Monday, July 17, 2006

Refooooooooorm is needed, so let's start talking about it

I don't agree with everything outlined in the media coverage of Belinda Stronach's proposal for reforming the Liberal Party (I'd like to read the full, uncensored document) but I'm impressed and glad that a senior member of our party is putting these issues out there for discussion.

It's a discussion we need to have, but haven't been having. She's been taking a lot of unsurprising flack, but while she's a newcomer to the party I haven't heard many of the old crowd taking reform. Carolyn Bennett has talked about returning power to the grassroots but I haven't heard any specifics, and her second-tier candidate status makes it tough for her to garner attention. I'm also doubtful about the LPC's renewal commission. While I may yet be surprised, revolution rarely comes from within the old guard, and this seems like an old guard exercise.

On to Stronach's ideas now, as outlined on the media coverage.

*$1 memberships
I think I like this. It's unclear from the coverage whether she would also favour a national membership list, but I think that would be necessary to make it happen. A national membership would relieve pressure on the regions letting them focus on organization, and improve membership services by streamlining the process and consolidating the process. Why should I need to buy a new membership when I move to Ontario, a year after buying a 4-year membership in BC? A $1 membership fee would level the playing field across the country, and ensure cost is no barrier to political involvement. It would also remove the "did they may for their membership?" stigma of mass sign-ups. On the flip side though, is $10/year or $20/year really much of a barrier? There is a cost involved to process each new membership; I think the fee should be at least cost recovery, particularly given our sorry fundraising record. Maybe $2?

*One member, one vote
I liked this idea at first. Delegated conventions do seem to be rapidly becoming a thing of the past. It rubs me wrong that one person could vote 5 times for the leadership if they're a member of a campus club, women's club, the aboriginal commission, their riding association and elected as a delegate. There was an angle I hadn't considered though until I read a post at Bowie's Call and that's regional representation. A large membership base in Ontario, or even Toronto, would overwhelm the West and the Maritimes. Scared of Volpe's 36k signups now? This isn't an insurmountable hurdle though. Design a system where each riding gets an even number of votes, divided amongst the candidates based on how its members vote.

*Substantially streamline the party infrastructure, reform fundraising
Specific details were lacking in the coverage, bit I agree in principle here and have said so in the past. Would like specifics.

*Caucus elects the cabinet
This is just loopy, and is a horrible idea for many reasons. It's so far out there I'm not going to dwell on it, although I certainly could. It'd just be too easy though, and given this will never happen it'd also be a waste of time.

As I said, the media coverage was lacking in detail in the proposals and focused on the most sensationalistic of them, with the least chance of happening: caucus electing the cabinet. The report is supposed to be circulated amongst the party, and I hope to read it soon.

While I don't agree with all of her ideas, and I think the cabinet thing is way off base, I'm glad someone is finally thinking a bit out of the box anyway, and hopefully this will be the start of a party-wide debate on some of these issues.

And another thing

As I read some of the snarky comments and insults Stronach is taking from members of our party for even speaking out, I'm both saddened and more convinced than ever that more needs to be done to bring more women into politics, remove barriers to entry and most sadly, in this day and age, change attitudes.

I'm glad Stephane Dion is raising this issue and I like some of his ideas, but not all of them. I have trouble with hard and fast quotas for either appointments or nominations. If we can address the systemic issues and barriers, quotas shouldn't be necessary. That's where we should focus our efforts.

UPDATE: Thanks to Zac for noting the Stronach document is available online here (clicking link opens an Adobe PDF file). Looking forward to reading it after work.

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Zac said...

(I'd like to read the full, uncensored document)

Jeff, the full document is on her website. Hopefully this link will work:

I have to admit that I am very impressed with some of her ideas. Others, I'm not so sure about, but I'm glad to see that she is thinking about reform.

Ed King said...

I also enjoyed reading the document. This kind of discussion is exactly what the party needs right now. btw, Stronach will be participating in an online Q&A at the Globe and Mail this afternoon.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Thanks Zac.

Anonymous said...

I think it's wonderful - whether you like her ideas or not - she's getting the dialogue going - good for her.

Why do jealous people have to be so critical of people who have had an easier life than they - or is it that the constant bashing from the Conservatives made everyone believe the bad things about Belinda.

I read in an article about her last year that she donates her salary to charities........she can't be all bad. How many other rich MP's do that?

Anyway - she's putting in the effort for change and that's good.

Ed King said...

It's hard to know exactly what Stronach means when she says one-member, one-vote.

When Stronach announced that she would not seek the leadership of the Liberal Party, she told reporters that the party should adopt a one-member, one-vote system like the one used in the Conservative Party.

If I'm not mistaken, the Tories elect their leader with a 'points' system. Each riding has an equal number of points. Members in all the ridings vote for the candidates using a preferential ballot, and the distribution of each riding's points among the candidates is proportional to the results of the balloting.

When you get right down to it, the differences between the Tories' one-member, one-vote system and the delegate system are not that great.

Anonymous said...

we also need a process wherby the candidates upon election acyually perform the tasks they were elected for. This does not include passing bills that appear from thin air and do nothing for those who put them there.

Out elected candidates must present what the people want and not what the MP party wants. We can't have a situation like SSM again (though I am glad it passed) where areas known to not support had their members support it. Its hijacking domocracy.

How about letting constituents provide feedback to MP through web polls etc. on topics to put forward? Put the power back in the peoples hands.

A BCer in Toronto said...

While I wasn't ready to call sexism on the GG spending thing, I think it's safe to call it here. As well as the jealousy over her being wealthy thing.

Ed, I haven't read the paper yet but if it is a point system she's proposing then I'd be onboard. Just as long as every riding is treated equal to avoid regional disparancies. And you're right, such a system isn't too much of a leap from what we have now, it just eliminates the delagates. We would have to consider preferential balloting to avoid the need for runoffs.

On anon 1:44's point, I agree with you to a point, but I also think we need to put a little faith in our representative. This requires a thurough vetting before election, but I think we should elect a candidate that shares our values and then trust them to do their job once we send them there. Consultation is one thing, referenda would be too far.

On SSM I think it was a charter rights issue legal issue. But generally, on moral issues, while the the people's representatives must represent our will, I think there are times when our leaders need to lead. That can mean moving a bit ahead of public opinion and helping bring public opinion around. It's been a year since the SSM vote and I don't think society has quite crumbled. As people see that, I think support will/is rising. That's leadership.

Wednesday Keller said...

To be fair I think the caucus electing cabinet idea was her way of trying to reduce the absurd power of the PM in Canada.

Typically the British Parliament has long lived MPs and short lived party leaders and PM, not to mention a caucus that was powerful enough to toss out Thatcher. Canada has exactly the opposite.

C.E.S. Franks book, The Parliament of Canada, is pretty much the definitive study on the issue if you're interested in the various reforms and their failures over the years.