Tuesday, January 17, 2012

If we’re betting everything on leadership, Bob Rae must be clear on intentions

Reflecting on last weekend’s Liberal Party of Canada biennial convention, where delegates voted against reducing the powers of the leader and put much of their hope for rebuilding into one key initiative – admitting supporters into the party ranks and giving them a vote for the next leader – it seems clear to me we’re betting much of our hope for a revival and return to relevance on a leadership race that will culminate with a vote by all members and supporters sometime betweenMarch 1 and June 30, 2013.

We’ve long been a party that is obsessed by leadership, so perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. By refusing to even limit the leader’s ability to appoint candidates and to set and veto policy, this weekend we rejected several opportunities to not only make the role of the individual Liberal member more powerful, but to see every member to take greater responsibility for the party’s success or failure. We’ve long been a party beset by leaderitis, always in search of a Messiah. We crown a leader and invest our hopes and dreams in them, feting them for our collective success and, conversely, blaming them for our collective failure. It’s why we’re so quick to dump leaders after a setback; it allows us to avoid taking collective responsibility.

By opening the leadership selection to a new non-member category – supporters – members lessened their collective ability to hold the leader accountable (leaders will no longer owe their mandate to the party membership, the folks that knock on the doors) and, offered an opportunity to balance that by devolving some of the leader’s powers to the membership, said no. Liberals will again invest their hopes in the leader.

Betting on a vibrant, open, fair leadership race

While the ability of the incoming executive to implement a bold agenda of party restructuring and reform shouldn’t be discounted, it’s clear delegates chose to put a lot of faith in the next leadership race to bring the Liberal Party back from the brink. We want to welcome thousands of Canadians into the fold as supporters, and the shiny lure we’re dangling is a say in picking our next leader. Which means we need an exciting, dynamic and open race. A coronation isn’t going to attract any supporters.

If we’re going to attract a diverse field of highly qualified candidates, they’ll need to feel it’s a fair and open contest. But the large elephant in the room is interim leader Bob Rae’s unwillingness to give a clear and unequivocal answer on his intentions regarding the permanent leadership.

When Rae agreed to take the interim leadership he promised not just the party executive, but members, that he would not seek the permanent job. Why is that important? Because the interim job gives its holder enormous advantages over potential opponents, as I’ve outlined in the past. Now, Bob is free to change his mind and seek the permanent job. No rules have to be changed – that’s a smokescreen thrown up to deflect the issue. He just needs to resign the interim position and he’s free to run for the permanent gig.  All that holds him back is his word; he’d need to explain to Liberals and to Canadians why he’s breaking his promise. And we're free to accept his arguments and vote for him, or reject his arguments and vote for someone else.

Despite his promise upon taking the job, he continues to play coy on his long-term intentions. His answers in Friday’s convention press conference illustrate it plainly: he is asked point-blank multiple times if he will rule out seeking the permanent leadership. And each time, he refuses to do so.

Rae is too smart not to know refusing to give a definitive answer will only ensure the distracting speculation will continue, and discourage other potential leadership candidates. If he has no intention of running, there’s no reason for him to not say, clearly and simply “I am not going to run. I will not be a candidate” That would end it. But by playing coy, and by deferring to rules that don’t really exist, the most charitable explanation is that he is at least keeping open the possibility of running.

You won’t find one Liberal, myself included, to say Bob Rae hasn’t done an amazing job as our interim leader. But between his unwillingness to be clear on his future intentions, the unwillingness of him and his office to ever include the word *interim* in speeches and communications, and a televised speech to caucus inexplicably defending his personal record as the NDP premier of Ontario, the mounting speculation that he will seek the permanent leadership has become too much of an issue to ignore.

The time has come

The selection of the next permanent Liberal leader is over a year away, but the race will be ramping-up sooner than that. Potential candidates will be gauging support, and once the new supporter system is in place, potential candidates will move to sign up supporters and members. And with no expiry on a supporter’s “membership” they’d be foolish not to begin immediately. But they won't, if they feel the fix is in.

We need a wide, qualified field to contest the race. And for that to happen, Bob Rae needs to stop playing word games. He needs to level with Liberals, and with Canadians. He must either clearly and plainly rule-out running, or announce he is considering it and sit down with the national executive to negotiate the timeline for a final decision and potential resignation as interim leader, so as to facilitate an open and competitive race.

It would be patently unfair and unacceptable to run for the permanent job from the interim office, and equally unacceptable to play coy until the last possible minute, squeezing every drop of advantage from the interim office and its party and taxpayer-funded budget before pulling the trigger on a leadership campaign.

We're the party of the Clarity Act, and we need a little clarity right now ourselves. We can’t move forward without it.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Monday, January 16, 2012

Both hope and fear drove Liberal delegates in Ottawa

Looking back on my three days in Ottawa for the 2012 Liberal Party of Canada biennial convention it’s impossible to craft one clear narrative – did delegates embrace bold change or put their faith in the status quo – because the evidence is highly contradictory. And that, I suppose, is typically Liberal: hard to and pin down and define clearly.

On the hopey-changey side, delegates elected as president a candidate who promised a “bold new red,” Mike Crawley, over a veteran party stalwart of the 1980s and 1990s, Sheila Copps. For the first time in Canada a political party will let a new category of members, called supporters, into the fold to vote for its next party leader without actually taking out a membership. Instead of the leader appointing both national campaign co-chairs, one will now be directly elected by members. And not only was a controversial policy on marijuana legalization actually passed by delegates, the *interim* leader put aside his earlier opposition on the issue to signal he had been swayed by the debate and would advocate for the policy and defend it against the inevitable Conservative “soft on crime” onslaught.

On the other side is an equally impressive list of actions delegates took to timidly embrace the status quo and avoid taking power from the leadership for themselves. Delegates rejected a plan to end the leader’s ability to veto any policy developed by the membership they don’t like. The leader can still appoint all the candidates they want. A total ban on appointments wasn’t on the table, and even a compromise proposal to limit appointments to 20 was rejected. A “ballot initiative” proposal to allow any Liberal to put a constitutional amendment or policy on the agenda at a national convention if they can gather the support of 5000 members, bypassing the need to get the support of a provincial wing or party commission, was rejected. Delegates even rejected an amendment to allow them to set their own rules of procedure for conventions.

There was also a balancing on the supporter front. After welcoming supporters to vote for party leader, delegates rejected letting supporters help pick local riding candidates. And the leadership race will happen across the country on one weekend, not over successive weeks in a series of rolling regional votes.

Taking it all in, I’m left with delegates expressing an odd combination of hope and fear. The sense that we needed to do something big and bold was prevalent. They recognize the party is at a crossroads, and will either return to relevance or fade away. Underlying it all was a current of fear. Time after time, delegates expressed concern over what the media headline would be Monday if they didn’t do something big and bold, whatever that may be. Be bold, or the Ottawa pundit class will pounce. Members were even scared of themselves, insisting the leader continue to be vested with power on policies and appointments members can’t be trusted with themselves. “How can you expect a leader to run on a policy they don’t believe in?” one Liberal asked me when ending the leader veto was rejected. Sure, but how can a party expect to engage and mobilize thousands of supporters and members to campaign for a platform they have no stake in?

