Friday, May 06, 2011

Real change isn't forced top-down

I'm working on a post in my ongoing Liberal Party reform series, and the theme today is how the mentality of the party is too top-down, instead of bottom-up. When I read this story though I had to pause and comment separately, because I'm fuming and it epitomizes the top-down problem that haunts the party:

Chretien has been promoting the idea that Rae should be interim leader for two years, giving the party time to pick itself up off the mat before going into a contest to choose a permanent successor to Ignatieff.
I have a lot of respect for Jean Chretien, and I like Bob Rae. He came to Courtenay to support my candidate during the campaign. For me this isn't about name, but about process, and the process being described here is everything that's wrong with the Liberal Party: the old guard trying to force its will down onto the membership, who don't get to have a say.

I understand that some people want to pick a leader sooner rather than later, and some want to wait awhile. Frankly, I'm in the middle of those camps. I don't want to rush into picking someone. I want the candidates to take the time to visit every riding in the country. But I also don't want to drag this our forever either. Getting a leader in place (my criteria are generational change, energetic, committed to long-term multi-election building) is key to the rebuilding process as well. In theory, I'm fine with a one-year process to a leadership convention.

That's theory. In reality, the rules right now are clear though: once the leader signals his intention to resign (which he did Monday and Tuesday, and even if you wanted to parse words, when he tool a job at the U of T that sealed it), we need to have a leadership convention within six months. That's the timeline, and we can't throw out the constitution for the sake of expediency. That mentality is part of the problem.

And I'm sorry, but I cannot accept an unelected interim leader picked by the powers that be serving for two years. We need a leader with a mandate for change and a mandate for change can only come from the membership, not from the executive and caucus.

To be clear on process, it's actually the party executive that picks the interim leader; the caucus role is advisory only. I would note though that we're overdue to elect a new party executive, and I don't like seeing that convention delayed further. The current executive does not have a mandate for change, and I don't want them picking our leader for two years. Electing a new reform-minded executive is another key element of the reform process.

I understand there is a wide-range of opinion amongst the membership on how we should move forward. That's healthy. We should all speak-up, make our voices heard, and debate the way forward. I would urge the membership to stand-up and remind the executive that this is our party, and our will should be heard. I would also caution against throwing-out the rulebook for the sake of expediency, as expediency is never the path to reform.

And I would urge the executive to remember they serve the membership, not the caucus and not the old guard, and they must operate within the bounds of the constitution.

If a way could be found to amend or suspend the rules to extend the leadership process I would be open to that, but it MUST involve a real vote of the party membership at large. Not a canvass, not a vote by riding presidents, a REAL VOTE by every member with thresholds for turnout and percentage needed for approval (constitutional changes usually require 2/3s support). And two-years is an unacceptable time-frame for a leader without a mandate. I would support no more than one year.

I'd like to add any candidate for interim leader should commit top NOT running for permanent leader. The interim leader should focus on the House of Commons while the candidates for permanent leader campaign across the country. Using interim leader as a springboard for permanent leader is unfair and unacceptable.

Above all, the process needs to leave the back rooms. We shouldn't be reading about it in leaks to the Canadian Press. Meaningful change and reform never happens in back rooms. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. The process must be open, inclusive and member-driven form the bottom-up. Anything else is unacceptable.

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MLM said...

Absolutely, positively 100% gospel truth being spoken here people.

I'm with you Jeff.


Rotterdam said...

Its like the PC's when they brought Joe Clark back as leader.
Its time to move forward.

Aaron said...


Aaron said...


A Eliz. said...

I like Chretien, but even he should not 'butt-in' over the Caucus, picking an interim leader.
Some of the top,should resign

rockfish said...

It seems so many people are 'up in arms' because it looks like the past is dictating the future... it's an interim position people, so it requires someone who keep things together and compel a pretty cohesive front, in both languages. If Rae was willing to take it, i can't see why we wouldn't offer the invitation -- he is the most skilled parliamentarian in the house, never mind on our team.
Who cares if he's also the choice of Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper... Bob Rae will keep us relevant while we're laying down a new foundation behind the curtain...

Conservatively Liberal said...

Maybe its just the years spent as a public servant, but if you have a constitution, then you have to respect it. A leadership convention is required, even if it is to elect an "interim leader". The leader in the House can be chosen pending the leadership convention (someone has to be in charge in the HoC when it meets in a month). Anyone can promote anyone for interim or new leader, but at the end of the day, Liberal party members should do the electing.