Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest

While Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest (myself, I watched some football and played CivCity: Rome), but it seems assorted Liberal Party mucky-mucks didn't get that message, at least judging by the media reports filtering-out this evening.

According to the reports, all unconfirmed at this point, Dominic LeBlanc is going to drop out of the leadership race to support Michael Ignatieff. As well, both Michael and Bob Rae have spoken publicly of the need to speed up the race, and supposedly there is much behind the scenes negotiating going on around just how that can happen. The Liberal executive is supposedly also meeting tonight to consider how this could be done.

This follows reports yesterday that Stephane Dion will likely announce his immediate resignation as party leader at Wednesday's caucus meeting. All the activity this weekend is geared around getting a new permanent leader in place as soon as possible, certainly before the May convention, and possibly before the return of the House of Commons and the budget presentation in late January.

There is much speculation in the media and the blogs around what possible scenarios are being supported by whom, and how this may proceed. It's all unconfirmed at this point, and some of the reports are conflicting. Fact is, we don't know exactly what “Bob's people” or “Michael's people” are proposing, and we should wait until we do before getting too worked-up about such reports.

Speaking for myself, I reluctantly support the idea of speeding this thing up, but on two conditions:

1/ The constitution of the Liberal Party is respected.
2/ All Liberal Party members have a direct vote in the selection of the leader.

Let me also state something I've said before, for the record: the caucus cannot be allowed to simply pick the leader it wants. That would be an undemocratic process leading to an illegitimate leader, and I won't support such a process.

I'm not a constitutional scholar, LPC constitution or otherwise, but I'd think there much be a way to square this circle.

The caucus and executive have the power to appoint the leader on an emergency basis. What if every Liberal member was given a chance to vote for leader, perhaps by phone or Web or a meeting in each riding. This vote would pick a leader who would then be appointed by the caucus on an emergency basis. The decision could then be confirmed by the Vancouver convention, which would go ahead as a policy biennial (which we really do need, by the way).

I don't know how feasible or constitutionally acceptable such a scenario would be, but it would ensure the leader is selected by the membership, which must be at the core of whatever solution comes forward.

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The Pontificator said...

If Dion's gotta go before Parliament resumes then the party proposal to have a one-member-one vote process in mid-January is the only way to go. There is no legitimacy to caucus or even the executive choosing someone to be ratifed in Vancouver given all that can happen in between. Only the party membership should be able to do so.

All members of the party should be horrified at the prospect of a tiny number of people usurping their rights.

Jeff said...

That's what I'm proposing.

We can't constitutionally do OMOV, and the caucus picking on an emergency basis is unacceptable.

However, if we could marry the two by having an informal OMOV (weighted by riding), with the result of that membership vote binding caucus who officially makes the appointment, that I think could be acceptable. And the decision being ratified in Vancouver.

wilson said...

What does your constitution say if Iggy is uncontested?

Rae takes one for the team and drops out (after 57 MPs stand beside Iggy to show Rae how pointless the race is), Dion resigns, no contest.

Jeff said...

You know Wilson, I don't know. It may not have even envisioned such an unlikely scenario.

I suppose in theory, were there only one candidate to file papers by the deadline (whenever that may be), then they would either be acclaimed, or would have their election ratified at convention as they'd have all the delegates.

It seems a rather unlikely scenario, but were all the candidates save one to drop out, then even if the delegate selection and convention went ahead with the result a foregone conclusion (and we need a convention for policy anyways) that I don't think it would be a problem for the caucus to appoint the acclaimed leader to be as interim leader.

But that's highly hypothetical.

The Pontificator said...

I missed your intermediary step, but agree it's entirely workable.

I do disagree though that there is no constitutional basis for a omov consultation/ratification at convention, though. But that is likely a moot point.

We agree on the principle. A caucus choice has no legitimacy.

Steve V said...

I would prefer a grassroots option, but if it doesn't happen, I'm not going to get indignant about it or start the disenfranchised stuff. If serious people decide we need a leader yesterday to prepare quickly, then I'm fine with that.

