The rules under which constitutional amendments will be debated at the upcoming Liberal convention have been released, and in the rules there is one significant change that could either imperil or improve one-member, one-vote’s (OMOV) chances of passing.
This is the rule:
6.10 Amendment Proposals. If a Constitutional Proposal (the “Amendment Proposal”) is an amendment of another Constitutional Proposal (the “Main Proposal”), then the Amendment Proposal will be considered and debated only if the Main Proposal is passed by a two-thirds majority. The Amendment Proposal also requires a two-thirds majority in order to be passed.
If you’re a procedure wonk or a Robert’s Rules of Order fan, you know this is a fairly extraordinary change that runs contrary to past Liberal procedure, and the rules of governance employed by every other organization I’ve been involved in.
What does this mean specifically for OMOV, and for the YLC amendment to secure a guaranteed 25% of the share for youth? In essence, it sets the bar higher for passing the YLC motion, and means they need to make a decision on OMOV without knowing if they have their quota or not.
The standard practice for amendments, and this is how it worked in Montreal in 2006, would be as follows. The motion to amend the constitution (to bring in OMOV, for example) is introduced, moved and seconded, questions to the mover, and then to debate. During debate, amendments to the main motion can be introduced. Like the YLC amendment to insert a youth quota. As an amendment to the main motion, it would require a simple majority of 50% +1 to pass. If it gets it, debate then resumes on the main motion as amended. If not, debate resumes on the original motion. Either way, as a constitutional amendment the main motion requires a 2/3s vote to pass.
This rule for the Vancouver convention changes that. Under these rules, the main OMOV motion will be debated and voted on first, before the YLC amendment. If it fails, the delegated system is retained and the YLC amendment is moot. If it passes, only then will the YLC motion be debated and voted. But instead of being treated as an amendment to the amendment requiring 50% to pass, it will be treated as a constitutional amendment in its own right, requiring 2/3s to pass.
So, in essence, this rule change does two things: Young Liberals will need to decide to pass or not OMOV without knowing if they’ll get their quota yet. And they’ll need to get 67% instead of 50% to get their quota.
I’m on the record as opposing the YLC motion, and my opinion on that hasn’t changed. But I don’t like these rule changes from LPC, which as I’ve said run contrary to established democratic procedure. And, interestingly, can’t be modified from the floor without a ridiculous 90% majority vote.
I don’t know the timing or history of these changes, or the motivation behind them. I would like to hear from whomever set these rules just why they felt they were necessary, and what their intentions were. This is a significant change; transparency demands it be explained. (UPDATE: See comments at the bottom from LPC president Doug Ferguson)
That said, the rules are now the rules and they do put the YLC in a difficult situation. Some in the YLC have been unclear as to whether or not they’d support OMOV without their amendment. Now, in essence, they’re going to have to put their cards on the table.
I do think that the YLC risks significant blowback if they now decide to outright oppose OMOV, the unfairness of the procedural changes aside, just because they’re not sure of getting their 25%. While I understand their position, the optics of it would be quite bad and could well undermine the very influence they seek to protect.
The YLC seemed fairly confident, at least publicly, of getting to 50%. I guess the question is, how confident are they of getting to 67%? And, if they’re not, do they pull-up stakes or is there room for compromise in their position to get them to a level of support that will pass their motion?
I’ve been talking with some YLC friends about their motion, and while I remain unconvinced as to the need or desirability for a quota for any demographic group under OMOV, I did tell them that what sticks in my craw the most about their motion is that the 25% figure is unsupported by any firm rationale, either in relationship to their percentage of the membership or their percentage of the population. The artificially high number makes it seem more like protecting a political power base than ensuring a voice for youth.
I’m not sure what percentage of the Canadian population is aged 14-25. I’m guessing somewhere between the 10% YLC membership of the LPC and the 25% they’re asking for. But if the YLC were to reduce their quota figure to something closer to their percentage of the population, they might find more traction for their argument and might get closer to getting their motion passed.
I’m not sure if that’s a compromise they’re willing to entertain or not. And I’d still need convincing to support it myself. But if we want OMOV, some compromise may be necessary.
At this point, though, the ball seems to be in the YLC’s court. If they don’t really want OMOV, and their motion was just a precautionary measure, they can just call it a day and oppose OMV. If they do want OMOV though, and feel some youth protection is important, some flexibility may be in order.
FOR MORE: Scott's Diatribes and All Politics is Local.
UPDATE: Outgoing Liberal president Doug Ferguson comments on the procedural change at En Famille:
I hope you will allow me to deal with this issue and why the Rules of Order are set up in the way they are.Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers
The Rules of Order were approved by National Management Committee as per the party constitution. We felt that the general principle of OMOV (and any other major amendment) should be voted on first. If it passed, then the convention could consider a substantive amendment to it, such as that of the YLC. If OMOV does not pass, then the YLC amendment is moot. Personally I support OMOV and I believe it will pass.