This week’s convention was never going to be the final verdict on the great Liberal rebuilding project, but it was important as both a starting-point and to set the tone for the task ahead. With the mixed results, we’re clearly pinning our hopes on a new national executive, a leadership race that is still over a year away, and opening up that leadership race to every Canadian that’s not a member of another party that would like to participate. In a sense, we’re putting a lot of our eggs in a few key baskets.

I opposed opening up the leadership selection to supporters for a range of reasons, such as the devaluation of membership. I stand by those concerns, and I’m disappointed other initiatives that would have helped strengthen membership’s relevance, and the responsibility of members in our success or failure, were rejected. I’m willing to put those concerns aside and work to help make this supporter system a success. However, my concern is that it’s not the panacea its advocates, including much of the party caucus and establishment, expect it to be.

That’s because I believe many Liberals still don’t yet fully understand why we were rejected soundly by Canadians not just last May, but in several successive elections. There’s a sense that if we just throw open our doors by making it easier to get involved as a supporter, people will come flooding in. It’s not that simple though. We want them to sign up so we can get their data and market to them, but we’re not asking WHY THEY would want to come to us.

It was easy enough for Canadians to mark an X for us in the last election, but they didn’t. Why? We weren’t offering anything that was relevant to them and to their lives. One non-Liberal observer made a salient point to me: partisans think everyone wants to be partisans. But most people don’t. They couldn’t care less about how we pick our next leader. They just want to live their lives. If we want to mobilize them it’s not enough to just let them vote for our leader. We need to find a way to speak to the issues that matter to them and their lives, and convince them that we are the vehicle that can bring change on the issues they care about, or they won’t be interested.

That is the challenge the party is facing, and on which the verdict of our future, or lack thereof, will hinge. We have made it easier than ever before for people to get involved with the Liberal Party of Canada. But now, we need to give them a reason to want to. If we do, this bold experiment will be proven a success and we’ll look back on this weekend as the beginning of a great comeback. If we don’t, our slide from public relevance will continue. The delegates left Ottawa excited about the promise of the future, but the hard work is only beginning.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kyle Harrietha's speech to Liberals about membership

As I speak Kyle Harrietha, who I'm proud to support for Liberal membership secretary this weekend, is speaking to the nearly 3000 delegates at the Liberal biennial convention about his vision for membership and for the Liberal Party. Here's his speech, which so far I have to say he's knocking out of the park...

• Delegates…members…amis Liberaux

• Bienveue à Ottawa and thank you for your dedication to our Liberal Party.

• My name is Kyle Harrietha and I am asking for your support in my campaign for National Membership Secretary.

• Over the past 15 years I have had the honour of working on Liberal campaigns from Nova Scotia, to Ontario, to Saskatchewan and now in Alberta.

• And what I have learned is that leadership does not begin with a select few – Leadership must be embodied by all of us.

• I would like to talk about the ways in which we can empower every Liberal to spearhead the ideals that will transform our Party and our country.

• Leadership is about individual responsibility, mutual trust and  accountability.

• Yet, until now, we have allowed for the development of two parallel parties.

• A party for insiders and another for the rest.

• That…must end.

• We must commit ourselves to becoming a Party that promotes the empowerment of the many and puts an end to control by the few.

• We should not mimic the Conservatives who are governed by one decision maker at the top. We can’t wait for a messiah; it’s up to each of us.

• Real change requires policies that inspire every member to build local organizations in their communities.

• Nous avons des choix à faire. We have choices to make.

• The choice between confidence and doubt.

• The choice between optimism and frustration.

• And the choice between success and stagnation.

• We must create a fair, open and honest Party that generates change from the bottom up – and captures the hopes and aspirations of every community in our great country.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kyle Harrietha’s eight-page plan for Liberal membership

Before Christmas, when I wrote about why I was supporting Kyle Harrietha for Liberal membership secretary I spoke about his dedication to the Liberal cause, working for the party on the ground in Atlantic Canada and in Toronto, helping to rebuild a Liberal riding association in Northern Alberta, and working as a staffer on Parliament Hill. I also mentioned he was preparing a rather detailed policy agenda that spoke to not just his priorities as membership secretary, but to his ideas for building a more member-drive Liberal Party. I’m pleased to say that platform has now been released, and I encourage you to take the time to give it a read:

'Open Platform for Liberals' by Kyle Harrietha

Since he first sent me a copy I’ve been teasing Kyle about the length, but the fact is it’s a very detailed and comprehensive document that shows how much he has thought about the issues facing our party, and how seriously he takes the challenges ahead. Presidential candidate Mike Crawley also has a pretty detailed platform but otherwise, I think Kyle's is the most meaty on offer from any of the candidates by a healthy margin.

The platform is divided into four sections. The first focuses on “values & principles” and makes a very simple point: if we’re to be successful as a party we need to lead with our values and our principles and our members need to be able to articulate and carry those values forward. That’s why Kyle would work with members to create a plain-language “Red Book” for Liberals, a ,member’s handbook if you will, outlining our values and principles, our history, our structure, and other information to help members engage in a conversation with Canadians and grow the party.

The second section is focused on “dialogue & relationship building” and recognizes the importance of providing our members the training, tools and skills they need to succeed in whatever they wish to in the party, whether its policy development, communications, or campaign organization. Too often, I can tell you, we’re just tossed into a campaign to sink or swim and any training is ad hoc. Kyle’s proposals include creating a comprehensive curriculum for all aspects of riding and campaign management and an online forum for sharing best practices. I had no formal training before I became a campaign manager in the last election; Kyle’s proposals are very necessary.

The third section is called “transparency & integrity” and addresses an issue dear to my heart: reforming the nomination process. There will be some tinkering around the edges in Ottawa with a constitutional amendment proposed to limit leader appointments to 25 (including any incumbents he or she wishes to protect) but we need to do much more. While he doesn’t commit to supporting an outright ban (I’ll keep pushing him on that) he does suggest a number of other very needed reforms publishing all cutoff deadlines at least three months in advance, having clear and consistent guidelines for nomination candidates, make the “greenlight” process ongoing and timely and approving candidates to seek a nomination in any riding, not just a specific one. While there’s been much debate around candidate appointments, and rightly so, the secretive “greenlight” candidate approval process has been abused for years by the Liberal establishment to stack the deck for their preferred candidates. Kyle is absolutely right to recognize this process needs both serious reform and the disinfectant that is sunshine.

Finally, the fourth section is dedicated to “organization & leadership.” Recognizing the advent of the permanent campaign (well, it’s been here for a little while now but we’re catching-up) Kyle has a number of proposals to modernize our voter identification and mobilization systems, such as micro-targeting data for predictive vote modeling, continuous voter and brand research and creating an open, data-driven culture. I also like his ideas for a 36-36-36 approach to campaign organization, with planned action increasing in intensity in the 36 months, days and weeks leading up to election day. This includes a strategic communications plan utilizing our caucus members into all ridings, regular events across the country, and working with every level of the party, EDA, PTA and national, to define their responsibilities and help them deliver against them.

I think this is a great platform that shows a depth of understanding of the challenges facing our party developed from years of working for the Liberal cause in the trenches, and puts forward concrete deliverables that can begin to move us in the right direction. And it all comes down to membership: recognizing that as members we have not just rights, but responsibilities. This platform will help arm members with some of the tools we need to fulfill that responsibility, and that’s one of the reasons Kyle has my support for membership secretary.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Blogger debate video: BCer in Toronto vs. Calgary Grit on primaries

Well, it's the eve of the 2012 Liberal Party of Canada biennial convention and one of the debates generating the most interest and discussion (besides the great #lpc12 vs #ott12 hashtag debate with threatens to tear our fragile party asunder) is the proposal to adopt a primary-style system (see 2, 3, 4 and 12) to pick our next leader.

It would involve creating a new category of non-member, called supporters, who could vote for the Liberal leader if they pledge they're not a member of another party, say they abide by certain Liberal principles, and agree to give us their contact information so we can send them fundraising pitches. As envisioned in the proposal, both members and supporters would cast their votes in a serious of rolling regional votes over as long as seven weeks, timed for maximum media attention.

I'm opposed; I feel its a gimmick unlikely to generate the wave of participation its proponents predict while, at the same time, further devaluing Liberal membership at a time when we need to engage, empower and grow our membership more than ever before. Canadians could care less about how the third-place party picks their leader; they care about their everyday lives and its convincing them that we genuinely care about and will fight for the issues that matter to them that will engage Canadians in the Liberal Party.I also feel our need to be seen to be bold and innovative is leading us to rush into primaries without thinking it through; I'd rather begin with a pilot project on the riding level. At our last convention we brought in bold, innovative change that we haven't even tried yet -- one member, one vote -- which opens up the leadership from a delegated convention to every Liberal member. Let's give it a try.

Proponents, such as my friend Dan "Calgary Grit" Arnold, point to the recent Alberta Liberal primary as a success, and feel the system will both generate the voter identification data critical to modern campaign as well as energize and democratize the Liberal Party, growing our supporter base and earning oodles of free media as our bold experiment captures the attention of Canadians during American Idol's off-season.

Dan and I recently went to a bar, as Liberals are known to do, to debate the issue. Also, stay tuned until the end for our predictions of whether or not the primary proposal will succeed this weekend.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why I’m supporting Braeden Caley and James Morton for Liberal Party executive

I’m not under the impression whom I’m supporting at this weekend’s Liberal convention means anything besides the vote I get to cast as a delegate. After all, I’m just a humble, honorific-lacking blogger. For what it’s worth though, I’ve been taking my personal decisions about whom to support seriously. I believe these executive elections are as important, if not more so, than the constitutional amendments on the table because these people will have so much power to shape the direction we take in this reform process.

I hope every delegate will take the time to review the web sites and materials of all the candidates, listen to their speeches, corner them in their hospitality suites, and ensure they make informed choices when they cast their ballots.

I’ve already spoken about why I’m supporting Mike Crawley for president and Kyle Harrietha for membership secretary (more on Kyle’s very detailed platform later), and today I’d like to talk about two more positions: policy chair and vice-president English.

Policy chair

I’ve long held the feeling that, while policy doesn’t matter in the Liberal Party because the system is seriously broken (the leadership puts whatever they want in the platform and ignore what the members pass), that has to change because policy is the top reason most people join a political party and, if they feel like they can’t make a difference in policy, they’ll leave. (Well, the other reason they join is jobs and contracts, but we're in 3rd place so they've all left already so we'd better get policy right...) With a large field of interesting candidates vying for the policy chair this year, it may be a hopeful signal, along with some of the policy-related reforms, that we’re ready to take policy seriously for a change.

One candidate with a very impressive resume is Paul Summerville. He has researched and written about policy issues in depth brings some interesting background to the position. I had a conversation with him at the Edward Blake Society event in Toronto in November, and he is clearly very passionate about policy development. As a newcomer to the Liberal Party though (recently from the NDP), I’m concerned that he doesn’t have a strong sense of what’s broken about our policy process. He described a process he would like to build that was well thought-out, bringing in subject matter experts from outside the party into the process and creating work groups to develop new policy. Interesting, but as I understood it would be parallel to the existing, flawed policy process we have today. And, at the end of the think-tanking, it would still be up to the leadership/platform committee to accept or reject the policy developed. That’s the major flaw of the current system – adoption into the platform must be mandatory, not optional – and I don’t think having two flawed policy processes is better than one. I’m glad to see that later he came to better see that point, and now supports ending the leader’s veto over policy. He seemed lukewarm in November. That’s an important first step, but we must go further. 

I can’t claim to be familiar with how the policy process has worked at the PTA level in Ontario. I blame that on living in a riding that has one of those closed EDAs we’ve been talking about, and unfortunately being on the outside looking in. But from everyone I’ve spoken to in Ontario, Maryanne Kampouris has done a fantastic job as the LPC(O) policy chair. I voted for her when she ran for national policy chair at the last convention. I believe she’s genuinely committed to grassroots policy engagement.

Zach Pakin has brought a great deal of passion and energy to this race, and he has garnered an impressive list of endorsements from some very impressive individuals, not to mention a good deal of media attention. I was unable, though, to get a sense of the real substantive, specific changes Zach would like to bring to the policy process to make it more relevant and inclusive.

Some of the policy candidates offer experience and some offer youth, but I feel that only Braeden Caley offers a combination of both. I first heard Braeden’s name back in 2006, when because of Young Liberal shenanigans in BC (a phenomenon I was rather familiar with) Braeden’s run for the UBC YL executive was nearly derailed. He would persevere, and I’d later get a chance to work with him during the 2008 election campaign in BC, when he was a youth co-chair and I got to see first-hand his tireless dedication to the Liberal cause. He’s played key roles on riding-level campaigns, on leadership campaigns and on the Young Liberal national executive. Plus as a staffer he got one of my favourite Liberals, Ujjal Dosanjh, onto Twitter.

Even though he’s just 24, Braeden has been involved at every level of the party, and he’s fought for it in the trenches. And speaking with him, he recognizes both the importance of policy development to attracting and retaining members, and the need to fix the current policy process. He recognizes that an online policy sandbox can’t be a replacement for in-person, face-to-face policy workshops. Social media must be harnessed as a supplement, not a replacement. He recognizes the need to create a vibrant, inclusive policy process that leads into the platform we’ll all fight for in the next campaign.

I think we need a youthful perspective on the next board, and Braeden brings that perspective, tempered with the experience of knowing what works, and what doesn’t, on the ground. That’s why he has my support for policy chair.

Vice-president, English

There are three candidates for VP English. I think I’ve received an e-mail from Philip Chisholm, but I know nothing about him beyond his biography. I’ve gotten an e-mail from Chris MacInnes and he actually robo-called me as I wrote this post Tuesday night, and he seems to have agood breadth of experience as well as some East Coast flavor, which is never a bad thing. I don’t know much else about him except that he went to Carleton. But as I did as well, I’m not inclined to hold that against him.

