Regular readers will know I've long been an advocate of the Liberal Party moving to a weighted one-member, one-vote (OMOV) system for leadership selection. I'm happy to see there seems to now be real momentum behind this change, which was recommended by the Special Committee on Party Renewal, endorsed by the LPC executive, and will be voted-on by delegates at the LPC convention in Vancouver.
Apparently this proposal has caused some concern in the party's youth wing, leading to a proposed amendment from YLC that would guarantee 25% of the riding votes would go to youth delegates.
First, here's a primer on how a weighted OMOV system could work, from the report of the Renewal Committee:
In such a system, every riding association is assigned an equal amount of points (e.g. 100) that are allocated to a leadership contestant based on the percentage votes received from party members in that riding. The contestant who ultimately achieves over 50% of available points nationally becomes the Leader of the party.
As with the current system, it is likely that more often than not, an individual candidate would not secure more than 50% on the first ballot. Under an OMOV system, in order to avoid prolonged periods (or rounds) of voting, a single transferable ballot could be used. Such a ballot would allow members to rank their selections. As the votes are counted, the last place candidate is dropped out of the race in each round and the ballots of those who supported the candidate who is dropped from the contest are redistributed according to the next most preferred candidate indicated by their supporters. In this manner, a transferable ballot ensures that a majority of support is achieved. This eliminates concerns of regional dominance and gives an incentive for leadership contestants to mount a truly national campaign.
My primary reason for supporting such a system is that it would be a much fairer, and more democratic, method of selecting a leader. Going to convention as a delegate can cost as much as $3000, an astronomical sum that ensures only a certain strata of the party membership has a say in such important decisions as electing a leader. With OMOV, ALL members will have a say.
Now, under the current delegated system, in each riding a certain number of delegate spots are reserved for different demographics. Youth Male, Youth Female, Adult Male, Adult Female. Campus clubs also elect delegates, as does the aboriginal commission. And possibly seniors groups, I'm not sure.
It's not clear to me whether the commission clubs would be allocated their own points under OMOV. I haven't seen any mention of them in the recommendations or proposed amendments, so I'd assume they won't be. But it seems clear that, at the riding level at least, there will be no demographic quotas.
This has the YLC concerned about a loss of influence over the leadership selection process, and is behind the push for the 25% youth quota. My friend Braeden Caley, who I'm happy to congratulate for being acclaimed as the YLC's VP Communications (he'll continue doing a great job) has posted the text of the OMOV amendment, and the proposed YLC amendment. Here's the preamble from the YLC explaining their concern, and proposed solution:
The Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) has historically recognized the under-representation of young people in the political process, which manifests itself in the establishment of the Young Liberals of Canada (YLC) Commission. The Young Liberals are the heart of the Party; its strength, its energy, and its manpower. Approximately, one third, or 33% of all delegate spots are reserved for youth delegates under the current leadership system of LPC.
At the upcoming 2009 Leadership and Biennial Convention in Vancouver, there is a constitutional amendment being presented by the National Executive of the Liberal Party to reform the leadership selection method. The proposed change is a one member one vote (OMOV) system. Under the new system, each riding would be allocated 100 points which would be distributed by percentage of the vote per leadership candidate (i.e. if Candidate X gets 50% of the votes in a riding, he will be allocated 50 points). As the amendment currently stands, there is no provision to account for the under-representation of youth in the Party. This proposal is problematic for both the Young Liberals organization and the Liberal Party as a whole.
While some may argue that this defeats the whole purpose of OMOV, we argue that OMOV defeats the purpose of having YLC to preserve and protect the youth voice in LPC—a voice that continues to be heard, respected, and fights for what matters most to young, progressive Liberals. We owe this to all Young Liberals of the past, present, and future. Young Liberals of yesterday and today have worked and fought hard for our commission and the presence we have in LPC and we owe nothing less to those of tomorrow so that they may have a home in the Party, just as we have had for years and years.
The YLC is proposing an amendment to the amendment to allot a minimum of 25 points to youth voters in each federal riding in order to maintain our representation in LPC. This amendment would translate to having separate youth ballot boxes at a leadership vote in every riding, and the votes would be tallied separately and given a minimum of 25/100 points in that riding. However, if the percentage of youth exceeds 25%, the larger number will be counted.
As the YLC says, some may argue this defeats the whole purpose of OMOV. Yes, I would argue exactly that. I'm not a fan of quotas. While I agreed with Stephane Dion's desire to increase our number of female candidates, I didn't agree with his setting an artificial quota. I think it's not going to accomplish what you want it to, and only leads to accusations of tokenism. I prefer identifying addressing the root causes of why more women don't get into politics, and breaking down those barriers so more women compete in and win open nomination races.
I also support an active and vocal youth wing within the Liberal Party. But a quota? If we accept that, how do we justify drawing the line at youth? How can we not give a percentage to women? We have a Seniors and an Aboriginal Commission, shouldn't they have quotas too? When Dion announced his quota for female candidates, one of the louder outcries was from multicultural communities within the LPC. Why not a quota for this ethnic community, or for that one? If you're going to open the door, where do you close it?
And, frankly, I'm far from convinced youth even need a quota. The youth wing of the LPC is strong and vibrant, energetic and active. Why do they need special protection? I don't think our young members would have any trouble getting their members out and making their voices heard within the riding votes without any artificial quota. They're the most successful organizers we have, I know they'll make their voices heard.
While another friend, YLC presidential candidate John Lennard, supports the quota, he also makes clear he'll be supporting OMOV with or without the quota, he also makes the argument that there's a better way than a quota for youth to make their voices heard:
Having traveled the country and met with countless party members, I am convinced, now more than ever, that the best way to guarantee youth influence within the Party is to grow our active membership. On leadership selection, we could settle for an artificial quota, be it 25% (as suggested), or 30% (as we have now), or 33% (as we had when I first joined the Party ten years ago). But nothing beats a robust organization with an engaged and growing membership to back us up. Membership can have a real influence on the party at all levels, and as Young Liberals, we need to seriously punch above our weight.
Exactly. There's no reason why youth should settle for an artificial 25%. Work hard, organize, grow the membership, and not only will the Liberal Party benefit, and not only will the youth voice be heard, but they'll get more than 25% of the vote, and they'll have earned it. The way to gain and maintain influence is through organization and work, not quotas.
Look, no system is ever going to be perfect. There is always going to be comprise. A regionally-weighted system means that a vote in a small riding in Skeena carries more weight that a large riding in Toronto. That's a compromise we make now though, by allocating equal delegate slates by riding, because we recognize this is a necessary component of building a truly national party that seeks to represent all Canadians from coast to coast, whether we're popular there or not. Only appeal to our base and we'll never grow beyond it.
But, on the balance, OMOV is a much fairer system than we have today. Today, only those that can afford to go have a say. But with OMOV, no spots are reserved for different demographics. No automatic sports for riding presidents or MPs or past candidates or privy council members or party executives, like we have today.
One member, one vote. Rich or poor, young or old, male or female, member of parliament or member at large. Let's vote for equality. Not for quotas.
UPDATE: You can read more at Far and Wide, The Progressive Right, All Politics is Local, What Do I Know Grit, Scott's Diatribes and Calgary Grit. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers