Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We still need one member, one vote

I’m sitting by the gate at the airport in Las Vegas, waiting to finally head back to Toronto after a wild and crazy week in Montreal, and then Sin City. Seems my luck has run out; I head back down $60 at the roulette tables. So much for early retirement.

As we come down though from our post convention euphoria, I hope we will continue to keep alive the need for moving to a (weighted) one member, one vote method of leadership selection. I know it may seem counter-intuitive, coming-off the week we just had. This week was everything you want a delegated convention to be. A wide-open field, colourful displays of passion and emotion, multiple dramatic ballots, and an improbable come from behind victory. Not to mention reams and reams of positive media coverage, and a nice post-convention bump in the polls.

That still doesn’t change the fact though that the decision by delegates Thursday to reject OMOV by a narrow 319-299 vote was the wrong decision. Delegated conventions are a fundamentally undemocratic system that disenfranchises the majority of rank and file LPC members.

And I say that knowing that, under an OMOV system, my guy might not have won. I think he might still well have; his strong second-choice support could have carried the day under that system as well. The emotion of the convention though, the move to green, the momentum that built throughout, the dramatic endorsements by Martha and Gerard, those all played a key role as well.

It was an experience that those that were there will never forget, but that’s just the point. Those that were there. At nearly $2500 in fees and expenses the cost is still out of reach to average party members, even more so under the new fundraising rules. Therefore, only those with a certain level of discretionary income are able to select our leader. That’s not very Liberal. Find a way to make the convention more affordable and I might be swayed a bit, but serious issues still remain.

Party members vote for delegates, who are pledged to a particular candidate on the first ballot. I was interested to learn for the first round ballots are pre-checked for the candidate, so they need to either vote for that person as pledges, or pocket it. After the first ballot though the delegate is a free-agent, and the voices of those that elected them are no longer heard. They should not be disenfranchised.

Talking to people at the convention, I got the sense that OMOV was rejected because they felt the whole process of proposing the change was rushed and they wanted more information and debate. I can respect that.

The next step moving forward now should be to have that debate, right down to the riding level. And, at a future date, every party member should vote on the issue in a party-wide referendum. Combine it with delegate selection to the next biennial in two years time to simplify things. It’s fundamentally unfair to leave such a decision to delegates to a leadership convention; those that can afford to go are less likely to object to the present system.

We have lots of time for a full and healthy debate though. I don’t think we’ll be in another leadership race for a long, long time. :)

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JJ said...

Hey. First off, the OMOV actually needed a 2/3rd majority to pass - so it wasn't really that close.

Second, I thought that a lot of the reasons presented at the mike in favor of it seemed to be non-sequitors.

I agree with you though that the debate should take place at the riding level. Also, I'm not convinced that it is an either/or scenario - there might be other ways to simplify current procedures and cut expenses incurred by delegates...

Anyway, great blog and nice meeting you at the convention!


JJ (aka the DC Grit)

CuriosityCat said...

Any system to allow party members to exercise their votes to choose the leader should take into account the mess caused by instant members. Alberta's unseemly leadership election is an example: rumours in the press of hordes of non-Tories paying $5 to join the Tory Party for 6 months so that they can influence the vote. If we move to such a system (which I strongly support), we need to make sure that members are not just members for that task, and to give seasoned members more say. It stands to reason that someone who is a member of the LPC for 3 years might have a genuine case for having more votes than a member who joins for one day to vote and then does nothing further ...

A BCer in Toronto said...

Hi JJ, was good to meet you too. I'd forgotten about the 2/3s thing. Anyway, I'd be interested in exploring other alternatives, but I really believe the spirit of each member having an equal vote/voice is important.

Cat, I think some kind of rule around length of membership required before vote eligibility may have been part of the constitutional reform package passed, but I can't recall for sure. Anyway, I agree, there should be some minimum length of time. I wouldn't agree with giving giving someone more than one vote though.

Steve V said...

Didn't they pass something at the convention about a six-month membership rule?

As for Alberta, the instant Tory angles gives Liberals and NDP supporter some access to a meaningful vote :) Apparently Dinning had scads(4 or 5) of Liberals on board.

Anonymous said...

So much for "renewal" - this is a joke.

I'm rethinking the intentions of the Party - renewed or same old same old?

I feel empty - I am a member and coudn't have a say. This IS NOT democracy and I prefer to support a democratic party.

JJ said...

Steve v, yeah they did in fact, pass a 6 month membership rule, too.

Gauntlet said...

I was under the impression that the 6-month rules was an amendment to the WOMOV amendment, and so it didn't have any effect. That said, I'm still waiting for a version of the constitution that takes into account the amendments that were made at the convention.

I totally agree with Jeff on the need for OMOV. I don't think that the convention was everything you could hope it to be, though, unless you have low hopes. What you could hope it to be is an exchange of ideas, a discussion toward a shared understanding. But it's not. And that's the only substantive justification that I've ever heard for them.

I'm going to be working to support the re-introduction of the OMOV proposal at a later convention, and I'd be interested in getting your help, Jeff.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Just let me know how I can help Jason, I'd be glad to do what I can.