Saturday, June 11, 2011

Let's get ready to roberts rules rumble...liveblogging the constitutional plenary

(refresh for updates)

10:14 AM: After sleeping in a little and grabbing a muffin and a diet pepsi (breakfast of champions) I'm settled in on press row again for more Conservative mainhall drama. Actually, we may have a modicum of drama today because the constitutional and policy plenaries are the main orders of business.

The hall has been reorganized into tables and chairs with delegates seated by province, and the usual yes and no microphone positions have been set up. And on each table is what looks like an electronic voting do-hicky for delegates to enter their votes. Interesting set-up, we low tech Liberals just used voting cards and counters. This could potentially go more quickly, but the show of hands can be more fun.

Up first is the constitutional plenary at 10:30 am, followed by a buffet lunch and then the policy plenary at 1:30. The folks at have posted the resolution booklets here. I don't see Scott Reid's one member one vote reform one in there, but while it was defeated at workshop I did hear the petition drive to get it to the plenary floor was successful, so we'll see. I'm sure there's some fun policy stuff in there too. And Guy Giorno is going to chair the session, that should be...interesting.

I'll sign back on in a bit when the festivities get back under-way, so stay tuned for updates.

10:42 AM: OK and we're underway, just 12 minutes late. Guy Giorno has some sort of fluorescent green shirt on; it's hurting my eyes from the very back of the room. Hard to miss Guy in a crowd. Anyway, apparently there's voting-cards too, they only go to the vote machines if it's not clear. Pretty poor audio here, they're asking people to shussh. I see speakers at the back here, but they don't seem to be working.

OK, maybe it's a green tie Giorno is wearing. If that's so, it's overwhelming his shirt from back here. Wonder if the green is a message; a new environmentally-friendly CPC? Nah...

Each provincial group is cheering in turn. Alberta was the loudest group, but Ontario looked to be the biggest with over 1/3 of the hall. BC was probably second, and broke out into a spirited "Go Canucks Go!" chant.

10:50 AM: They're testing the vote machines with a best tie contest between Steve Blaney and Guy Giorno. Apparently there's some blue in Giorno's and it's his coalition tie; Blaney's is a majority tie because Conservatives hate majorities. Yeah, the delegates didn't find it overly funny either.

And they seem to have trouble initializing the voting machines; they're resetting the system and starting again. Or maybe Guy's tie lost and he's demanding a re-vote. And other request for people to stop talking because some people can't hear the chairs.

11:00 AM: We're still stuck on the tie voting. You know, this seems like one of those examples of technology not necessarily improving the process. Everyone can raise their hand...

11:03 AM: No tie results yet, but they've finally got the room to quiet down to a dull murmur so that's progress. But they're resetting the voting machines again; still having technical difficulties. I'm sure this is even more exciting on CPAC than it is here. And we're trying the tie vote again...

11:06 AM: And Blaney's majority tie beat Giorno's coalition tie with 69 per cent of the vote. There's no accounting for taste, I guess. Onto the rules: the chair makes the rules, the authority being granted by grand maker of all rules, Stephen Harper. No amendments from the floor. Speakers get a minute, yada yada.

11:10 AM: Lots of rules. To pass, constitutional reforms need a double majority: voters and provinces. And before the first resolution, a point of order! A real one or fake one, we'll see. Someone from Toronto is asking if these are the real rules, or, I don't know, rogue breaking all the rules rules. Blaney and Giorno confer and confirm yes, these are the real rules, but apparently there's another four resolutions or something. I don't know.

11:13 AM: First resolution is up, on secret ballot votes on national board vacancies. But there's apparently a difference between the text on the screen (which I can't read from back here) and the handout, so they're moving to the next one while they figure it out.

By the way, it occurs to me that the reason they're seated by province is because of the double-majority needed to pass constitutional amendments.

11:16 AM: Someone from Rona Ambrose's riding is introducing their housekeeping motion, and calls her the most civil MP. Being civil is easy when you're invisible, I suppose. The motion passes easily by a show of hands.

11:18 AM: Now it's a change to give Conservative Fund workers delegate status. Guy moving it says they do hard work we need their perspective. Guy opposed says only elected people should be delegates, we don't want to open the door to ex-officio nonsense. Neither do the members, they defeat it by a show of hands. By the by, do unelected Conservative Senators get automatic delegate status or do they need to get elected by an EDA?

11:21 AM: Next is an item that says the national board needs to inform EDAs what's going on in a timely fashion. A few people speak against it, saying it's nice but it's vague apple pie that doesn't belong in a constitution. It's defeated by a show of hands.