I do know the third candidate, James Morton, rather well, as he’s been a very active Toronto-area Liberal for some years, including as riding president in Thornhill. I know James first as a fellow blogger. His blog. Morton’s Musings, has been active for a number of years now on Liblogs and Progressive Bloggers. It’d be an asset (as recent experience shows) to have someone on the board who understands social media and citizen journalism, and I’m hopeful James would continue to use his blog to facilitate dialogue with both members and voters alike should he be elected.

But he’s not just a fellow lowly blogger. As deputy chair of the council of presidents he worked with Liberal riding presidents across the country That gives him important perspective of the challenges faced by Liberals across Canada, not to mention some ideas on how the council of presidents can be made a more relevant, effective body. He also ran for the Liberals in Oshawa in the last election, working hard to run a strong campaign in a challenging riding and helping the local EDA get back on its feet, planting the seeds for future success. I have a lot of respect for anyone willing to do the hard slogging on the ground in uphill battles.

I disagree with James on some issues. We disagree on the primary model for leadership election, for example. But we agree on many others, such as the importance of predictive voter modeling, and I think his idea for a National Liberal Talent is a great simple idea that’s easy to implement and is very much needed. 

But more important than specific policies, I believe James is a person who is committed to consultation and engagement and recognizes the importance of communicating with members and so I trust, wherever he ends up on an issue, even if we disagree, it will have been a transparent process and he will have arrived there honestly. And that’s all I can really ask for. That’s why I’ll be voting for James as VP English this weekend.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Endorsing a roadmap from an old Liberal executive before electing a new one

Over the last few days I’ve dissected the 36 proposed amendments to the Liberal constitution that delegates will consider a the biennial in Ottawa, and I’ve taken a look at 10 of the more semi-interesting policy resolutions on the agenda.

We’ll also be asked to endorse the “roadmap to renewal” document prepared by the national board, which contains a number of resolutions asking the delegates to endorse decisions taken by the board or urge take certain directions in assorted reform-related issues. It’s important to note that, by my read, the actions in these resolutions are largely things the board has the direction to do on its own (with the exception of the constitutional amendments dealt with separately), with or without the endorsement of the membership. And as these aren’t constitutional amendments, only a simple majority is needed for passage.

So, in a sense these resolutions are largely symbolic. There are two ways of looking at this exercise. The more charitable one is that the board is presenting a vision for party reform, gathered after its own consultative process, and is seeking an endorsement/mandate from the delegates for this planned vision of party reform. The less charitable way would be to say any consultation has been minimal and rushed with more media leaks than member engagement, pushed down on the membership by a lame duck board that won’t be in a position to implement any of this and is seeking to bind the incoming board (to be elected in Ottawa) to a vision when they’re probably campaigning on their own ideas.

Personally, I feel it’s a little of column a and a little of column b. I believe the current board does genuinely want to put its vision forward, and I think we should discuss it. But I think it feels rushed and top down, and asking us to vote on it is unnecessary. Let’s discuss the range of options and move forward with a new executive and a new, more consultative process with ideas following up as well as down. (The LPCO resolution for a renewal commission is suddenly more attractive to me) The way this is presented seemingly seeks to put an end to a process that is really just beginning. So I’m not comfortable with this process.
That said, the Roadmap PDF is here (the resolutions are sprinkled throughout). They’ll be discussed in a Q&A session “sense of the convention” on Friday afternoon which competes with several other break-outs, and then voted Saturday at noon in the main hall. Comments on process aside, here are my thoughts on the specifics of what’s on offer. I’m ignoring those that discuss constitutional amendments because I’ve addressed those separately, as constitutional amendments.

2. That the Convention endorse the decision to build and maintain the “Strong Start” campaign, a special cash reserve for the purpose of promoting and defending its next permanent Leader;

I’d like to know more first about what I’m being asked to endorse here. Just what does this “Strong Start” campaign involve, how much cash are we talking, and how are you going to raise it? I agree allowing the Conservatives to bombard us with negative ads is one of the reasons we’ve had such a hard time the past two elections; we started with a handicap. That said, we’re not going to be able to match Conservative spending in a pre-writ ad war. If you can convince me you have a tactical strategic plan to counter the inevitable attacks, I’m inclined to be supportive.  If the price is right, of course.

I’m currently undecided but supportive in spirit.

3. That the Convention endorse a special, nationally co-ordinated, all-electoral district fundraising campaign in the spring of 2012 with the sole target of raising funds to enable the Party to make the investments required to fast-track the deployment, population and utilization of its universal database technology (i.e. Liberalist) in support of national and local organization, communication and fundraising efforts;

This sounds great on the surface. Database technology is critical to modern campaigning, and we need to get better in this area. And that costs money. But here’s the thing. This is two resolutions in a row now that propose major fundraising operations, with all of the money being sucked up to the national level. My concern is that Ottawa is going to tap-out the donor base and leave the riding associations dry. And ridings need to do their own fundraising to fund trivial little things like signs, literature, advertising and other local campaign expenses. And central already sucks up money through keeping much of the campaign expense refunds and requiring a fee for a riding services package of usually limited local value. The preamble had language about the importance of EDAs, and while they will benefit from the technology (which we already paid for in the last election’s riding services package, and probably will in the next one too), so far all I see is a lot of money going to Ottawa. That has me concerned.

I’m currently undecided.

4. That the Convention endorse the decision of the Party to establish, properly support and enforce targets with respect to Victory Fund and Laurier Club participation in all electoral districts, with such targets to be set in consultation with the EDAs based upon a national goal of doubling participation in both programs in each of the ensuing 3 years by July 1 of each year;

OK, now I`ve graduated from concerned to annoyed, and maybe even peeved. After two major spending initiatives at the national level , we get Ottawa demanding the ridings pay for Ottawa’s spending spree by requiring they go out and raise money and send most of it to Ottawa (Laurier cash is 100% Ottawa, and Victory Fund 50% to Ottawa). Instead of perhaps working *with* EDAs to help them fundraise for both local and national needs, Ottawa wants to unilaterally hand-down orders to the ridings on how much cash they’re required to send to Ottawa. Oh, and punish them if they don’t meet their quotas. Yeah, I’m sorry but no. This is indicative of the top-down attitude this party needs to lose. Work with ridings and support their local efforts, don’t treat them as cash cows to be milked. And I don’t like the idea of board members in Ottawa who have never been to Northern Vancouver Island telling our executive how many Laurier Club members they need to find at $1000/pop if they want to avoid execution. It’s ridiculous.

I’m voting no.

6. That the Convention mandate each EDA to undertake a comprehensive and nationally-supported voter registration drive in its electoral district between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013 to recruit new Members and Supporters;

This is fine in spirit, but again the language speaks volumes about the attitude that resonates throughout the resolutions in this document: mandating EDAs to do things. At least they toss in a line about national support; I want to know more about what that will actually entail.

I’m currently undecided.

9. That the Convention affirm the principle of requiring all LPC candidates for the House of Commons in any election or by-election to face an open nomination contest in their electoral districts in order to stand for election as an LPC Candidate in any election or by-election, subject to the Board’s right to approve specified exceptions to the rule at the request of and on the recommendation of the Leader.

