The National Post's Adam Radwanski wrote an interesting column on Friday that's posted on his site now and is worth a read. It touches on a number of areas, from mass signups and convention affordability to needed reforms to the leadership selection process.
A few thoughts of my own:
* This isn't necessarily a comment to Adam, but generally I think we need to be careful about linking ethnic communities and mass member signups. It's a link that shouldn't be made. An insta-Liberal that only comes to cast a ballot and isn't seen again can be of any ethnicity. A mass-signed up person can become a loyal, active Liberal, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt. However, lengthening the time period of required membership to be eligible to vote at delegate and candidate selection meetings is something that should be considered as part of reforming the process.
* I agree with Adam when he talks about delegate fees and convention funding. High fees were charged in the past because many campaigns, covertly or overtly, subsidized or paid the way for their delegates. That's supposed to be a thing of the past. Is it still reasonable then to charge so high a fee? I like this quote from Adam
"Suppose that, this December, you find a thousand dollars. You might spend it on Christmas gifts, or put it toward a vacation somewhere warm. You could go out for a decadent night on the town, or stash it away for a rainy day. But what you won't do, unless you're very rich or very insane, is hand it over to the Liberal party for the privilege of casting a vote for one of its 11 leadership candidates."
Just like the Liberal Party needs to adjust to the new fundraising reality it needs to adjust to this new reality as well, and get leaner and meaner.
* Adam advocates reform of the system in the form of an American-style primary system. I'm not sold on that, I can see some potential issues. While it would do away with some of the excitement of a delegated convention, I think some kind of one member, one vote preferential ballot system may be the way to go in the future.
The leadership campaign is still a dirty business
Maybe I saw too many membership forms filled out for newly minted Liberals who were barely aware they were joining a party. Too much cash passed under the table to pay convention fees for people who had no interest in paying their own way. Too many organizers enlisting friends, acquaintances, entire ethnic communities -- people who couldn't care less about politics, but owed a favour. Too many riding associations run as MPs' personal fiefdoms.
Maybe I just spent too much time in the Liberal party. But even with all the added scrutiny, the new fundraising rules, the claims that the party has turned a new leaf, I'm having trouble believing the race to replace Paul Martin is all totally above board.