11:22 AM: Motion to give each territory it's own seat on the national board. There are three territories, they each want a seat; makes sense. One speaker says they don't have enough people to have one each, Alberta with its huge membership only has three speakers and it's not fair. Now another guy says Ontario would be screwed by this too. Foreshadowing of OMOV? Looks defeated to be but it's close; crowd sighs as Blaney says they'll move to electronic vote.

11:26 AM: Motion is defated by electronic balloting, looks like about 2/3s opposed. Next is a similar motion for representation on a policy committee. Speaker for says it's not a voting group, it's about policy discussion, and we have three territories so don't lump us all into one for the love of pete. Speaker against says dido the last vote, and you're territories not provinces so suck it. Clearly defeated in a hand vote.

11:29 AM: Membership motion that says if you're CPC you can't be a member of another party. It seems pretty clear it's a yes vote, but they're not sure of the regional majority so they're going to do an electronic vote. And they're going to re-boot the system because more people have been arriving. The electronic vote is barely yes, compared to what seemed like an overwhelming show of hands. Seven provinces in favour so it carries, but that was closer than I'd thought.

11:34 AM: Some guy on a point of order says people were being moved around and may have voted at different provincial tables, and we may need to revote. People boo, and Giorno says not gonna happen.

11:34 AM: We're back to the national council one we delayed because of the different texts issue. It would elect national council members by secret ballot; speaker says there's been intimidation in the past. Guy from Red Deer notes there's a mistake in the French text, which everyone finds amusing. Giorno makes a joke about the BQ having less seats than a Toyota Corolla. Vote by hands is overwhelmingly in favour.

11:39 AM: Now we're on to the motions that made it to the floor by petition instead of workshops. Apparently there's three, including Reid's OMV leadership one that has caused some drama.

Reid's motion is up first. On a well-cheered point of order though, a speaker says this motion is our of order because the petition process isn't meant for do-overs of things defeated in workshop. Giorno tells the cheering crowd they'll base decision on rules, not cheers, so shut it, and the point of order continues. He seems quite well argued, and I'm not a CPC rules expert but he seems to be making a good argument. It was defeated in workshop, after all. Now he's on to a slippery slope argument though, which is always lame.

11:44 AM: Points of order aren't generally debatable, but Guy says they're going to use their discretion to let a few people add further input. Which seems weird. Aren't the rules the rules. Someone has another interpenetration though, and says workshops are more guidance, not votes, and don't replace the plenary. Chairs are now conferring on the point of order.

11:58 AM: The point of order is over-ruled; the plenary will get to vote on Reid's motion and Reid is now speaking to his motion, telling the history of merging the CPC and PCs and saying why his hybrid approach is the way to go until he's cut off by the timekeeper.

Speaking against the motion is Peter MacKay, who also helped merge the parties and opposes this motion. He says it's about equality, about confederation, this system elected us a great leader and led to a stable majority government, let's keep it.

Over to Doug Finley speaking for; he says this system is broken. He ran Harper's campaign under this system and there is ample and unbelievable room for abuse and shenanigans. And in a rebuke to MacKay, he says the system didn't give us a majority, it accidentally elected a great leader that won a majority.

Michael Chong says the current system is fair, it works, don't tinker with a system that works.

A delegate from BC is for it, one from Quebec speaks against. Unsurprising. Getting the regional support will be a challenge for Reid's motion.

12:04 PM:Hey it's Peter Kent. He opposes the motion, and says it is symbolic of the creeping horror of proportional representation or something. Now to electronic vote, after re-initalizing the system again. Apparently hungover delegates are still trickling in.

12:08 PM: Motion is defeated by a show of hands, to cheers and a standing-ovation. Blaney said it was a clear 60-70 per cent majority, but don't publish that. Sorry, Steve. So that was interesting, but not surprising given the workshop results. So now the next CPC leader will be selected under what Doug Finley says it's a broken system subject to rampant abuse...

12:10 PM: Now they want to enshrine equality of ridings in the principles section of the constitution, which apparently would make amendments like Reid's out of order in the future. Speakers from the west opposed, east in favour. Interesting regional splits in the CPC. Motion is "clearly defeated" by hand vote, so Team MacKay loses one too. So we'll probably see this OMOV issue raised next convention, and the next...

12:13 PM: Last motion is something to do with who can run for national council; they want to ban spouses of caucus members from national council to avoid conflicts of interest. Is this an anti-Doug Finley motion (his wife Diane is in cabinet.). Interesting... Motion looks defeated by hand vote, but they're going to electronic vote. And it's defeated.

12:20 PM: Before breaking for lunch, Blaney admonishes people to be more discipled next time. I thought they did fairly well. Signing off, back for policy at 1:30pm.

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WILLY said...

Good job. I am enjoying this immensely.

Mark Francis said...

Thanks for this.

Jeff Jedras said...

Thanks, folks.