This resolution is such a meaningless farce that it’s a shame it will be printed on even recycled paper. Never mind restricting or ending appointments – this is the opposite. Basically it says open nominations are great, unless the leader and the board want to appoint some hack or so-called star, so please delegates, confirm the status quo. It’s a pathetic attempt to appear to support open nominations to someone that doesn’t pay too close attention. If the board really did support open nominations, they’d have put a constitutional amendment on the table. But they didn’t. There’s only amendment that comes close to restricting appointments (and not neat far enough for my liking) and it came from the Ontario wing (see #21), not the national board. This is a farcical status quo resolution with no place in a supposed renewal document.

I’m voting no.

10. That the Convention affirm the Party’s decision to maintain a permanent virtual and real-time policy development process accessible to all Members and Supporters of the Party through its website, with management of the process and content delegated to volunteer expert policy working groups to be organized, maintained and supported by Caucus critics, assisted by Caucus staff;

Is this happening? Is this the web site with the stale policy resolutions and comment boards? That’s fine I suppose, but while the online stuff is nice what we really need is more in person policy workshops and debates. As I’ve said before, we need a complete overhaul of the policy process to make it inclusive and actually relevant to the platform we run on. This resolution just says “here’s a web site you kids can go play in.”

I’ll vote yes because it’s harmless, if woefully inadequate.

11. That the Convention endorses a streamlining of Party decision-making and operations as follows…(truncated because it’s really long, check the PDF for the text).

This is a long one with eight different items all under the general headline of streamlining decision-making, which in effect means setting out which level of the party (primarily, the national level and the provincial wings) does what. For example, uploading banking and compliance functions to head office. If that’s proven more cost-effective then it makes sense and I’m onboard. It envisions the PTA focus shifting more to helping the riding associations build their membership and resources, a focus which has been lacking until now in this  document. It envisions setting provincial targets for Laurier Club and Victory Fund members although, unlike with the EDAs, there’s actually talk of cooperation on setting the numbers. It talks about hiring field workers to help EDAs, who would report to both the PTA and Ottawa. As long as they work with (and not dictate to) *all* ridings, not just a target list drawn up in Ottawa, I like it.

I’ll vote yes, somewhat on faith.

12. That the Convention endorse the Party’s decision to appoint a Director of Digital Operations accountable to the Board to oversee the development, maintenance and utilization of the Party’s unified communications platform.

It’s curious that this person is reporting specifically to the board, and not the national director. This reads like a mash-up of buzz-words; I want to know more about just what they plan for this position and what systems are involved before deciding if this is flash or substance.

I’m undecided.

13. That the Convention endorse the Party’s decision to consolidate and integrate:
(i) all Party organizational and fundraising data into a single database; and
(ii) all technology operations at the National Office of the Party where feasible

14. That the Convention endorse the Party’s decision to fast-track the deployment, population and utilization of its universal database technology in support of LPC’s national and local organization, communication and fundraising efforts based on an implementation and investment plan to be approved by the Board.

Does the biennial convention really need to take the time to weigh-in on your database choices and the roll-out schedule from development to production? Just go and do it, fellas.

I’m voting yes but wondering why I’m voting on this at all.

17. That the Convention endorses the Party’s request that the new permanent Leader of the Party be requested to reconstitute NERC no later than September 1, 2013.

It took me a few seconds to translate NERC as National Election Readiness committee, at which point I was pissed-off NERC wasn’t some kind of secret red election-winning robot. Anyway, sure, get that sucker up and running and lets start recruiting, screening and nominating candidates.

I’m voting yes on this one.

18. That the Convention endorse the Party’s request that nominations for LPC electoral district candidates be opened (i.e. the freeze be lifted) no earlier than October 15, 2013.

What I said a second ago.

I’m voting yes.

19, That the Convention endorses the Party’s request that the next Biennial Convention of the Party be focuses on the policy and platform of LPC and be held no later than May 30, 2014.

I trust the typo will be fixed at some point. Anyway, we pick a leader in 2013 so I’m not sure what else the biennial would be focused on besides what conventions are always focused on: policy, constitutional amendments and executive elections (pending several  constitutional amendments under consideration) and sipping root beer in hospitality suites. If calling out policy is meant to mean prioritizing it over election readiness, then I have a problem with that. We need to do both. Yes, policy has been overlooked for too long. I want a strong focus on policy too. But we’ll also be one year from a campaign. We can, and must, do both. But I’m probably just quibbling with language. I’m fine on the timing, but I’d love to see a straw poll on host city. My top three: Halifax, Quebec City or, if we’ve finally annexed them, Turks and Caicos.

I’m voting yes.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Friday, January 06, 2012

10 Liberal policy resolutions that caught my eye, from abortion and the Queen to marijuana and a preferential ballot

My previous post looked at the constitutional amendmentswe’ll consider at the 2012 Liberal biennial, which involve changes to the party’s structure and internal operations. Today I look at the policy resolutions we’ll debate.

These if adopted will, in theory, come to represent the official policy of the party, representing things we’ll try to achieve in government and, while in opposition, push the government to do. How closely the policies passed will actually resemble the policy platform we run on in the next election will depend on the success of the policy process-related constitutional amendments we'll consider, and any other policy process reforms that may follow in the years to come.

Unlike the constitutional amendments, policy resolutions need just a simple majority of voting delegates present to pass. These amendments have been submitted through the party’s provincial and territorial wings and the various commissions, which each have their own policy development and prioritization processes, and then were further prioritized by Liberal members online. Prioritization is an important process because it allows more opportunity for debate than is available on the plenary floor, and because there's a chance we won’t have time to vote in every policy.

I won’t go through all the policies (the PDF is here) but here are some of the ones that caught my eye and interest, for better or for worse. My advice is to avoid the Whereases and go straight to the Be It Resolves That's; that’s where the meat is. Or isn't.

But first, I have to say much of this book of policy proposals seems kind of stale and dated, the same sort of things we've been kicking around for years. In fairness, that's probably because we have been; the policy process has been sidelined and overlooked through the minority government era, ignored for a constant focus on an imminently possible election. Kick-starting the policy process from the ground-up before the next convention is vital.

12. Science and Policy

Coming from Nova Scotia, this resolution is a smorgasbord of science-related policies. Appropriate funding for research, I support. Increased funding for NSERC et al, I support. Working with the provinces on boosting science creation and creating a national science advisor, I’m on board. Where I climb off is with the idea of creating a “Parliamentary Science Officer” to report to parliament on whether or not the government is respecting science in formulating policy. I don't see the point of this position. We have MPs to examine government policy and committees can call expert witnesses. Creating an office of parliament, with a budget and a staff, to be some kind of science overseer strikes me as unnecessary bureaucracy.

I’m voting no.

16. Comprehensive Integrated Rail Transportation System

Coming from the party’s Ontario wing, this is basically the pro-high speed rail policy, with some stuff thrown in about cargo, integrated cargo transport, yada yada. Never mind that, high speed rail to Montreal!

I’m voting yes.

