Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Goldilocks and the Liberal constitutional amendments

The actual honest to goodness text of the much speculated Liberal constitutional amendments with respect to leadership timing were finally released to the membership last night via an e-mail from party president Alf Apps; after one final round of media leaks for tradition’s sake.

Here they are in their entirety:


1. The members of the Party assembled in convention, as a Special Resolution, amend the Constitution to add as section 82(1) the following:
Notwithstanding anything else contained in this Constitution (including, but not limited to, section 54):

(a) the meeting of the National Board of Directors required by subsection 54(3) as a consequence of the resignation of the Leader in May 2011 shall be held at any time on or before October 1, 2012; and

(b) at the meeting referred to in Paragraph (a), the National Board of Directors, in consultation with the Caucus and the Council of Presidents and on five (5) months' notice to the Party, shall set a date for a Leadership Vote between November 1, 2012 and February 28, 2013.

This subsection (1) shall no longer be of force or effect on the later of the conclusion of the Leadership Vote contemplated by Paragraph (a) and February 28, 2013.

2. The members of the Party assembled in convention, as a Special Resolution, amend the Constitution to add as section 82(2) the following:

Notwithstanding anything else contained in this Constitution (including, but not limited to, section 65), the next biennial convention of the Party (which is the rescheduled biennial convention of the Party originally called for June 17, 2011) including the related in-person meeting of the Council of Presidents shall be held on January 13 to 15, 2012 at Ottawa, Ontario.

This subsection (2) shall no longer be of force or effect on January 15, 2012.

This conforms to previous media leaks, and my view on these dates still stands: I’m disappointed, because I don’t want it delayed this long. My preferred timing is to go next spring, which would be about a year from the last election. I’d be willing to compromise and go next fall. Neither option is on the table though. Instead, it’s winter 2013, as long as 21 months from the last election. It’s too long.

The board would have us believe they can put a clamp on campaigning, and we’ll all focus on renewal and rebuilding until the next board sets the date with five months notice. Poppycock. Let’s be honest here; the race began before the votes were cast for the last election. People are organizing, signing up members and getting commitments for donations.

Let’s also consider the short-term timeline here. Constitutionally, the board needs to call a leadership vote for October. They hope to delay that by up to two years if 2/3s of delegates vote in favour of the amendments next month, but they need to put out the call for October and be ready in case the vote fails. And it’s very possible it will fail. Either way, if you’re a leadership contender you need to start organizing now, in case the October date turns out to be real; if it ends up being real every week is crucial. Do we really expect people to gear-up now, and then down tools for two years if the amendment passes?

The fact is, this would not be a five month race in two years, it would be a two-year race beginning now that everyone will say they're trying to pretend isn’t really happening. But leadership maneuvering will dominate every election for a party position from national executive to riding association, and every debate about policy and renewal will see leadership influence. It’s unavoidable.

That’s why I’ve favoured a middle-road timeframe: not a five month race voting in October, but one-year voting next spring. And without a phony war phase: let candidates campaign openly until a spring 2012 vote, criss-crossing the country visiting riding associations and meeting members.

Instead, we’re left with two bad options: this October, or winter 2012. I don’t know yet which bad option I’ll choose, but I’m strongly learning toward getting it over-with and going in October.
I feel like Goldilocks: one bowl of porridge is too hot, and one is too cold. Where’s the just-right porridge?

What about amendments?

I’m hoping though, that there could be another way. I’m hoping that an amendment to the executive’s motion can be moved to allow the delegates to the extraordinary convention to consider another date: say, spring 2012. If that amendment were to pass (with a simple majority), then we’d vote on the main motion as amended reflecting the new date. If not, then we’d vote on the original date. This way, members could have more say into timing. We could even consider two amendments – say, spring 2012 and fall 2012 – but I’d settle for one.

I’m not sure yet if amendments will be allowed, or if so how that process will work – who can move them, deadlines for submission, etc. I’ve been promised answers soonish on these important details.

I will, for now, say this: if the board tries to play games by not allowing amendments, making it near impossible to introduce them or passes silly rules governing their consideration and passage (there’s precedent for that one), they’re going to have a major s**tstorm on their hands.

They need to let amendments be fairly moved and fairly considered, and allow the chips fall where they may.

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Peter Wrightwater said...

The dates are the same but there are some important differences. More here.

Peter Wrightwater said...

Sorry, that should be here.