Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Keep the convention in Vancouver

Before we were unfortunately plunged into another round of leadership craziness, the Liberal Party was scheduled to hold its biennial convention in Vancouver. Originally it was to be in December; the election call pushed it to May.

The current plan is to keep the Vancouver date and make it a leadership convention instead. However, ahead of the LPC's national executive meeting on Saturday, where issues like convention and leadership issues and rules are to be discussed, there seems to be lobbying by some to shift the convention to a more Central Canadian location, say, Ottawa.

The Liberal leadership contest has generated a competition among several cities, each of which wants the injection of at least $10 million into its economy for hosting a convention where up to 10,000 delegates are to choose a successor to Stephane Dion.

Vancouver is pressing the Liberals to keep their plan to hold it in B.C.'s biggest city in early May while Ottawa and Quebec City are among rival cities in the running.

While Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan urged the party Monday to stick to its earlier decision for an early May convention in his city, a Liberal spokesman said party officials are still researching their options and have invited proposals from other cities.
I don't know if this is a serious push, or if the executive is even seriously considering it, but let me state for the record moving the convention from Vancouver would be a mistake, and a slap in the face to Western Canada by the Liberal Party.

Critics say it will cost more for people to travel to Vancouver. This is true. It costs more for people out West to travel to Ontario as well. Canada, however, is a large country, and as Liberals we like to lay claim to representing all of it, not just the central parts. Are we saying that, because it would be slightly more inconvenient for Ontarioins and Quebecers, Western Canada can never hold a leadership convention? That we'll just have to settle for a policy convention (if we ever get to have one of those again) because policy isn't that important? That's not acceptable. And I seem to recall Jean Chretien winning the leadership at a convention in Calgary.

In the last election, our elected members were largely concentrated in Central Canada. If we don't get out act together, we run the risk of losing our claim to being a truly national party, instead becoming just another regional rump. Want to accelerate that process? Just yank the convention from Vancouver and move it to our Liberal redoubt back East. It'll send a fantastic message.

This all really needs to be viewed through the prism of leadership politics. I don't know who is pushing the location change, but I suspect they have more supporters in Central Canada, and feel they could get more of their supporters to convention were it held here. It's all just leadership politics, and it's unsurprising they'd be looking out for number one.

The job of the national executive, however, is to look out for the best interests of the Liberal Party. And those are best served by keeping the convention in Western Canada. It would spur a lot of Liberal activity and excitement in a region that sorely needs it. And it would force leadership candidates to move beyond Liberal Fortress GTA and build candidate support across the country, including those many rural ridings in Western Canada that can send just as many delegates to convention as a Toronto riding. Such a push would be a good kick start to the renewal process needed, particularly in rural ridings.

So, I urge the national executive when it meets this weekend: come to Vancouver in May. The rain actually isn't that bad. Really.

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MississaugaPeter said...

Changing the locale, hurts some candidates more than others...


It would be disappointing to know that those entrusted in doing what is best for the party have decided to do instead what they feel is best for their own leadership favourites.

Greg said...

Vancouver/Ottawa. Most beautiful city on the continent or a nice but dull city. Seems like a no brainer to me. But then again I don't vote Liberal.

me dere robert said...

Are we saying that, because it would be slightly more inconvenient for Ontarioins and Quebecers, Western Canada can never hold a leadership convention?

Do the Maritimes not exist (where the cost of return tickets exceeds $1200)? Talk about being neglected..

Jeff said...

I actually like Ottawa. I went to university there, and I don't get back near enough. It's no Vancouver though. And given that the convention was already promised to Vancouver, yanking it is unacceptable in my view.

I would love to see a convention in, say, Halifax, as long as it has the convention and hotel space, which is the main limiting factor. Vancouver this time, next time Halifax!

MississaugaPeter said...

Good for Rae!


"federal Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae supports keeping the party's convention in Vancouver"

burlivespipe said...

Unfortunately, Vancouver (and BC) will be purging themselves via a provincial election at the time. I forgot that little issue, but truly hope we do get to host it. If not here, it better be an old hockey arena like the old days (like Maple Leaf Gardens). That and corn-flat hats are what come to my mind when i think of conventions. I was overly disappointed by the experience in Montreal, not withstanding the success of your candidate, Jeff;^)

Jeff said...

I think when they had it in Toronto they had the big keynotes at the Air Canada Centre. Back in the day in Ottawa, they used the Civic Centre. Scotia Place would be a little too inaccessible. If we do go to Vancouver, I'm not sure if GM Place would be available. Would be a bit of a walk from the convention centre. Hopefully the Canucks will still be playing meaningful games anyway.

MississaugaPeter said...

Rob Silver over at the Globe and Mail has challenged the declared candidates to take a stand.


Let's see if they do.