18. Democratic Renewal

From Ontario, I was surprised to see a Liberal Party-focused resolution amongst all the others focused on national policy issues. With a focus on party reform and renewal, this policy calls for the creation of a renewal commission to engage with party members to gauge how well the party is being accountable to and driven by its members in a democratic way, and what it can do better. Or, if I can translate, how we can be more of a bottom-up organization, and less one that dictates from the top-down. The commission is to take two years to do this before reporting back, and will be made up of two party members from each province/territory directly elected by each region's Liberal members. I'm inclined to be supportive, but I would like some reassurance in one area: is another commission, is another elected body and another study really the answer? Will this be different than the others? Convince me it is and I’ll be fully onboard.

I'm leaning toward voting yes.

31. Fiscal Responsibility

From Manitoba, this policy starts with an overly long Whereas section about how Liberals are awesome fiscal managers and the Conservatives suck. Then it calls for debt reduction and, as the “policy recommendation" says we should continue “with the Liberal record of fiscal responsibility.” I really don't see the point of this resolution. Manitoba’s top policy resolution is for us to keep on being fiscally responsible? Economic policy is important, but give me some meat!

I’m voting no not because I oppose fiscal responsibility (I also like puppies), but because this is a silly and pointless resolution.

36. Post-Secondary Education

Straight outta Alberta, this would pay  see the government pay first and last year’s tuition for undergrads, and implement a student loan forgiveness program in exchange for work in designated communities, industries, and public initiatives. Education is an issue I care a great deal about, but I don’t like this motion. The loan forgivness thing is fine, although the student loan system also needs much wider reforms. But they lost me on the tuition thing. Two years of free tuition for every Canadian undergrad would cost a fortune, and many of those students don’t need the help anyway. We need to be more strategic. I’d rather invest in targeted assistance for those students that need it most, which would allow us to do more for those that really need it rather than a little for everyone if they need it or not.

I'm voting no.

47. Early Childhood Development and Child Care

Coming from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, this resolution essentially seeks to bring back the child care agreements that the past Liberal government, spearheaded by Ken Dryden, signed with the provinces, to ensure access to affordable, quality child care services across Canada. And it goes further, by promoting and improving early childhood education.

I'm voting yes.

58. Reaffirming Women's Right to Reproductive Health Services

From the women's commission, this policy affirms Liberal support for a women’s right to choose and seeks to reverse the erosion of access to safe quality reproductive services by urging the government to  financially penalize provinces that fail to abide by their Canada Health Act obligations around access and covering related costs.

I’m voting yes.

79. Preferential Balloting System

Coming from the party’s Saskatchewan wing, this policy supports the implementation of a preferential ballot for future elections. As democratic reforms go it’s not overly ambitious compared to some of the systems that have been put to referenda in several provinces. Of course, those referenda all failed. Moving to a preferential ballot to elect MPs would be a simple change that voters can understand, and it would lead to results more indicative of voter preference that the current first past the post system. And that would be a good thing.

I’m voting yes.

114. Canadian Identity in the 21st Century

From the Young Liberals, this is the monarchy policy that the media has decided to focus on this week. This is one of those resolutions where it pays to gloss over the Whereases. Rather than writing something neutral to lead into a discussion of the best system of governance for a modern Canada, it contains attacks on the Royal Family and incorrectly refers to the British monarchy, not the Canadian monarchy. It’s a combative approach that doesn’t lead well into a debate we should be having: as a modern Canada, one where the role of the Governor-General and their reserve powers has been much debated in recent years (see assorted prorogation dramas), is our current system the right one for us, or is there a better model? I want us to have that discussion and this policy leads us into that. And the meat, the Be It Resolved, is actually less combative that the Whereases, calling for the issue to be "studied."

I’m voting yes.

117. Legalize and Regulate Marijuana

The youth are back, and course they have a marijuana legalization resolution. I think prohibition has been a costly failure, and forcing ordinary Canadians to deal with criminal gangs leads to many negative effects. And the resources of the criminal justice system would be better used elsewhere. Legalizing marijuana, regulating production and distribution, and taxing it, makes all kinds of sense. It’s past time to do this.

I’m voting yes.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

36 proposed Liberal constitutional amendments dissected and explained

Happy New Year to all; I hope you enjoyed the holidays. Especially Christmas.  I won’t say I’m resolving to blog more this year but I will try, and I’m sure I definitely will be in the next few weeks as we head into the 2012 Liberal Biennial convention in Ottawa, beginning January 12th.

I’m on vacation for another week, and so I’m spending some time preparing for the convention. Yesterday it was poring over 27 pages of proposed constitutional amendments, and cross-referencing with the current constitution to try to figure out what it all means. Below is my analysis of each proposed amendment and my current thinking on each; I welcome your thoughts in the comments. A future post will tackle the policy proposals.

For your reference, here's a PDF of the full list of proposed amendments and here's a PDF of the current constitution. To be adopted, each amendment must be approved by 2/3s of delegates voting at the biennial.

Amendments proposed by the the national board of directors

 1.  Elimination of the National Revenue Committee and Appointment of Chief Revenue

I feel the professionalizing of our fundraising is long overdue. This would see one person hired with
direct responsibility and accountability for fundraising planning and implementation, and would seem to constitute needed reform in this area.

I’m voting yes.

2. Registration of supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada

This is to allow the creation of the primary system, which I oppose for leadership selection. That’s voted on separately though. I do support experimenting with primaries for riding nominations, so I’m willing to support creation the supporter category. I do have a few concerns, though.

You can join the Liberal Party at age 14, but you need to be 18 to register as a supporter. The supporter rules seem to mirror those for voting in a general election. But if this is about nurturing and building support, why exclude youth? Why not try to involve them early, and try to convert them into members and/or general election voters when of age? I’d support an amendment to lower the age.

Other concerns: there’s no time-period on being a supporter, it lasts until you opt out, your snail mail bounces back, or you’re kicked out. Also, they seem to anticipate making PTAs process all the supporter applications, which will cost money. The only mention of a fee is in the section on supporters voting in the leadership selection, but no fee seems anticipated to simply become a supporter. What will it cost to process these applications? And it LPC downloads it to PTAs, will they download resources to pay for it too?

I’m voting yes, with reservations, and hoping for amendments.

3. Participation of supporters in leadership vote

This is the one that has gotten all the attention, and my previously noted objections to the primary system for the leadership still stand. Instead of re-hashing them, I’ll direct you to this article where Iexplain my objections at length.I think weighted one-member one-vote is a better system, we adopted it at the last convention and we should at least try it once.

It should be noted the final proposal eliminates the idea of making the Council of Presidents function as an electoral college, which is a positive change. It’s a preferential ballot, weighted by riding, 100 points, with lowest candidates dropped off overall until we get to 50+1. Same as current weighted one member, one vote system so that’s good.

The imposition of a fee for voting is up to the national board. But here’s the thing.  According to these amendments, members have all the rights of supporters. In many new sections, supporters is used to mean both members and supporters. Could this mean members could have to pay a fee to vote for leader? I would be massively opposed to that. While I’m voting no anyway, that should be clarified.

I’m voting no to this amendment.

