and it’s not just the purchase that is. Oh no, no, no, the explanation from Conservative candidate Claire Rattée is pretty bad too. In a phone interview Rattée actually said that she could prove where the remains came from, that “it’s actually a European skull”, the skull was very expensive and it came with documentation. Oh look folks, she has the paperwork; she didn’t buy some black market human skull, so it’s okay, right? Good Lord what the heck?

How does a serious candidate, one who has already been elected as a city councillor in Kitimat, think that response was somehow alright? Who actually gets hit with this story and thinks “Hmmm, how do I defend the desecration of the remains of a dead person? Oh yeah, show them the paperwork, that will make it alright.” The fact that she felt the need to say “Hey, they’re European remains”, as if that made their desecration alright, is just a mind-blowing example of terrible judgement. Here’s something I never thought I’d ever need to say on a political blog, but here it goes: It’s not alright to buy or sell the human remains of anyone, especially not as a birthday present. Period. End of story.

But oh folks, that surely won’t be the end of this story. How in the heck didn’t the Conservatives catch this one? Again, it was just sitting out there on Facebook, waiting to be found. And if they knew about it and decided that it wasn’t worthy of disqualification, I have to ask at what point in history did the Conservatives become the “pro-desecration of human remains” party? I have many views on the Conservative Party of Canada, but even I would have never jumped to that conclusion, and something tells me that this is much more of a case of bad vetting than anything else. But for the Conservatives, this story shouldn’t end here if it is to end with the right result. How do you keep a candidate who did this? How do you defend keeping a candidate who bought a human skull for her boyfriend as a birthday present? I don’t think there is a way they can do it while remaining credible.

This story will be an interesting test of the priorities of the Scheer Conservatives, because if they are serious about trying to present themselves as a moderate party who can be trusted to govern, this candidate will be gone and gone fast, regardless of the stature of her nomination. If they decide to overlook this grievous episode and keep her on the ballot, that will tell us about their true nature. I have gotten to know a few Conservative MPs over the years and I can easily imagine just how disgusted they would be at one of their candidates treating human remains as something to be bought and sold for gifts. We’ll see what happens in this case, and I’m sure it won’t be the last case of bad vetting we’ll see going forward. But if this episode proves anything else, it is that vetting matters, no matter how much some people chafe at it.