Jeff, I know the Ignatieff people aren't supposed to dare acknowledge the "frontrunner" angle, but it's almost laughable to think in a two person race, Rae wins now (good gawd the arrogance). That's the reality, people can see and gauge who has the support, it's obvious to me, and it has zero to do with preference. If we all need to rubberstamp it, so we can feel empowered then fine, but it's just symbolism really, and that fact alone makes it more window dressing than real engagement. I know, I know, blasphemy, but I'm just using my eyes here, and since it's a foregone conclusion, I'm okay with just getting to the conclusion alright.

I'm already thinking about which scenario best prepares the Liberal Party for late January. Getting a new team in place right now, doing the serious work, is critical.

On the other hand, I do appreciate the "optics" angle, so in that sense it's advantageous to consult, it looks better (even though average Canadians could care less in the grand scheme, one gushy presser with Rae and Ignatieff, it's forgotten).

Mike514 said...

Our heads are all spinning from the events lately, and rightfully so. However, there are 2 things in particular that stand out to me:

1- Why has every Liberal suddenly decided that it's fashionable to immediately throw Stephane Dion under a bus? That's the impression I'm getting, anyway. Why not give the guy a bit of dignity, and let him step down in May? The way I'm reading things in the papers and on blogs, you guys seem to be giving him an ultimatum: Either resign, or we throw you out. Forget about constitutional discussions on choosing a new leader. How about constitutional discussions on whether it's allowed to throw a leader under a bus?

2- Have Liberals forgotten about their coalition agreement with the NDP and Bloc? Duceppe (and I think also Dion) have stated that Dion remain leader is a coalition condition. Now that the Libs have rushed into bed with these 2 other parties, shouldn't they be consulting the NDP and Bloc for their opinions? The coalition letter to the GG explicitly states that Dion would be PM. That was the coalition agreement. Why do Liberals now think they can unilaterally (i.e. without consulting the NDP or Bloc) change the terms of coalition agreement? Layton and Duceppe have been awfully silent these few days on the whole Liberal leadership issue, which is very surprising considering the investment they've made in this coalition.

Just my 2 cents. I'm trying to take this discussion "outside the box." Hope you don't mind.

Gauntlet said...

I'm a little bit of a LPC constitutional scholar, so let me weigh in. first, I have a post on how it might work here.

Second, your two points up there are mutually exclusive, Jeff. The constitution requires that a permanent leader is selected by delegates to a leadership convention. What it doesn't say is that those delegates have to be at the convention when they vote, or that they have to vote during the convention.

Which is why I'm suggesting you could move the DSMs to mid january, then have the elected delegates vote, STV-style (if there are still more than two candidates), over the internet immediately afterward.

If there are only two candidates, you might have to allow the independent delegates and ex-officios to cast a ballot for one or the other.

petroom said...

I don't like the spin that sets up the "front runner". Much like Mr. Harper's parliamentary lead, Iggy doesn't have a majority and a vote is key to signal that he must always be open-minded to those like Bob Rae and others who ran in the previous leadership contest.

Would the memberships sold in the last leadership contest still be valid? Perhaps they should be?

One member, one vote would really energize the Liberal party and engage the public in a way they want.

lyrical said...

The Dion comment from the Globe and Mail has now been posted on the Georgia Straight. Is there some kind of momentum building happening here? Are we supposed to add a comment and send a copy to the LPC?

Hey, how about a new acronym?
LYL - Love Your Leader.

Jeff said...

Steve, if only all were as pragmatic as you. But we can't forget the underlying issues that face the Liberal Party in our rush to act, and they would be worsened by a process that comes to be seen as illegitimate.

Mike,all is predicated on Stephane stepping aside earlier. If he doesn't, it's all academic. As for Layton and Duceppe, I don't think they care. Jack said on Canada AM this morning he's fine with Stephane, Michael or Bob leading the coalition.

Jason, that sounds fine to me. I just want the membership to have the vote, not the caucus, so I'd be supportive of whatever process achieves that in a constitutionally acceptable way.