4.  Participation of supporters in candidate selection meetings of their EDAs

This proposal allows “supporters” as created by the earlier amendment to vote in their riding’s candidate nomination contest. As mentioned, I’m opposed to this system for the leadership but I’m willing to give it a try for riding nominations, and I think it could be more effective generating excitement and attracting candidates at the local level.

I do have some concerns with this proposal as written, though. The biggest is that, while the leadership vote requires supporters to be signed-up 41 days before the vote, for riding nominations no timeline is specified. Instead, it leaves the timeline up to the national election readiness committee. I dislike leaving discretion in these things, particularly when nomination rules have been so abused in the past. I’d like to see wider reforms to the nomination process. We have fixed election dates; I want fixed dates where all nominations are opened and meetings held, with all the related deadlines fixed too. But that's a reform for another day.

I’m voting yes, but I’d like to see this section cleaned-up and approved.

5.  Annual strategic plan and annual report tabled by national board of directors

Requires the board of directors to table an annual strategic plan and an annual report on progress against the strategic plan, to be reviewed by the Council of Presidents and released to all members, and posted online. Makes sense, seems basic, and odd it wasn’t required already.

I’m voting yes.

6. Untitled, relates to candidate nominations

Requires a nomination candidate to have been nominated by 100 members of the riding association or at least 15 per cent of the riding members (supporters excluded, apparently), whichever is less.  I’m fine with that, requiring candidates to get support from existing riding members is important. I’m curious though how this would interact with leader’s power of appointment. I’d imagine an appointment would probably supersede this rule, although requiring some riding support before allowing an appointment would be nice.

I’m voting yes.

7 and 8. Removing the leader’s veto over the content of the policy platform

These sections amend several sections that give the leader an effective veto over the content of the party’s election platform. It’s important to note there are two separate policy processes: the policy passed by the biennial convention from the PTAs and commissions, and that developed by the policy and platform committee. These amendments deal with the latter; the former is still too unlinked from the actual platform creation for my liking and I want the next national policy chair to lead further reforms in this area.

Under these reforms, the leader can still propose policy for the platform but can’t veto other proposals from the committee outright; policy will be decided by the policy and platform committee. The leader still appoints many of its members though, and it seems rather large and unwieldy. This committee also existed before, yet the leader still seemed to always circumvent it by appointing a few MPs to go off and write the platform on his orders. 

So I’m sceptical how effective these reforms will be, and they’re but a drop in the bucket of the reforms we need to make to the policy process. But this is a small step in the right direction.

I’m voting yes.

9. Election of executive officers using a weighted “one-member, one-vote” system

This is one proposal that wasn’t included in the original roadmap to renewal proposals, and I was glad to see it in the final list of amendments. It would institute a weighted by riding OMOV system to elect the national executive, instead of delegates doing it at convention. This is an important step in the democratization of our party, just as implementing WOMOV for leadership was. My only quibble is that it’s not a preferential ballot; that would be a nice addition.

I’m voting yes.

10. Prioritization of policy resolutions using a weighted “one-member, one-vote” system

Moves the policy development process from the delegated biennial convention to a weighted by riding one-member, one-vote system. I’m supportive in principle, but I have concerns because this will, by necessity, largely mean moving from an in-person process to a more impersonal electronic one.  The benefit of the biennials is that it allows in-person debate and interaction, which has benefits you just can't replicate online.

Before I decide to support this, I want to know how the policy process will be reformed to encourage/require in-person debates on policy across the country, perhaps regionally. This can’t be done online alone. If I’m not satisfied this can/will happen, I’m inclined to vote no.

I’m undecided.

11. Untitled, relates to EDA accountability

Allows the national board of directors to put a riding association into trusteeship if it fails to meet its constitutional obligations. Rogue, closed, unresponsive and dormant EDAs are an issue. I’m a little leery of this proposal, though. However, with PTA approval required as a check on the national board, I’ll support it.

I’m voting yes.

12. Electing a leader using a system of staggered regional voting days

A key part of the primary system for leadership voting, instead of one day/weekend of voting across Canada it seeks to create drama and media attention by having the votes over a period as long as two months, with groups of regions voting in as many as six blocks. So, for example, Ontario may vote five weeks after British Columbia does.  The preamble makes clear this has nothing to do with democracy, and is all about preening for media attention. Like PDO, I find this proposal highly undemocratic.

I have several concerns. First, not everyone will get to vote for the candidate of their choice. If a candidate shows poorly in the first group of provinces, they’ll be pressured to drop out. Fundraising will become challenging. Look at the U.S. primary system we’re trying to copy. I want to be able to vote for the candidate of my choice; I don’t want New Hampshire to narrow the field for me.

Second, the order in which the provinces will vote isn’t set by this amendment; presumably this would be determined by the national board of directors, or a body appointed by them. This creates a huge opportunity for conflict, as leadership candidates lobby the board, or try to get slates elected to the board, to set an order that favours them by putting their strong regions first to show momentum, pressuring opponents to drop out. We have enough drama of this sort as it is, without creating the opportunity for more.

We also shouldn’t be trying to create a system for the purpose of giving the media something to report about; it should be about the best way to get the best leader possible. And this isn’t it.

I’m voting no.

The following amendments are from the party’s Ontario wing. Several deal with reforming the Council of Presidents, which primarily consists of the riding association presidents, and that many feel is a meaningless, powerless body.

13. Officers of the Council of Presidents

Several reforms to CoP here, particularly changing the CoP president to be elected by CoP members and be either a riding or commission president, instead of automatically being the party president as today. The deputy president will be similarly elected. I agree, it should be an EDA-led body.

I'm voting yes.

14. Chair of the Council of Presidents as a member of the National Board of Directors

This makes the CoP president a non-voting member (can attend and speak) of the national board of directors. If it was voting I’d definitely vote no. The board is big and unwieldy as it is. My concern is with making the board bigger, and the cost that generates for the party. I’d rather go smaller, not bigger.

I’m undecided but leaning no.

15. Meetings of the Council of Presidents

This section seems to remove some of the flexibility  for holding CoP meetings virtually, with an eye to more in-person meetings. My concern here is how much will this cost us, and if it’s worth the expense. The proposal calls for partial subsidies for some attendees, but seemingly not all. If this body is to have meaning, cost can’t be a barrier to all eligible members taking part. But your talking 308 riding presidents and additional members, and  I’m not convinced we can afford to do this in person, outside of maybe a biennial, and that it would be worth the cost. What’s wrong with improved virtual or teleconference meetings?

I’m leaning no.

16. Untitled, more CoP reforms

Seems housekeeping to me.

I’ll vote yes.

17. Candidate selection meeting to be held at the request of an EDA

Requires a candidate nomination meeting to be called within 120 days of the request by a riding association. I’ll support giving more power to the ridings, but my preference is still to see set identical dates for all ridings across Canada.

I’m voting yes.

18. Withdrawal of nomination contestant or nominated candidate following criminal charges

Seems obvious to me.

I’m voting yes.

19. Election of a National Campaign Co-Chair

Instead of both co-chair being appointed by the leader, one would be elected by the membership the same way we elect the national executive, with the leader appointing the second. Since the members go first, that means the leader must satisfy the English/French, Man/Woman rules by appointing the opposite of the membership. If (9) passes, WOMOV will elect the first co-chair. I like this amendment, as it takes some power back from the leader for the members, as this is a position that sets many of the rules that govern nominations. Letting members pick one is a good balance.

