Thursday, April 30, 2009

Liberal Party self-introspection, Part XVI: Change Commission

While taking the ferry yesterday from Nanaimo into Horseshoe Bay and enjoying the view of the mountains and the ocean, I also took the time to read the report of the Liberal Party's Change Commission, which was recently posted in PDF form at the Liberal Web site.

I have to confess to being somewhat skeptical, as I feel we've been reported to death on the reform issues in recent years. Lots of talk, minimal action. Still, trying to stay optimistic we plow forward.

I'm not going to comment on every recommendation because there's a lot of them, but overall I'd give it a mixed grade with some good and some bad.

Some general thoughts: I agree obviously with the call for a 308 riding strategy, and for more direction and support to ridings between elections. I'm somewhat leery about the call at several points in the report for giving a more prominent role to the past candidate. I agree we should encourage their continued involvement, but we need to recognize there will potentially be another nomination contest, and once the campaign is over their involvement needs to be with and through the riding association.

To my frustration about being reported to death on change and reform, the report does make a good point here:

In the past 5 1/2 years we have had: 5 leaders, 4 national presidents (with a fifth one coming in May), and 6 national directors. There have been two or three major turnovers in party staff in that time. With all these changes, we lose time, we lose institutional memory, and we lose people. Second, in the past 5 1/2 years we have had two leadership conventions (with a third coming in May), and three general elections. We have had to focus on leadership and election readiness, and we have not focused enough on the party.

Very well said. It seems like we've been running in place a great deal the last few years. We need some time to focus on party building again.

Calgary Grit has a post going into much more detail on the report. A lot of it is housekeeping I have no trouble with. I agree with the push to both offer more help to ridings and make them more accountable. I've found it channeling to get involved in my own riding. But I'd urge them to remember though that, ultimately, a riding is and should be responsible to its members, not to LPC.

I'm unenthusiastic about the recommendation for an LPC annual report. I'm fine with it, I'm definitely in favour of any measures to increase the accountability of the executive to the membership. Will an annual report do much more than kill trees though? We'll see. I do, however, support the recommendations to put measures in place to ensure the executive obeys the constitution. I'd question the constitutionality of the way the policy process was handled this time, so this is a needed measure.

There is some good stuff around fundraising. I agree with getting Liberals more involved and visible in the community though community works and a National Day of Action. It plays into the 308 riding strategy. I also like the stuff about critics putting together “townhall in a box” kits for ridings.

Also good is the stuff about working with rural ridings, and developing a media strategy to get our MP critics into the local media. I cut my teeth in a rural riding, and I found the local media are very willing to work with you on coverage, so its a good idea.

I have some concern about the recommendations around a code of conduct and sanctions. Who defines what's bad behaviour by a member? Should we even be defining that? What if I have an issue with the leader, or disagree with a decision of the executive? I can do that and still be a good Liberal. So I have concerns about that.

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts. There should be a session or two from the convention on the change commission, so I'll keep you in the loop.

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1 comment:

Adrian Ludwin said...

Hey Jeff, I'm leaving for the airport in 40 minutes so perhaps I'll see you in Vancouver (I'll be volunteering at the En Famille and Change Commission tables).

I think the annual report is really important - not because it will be riveting reading (it won't) but because, like a company's balance sheet, it's a basic piece of information about how an organization is run. Although combined with the recommendation that the CC also issue annual reports, that might be a bit redundant.

As for the past candidates... it will be a tricky balance, I agree, between allowing a free nomination hearing and trying to build some continuity. I suspect that it will shake out like this: past candidates who still have the support of the EDAs will get a lot more support and be a lot more visible than they have in the past. Then, they'll still have a nomination hearing, but having been active in the intervening few years, they'd have a much better chance of winning it.

As for bad behaviour by members, I'd assume it would be limited to really bad stuff, like promoting hate or violence. If "criticizing the leader/exec" is bad behaviour, there won't be many Liberals left!

While I know you're sick of discussing change, I suspect we'll all have to get used to it. The party will never achieve perfection and there will always be things to improve. What I'd like to see is for reports like this to become a regular, non-traumatic part of the party. Every six-12 months, there's a new report, and we just get on with fixing the problems we find.