I’m voting yes.

20. Representation of PTAs on the National Election Readiness Committee

Adds representatives from each PTA to the committee, which sounds good to me.

I’m voting yes.

21. Appointment of candidates of the Party for election to the House of Commons

Seeks to limit the leader’s power to appoint candidates to 20 per election maximum, and no more than 25% or five in any one province whichever is lower. I support the spirit here; my worry is if this would encourage appointments up top that level. I’m not sure appointment have been that high in past (presumably it would be if you include protecting incumbents). Why not propose lower caps? Personally, I’d rather remove the leader’s power of appointment all together, and just leave the leader the ability to veto any crazies (who should be screened out by the greenlight committee anyway).

I’m undecided but leaning yes.

22. Rules of Order for the conduct of a biennial convention

This would allow a biennial convention to amend the proposed rules of order that will govern its proceedings, such as how sub-amendments can be proposed and voted on. Currently, these rules are set by the national management committee and cannot be amended by the convention delegates. Before the Vancouver convention, the committee tried to implement unacceptable rules in order to influence the voting on constitutional amendments. Only an outcry from the membership forced them to back down. This amendment would mean members wouldn’t have to rely on the committee’s willingness to bend to public outrage.

I’m voting yes.

23. Policy prioritization process at a biennial convention

This seeks to force policy workshops and policy debate to happen in person, at the biennial convention with online engagements as a supplement, not a replacement. The last two biennials (including Ottawa) have dumped the former in-person prioritizaiton workshops and much of the real debate happened there, not on the plenary floor. This amendment seeks to bring that back. This would seem to be in conflict with (10) and I’m curious how they’d be reconciled if both passed. I’d like to see the best of both, more in-person debate, including at biennial, with provision for all members to vote in a weighted system.

I’m leaning yes.

24. Amendment to the Preamble of the Constitution

Essentially adds a line about making electing MPs part of our reason d’etre to the constitution’s preamble. No real impact but sure, why not.

I’m voting yes.

The following amendments are proposed by the party’s British Columbia wing.

25. Liberal members’ initiative

This seems to allow a member at large to propose constitutional reform or policy to members directly and get it on the biennial agenda, if they can gather a threshold of support form the membership. Today, it has to filter up through a commission or a PTA. It’s an option to cut the red tape and allow direct engagement, which I think is a great idea.

I’m voting yes.

26. Inclusion of priority policy resolutions in Party Platform

This requires that at least three priority policy resolution (coming from the PTA/commission to biennial policy process) be included in the next election platform. I’d like the number to be higher, but it seems to be the first proposal to link the biennial process to the platform process, which I feel must happen to make the member-driven policy process meaningful. So it’s an important step.

I’m voting yes.

27. Election of Executive Officers using an unweighted “one member, one vote” system

This would be seen as competing with (9) but with two key differences: it’s preferential, which I support. But it’s unweighted, which is a huge deal-breaker for me. I’m astounded BC would propose a system, that, essentially, would see member-rich Toronto pick the national executive. I think this is a horrible idea.

I’m voting no.

These proposals are form the National Women’s Liberal Commission

28. Removal of membership fees specific to the National Women’s Liberal Commission

This would remove any possibility for the NWLC requiring an additional membership fee to be in the NWLC. I don’t know if they’re currently charging a fee. If they are, as long as they don’t expect funds form general revenue to make up for the loss of this fee, I’m fine with it.

I’m voting yes.

29. Fundraising plan for the Judy LaMarsh Fund

Seems like housekeeping.

I’m voting yes.

Now some from the Seniors Liberal Commission

30. Untitled, member rights

Adds boilerplate about membership and EDAs to rights of members section. Seems purely symbolic, and without real effect and, while I’m not keen on fattening the constitution with pabulum, I’m not too worked-up about it.

I’ll vote yes.

31. Untitled, caucus rights

It basicallty seeks to encourage caucus members to remember they’re party members too. But again, it’s largely empty symbolism.

I’ll vote yes.

32. Authority to amend the Constitution of the Liberal Party of Canada

Essentially, this section requires constitutional amendments to be voted or ratified by all members electronically, instead of by delegates at a biennial convention. Two amendment avenues are proposed: a special electronic vote, or a traditional biennial with ratification of the result by a member electronic vote required. I’d support extending the weighted one member, one vote system envisioned in earlier amendments to constitutional amendments, but this proposal from the Seniors is for an unweighted system. I cannot support a system that doesn’t have riding weighting; I’d rather keep the biennial system as delegates are at least weighted by riding. I’d support an amendment to weight it by riding.

As written, I’ll vote no.

33. Policy approval and prioritization process

This requires the policy and platform committee to write guidelines to help EDAs with policy, which I’m fine with. But I don’t like attempt to standardize the PTAs’ policy processes; they should be free to set their own processes. It would also seem to contradict some of the sections in (7)/(8) removing the leader’s policy veto.

I’ll vote no.

Finally, it’s the turn of the Young Liberals of Canada.

34. Free of charge membership to the Liberal Party of Canada

The title says it all. Just processing a membership has a cost. I feel it at least needs to make it cost-recovery. $10 is hardly a barrier to membership. I’ve heard this proposal may be a backup in case the primary leadership proposal fails, but it’s unclear it would be withdrawn by YLC if it passes. I’m also leery of the section that seems to indicate campus clubs would be looking to the party for some sort of help or subsidy to make up for their lost membership revenue. In some provinces, riding associations also get a piece of membership fees and would lose that under this proposal. At a time when we’re cash-strapped as a party this proposal makes no sense to me.

I’m voting no.

35. Period of membership required to vote in Leadership Vote

Currently, you need to be a member of the party 41 days before a leadership vote to be eligible to vote in the leadership contest. In another amendment that seems to seek to replicate a primary system if it’s rejected by members, this amendment seeks to lower that time period to 14 days. The same dates would apply under the primary system, presumably backdated from the staggered regional votes (if approved). I oppose this under either scenario.  For one, I don’t want the leadership period to be totally dominated by a focus on membership sign-ups. I want those 41 days (at least) to be focused on winning over new and existing members instead. This proposal would see campaigns focused on sign-ups to the exclusion of nearly all else until nearly the very end. And logistically, it would be helpful to have the time to plan the logistics of the vote knowing how many eligible voters you have; two weeks isn’t that long. And finally, as a general principle I want to encourage long-term membership over last minute drop-in voters. This proposal goes the other way.

I’m voting no.

36. Regional Voting Days

Just when I was growing dispirited with my YLC friends, they redeemed themselves with this proposal. This proposal would amend the proposed system of staggered regional  leadership votes to pre-set the order the provinces vote in, instead of leaving it up to the board which, as I explained, is fraught with issues. This proposal addresses that concern, and also requires the full results of each regional voting be posted within 48 hours, instead of only the first place support. I’m still voting no on the original regional voting proposal, but if it passes I’ll support this change to make it more fair.

I’m voting yes.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers