Monday, October 01, 2012

The Liberal Party needs a competitive race

With the rules that will govern the race now in place and more candidates about to put their names forward, the race for the Liberal Party of Canada is about to move from the quiet summer exploratory phase to a season of coast-to-coast fall campaigning. Officially, the starting gun will sound Nov. 15th, and when the entry fees are due we’ll have a better sense of the real field.

So it seems an appropriate time to stress the importance for the party that this be a real, true, competitive race that showcases the best ideas, policies and personalities that the Liberal Party has to offer the Canadian people. When Liberal members created the supporter system, we bet a lot on this leadership race being a major part of our rebuilding and rejuvenation. If we want people to sign up as supporters of our party for the chance to vote for our next leader, we need to offer them a competitive and dynamic race where their vote can make a difference.

I've been hearing a lot of talk about coronations. Not only would that be unfortunate for the party, depriving us of the opportunity to attract public and media attention (and supporters) with a competitive field of dynamic candidates debating their visions for the future of our country, it also wouldn't be that great for the crowned. Our next leader will be better positioned and able to face down Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair if they've had to explain and defend their positions in a competitive and respectful race, rising as the victor from spirited debates with a strong cast of challengers. They’ll emerge the stronger for it, and so will the party.

Ensuring a competitive race though will require Liberals to seek out candidates that best represent their own vision, values and outlook, and support them in the race. And this is made easier by our new system of preferential balloting. There’s no reason to make a reluctant strategic vote any longer. With the ability to rank your choices (one, two, three, etc.) you can support and rank first the candidates whose vision best matches your own.

We can all agree that coronations aren't positive, but it’s up to each of us, every Liberal, to get involved and ensure we have the leadership race that this party needs and deserves.

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3 comments:

Jae/Jennie said...

I'm not a Liberal, so I'm not involved in any way. But I have to say, there's a big difference between a coronation that the party orchestrates from behind the scenes, and a coronation that's only a coronation because most of the party's supporters honestly prefer the same guy. It's not exciting, no, but it's not damaging, either.

Dan F said...

Even if there is only one candidate, it will still be a race. It will be a race to see how many supporters can be signed up. How much enthusiasm can be generated. It will be an opportunity for a cross-country conversation with Canadians about what kind of government we want and what kind of leadership will take us there. Yesterday I would have agree with you without thinking about it too much. Conventional wisdom in the party right now says that of course we need a competitive race. But as I thought about what the race would look like with only one candidate, I realized it may not be such a bad thing, and with a race against a number (how many supporters can he sign up by the deadline) it might be just as exciting.

Jeff Jedras said...

Sorry Dan, but I really don't get that. A race against a number? That's not going to engage Canadians. I'm going to let you sign me up as a supporter to help you reach some arbitrary number of sign-ups? That's not motivating. What's motivating is considering a field of candidates, funding the one that shares my vision, and becoming a supporter to vote for them and help our shared ideas.

Dido for the media. Daily updates about progress against an arbitrary number are as exciting as stories about pork belly futures (unless it involves a bacon shortage). It's the same old process story that yes, the media may write because it's easy to write, but no one outside the bubble reads.

And a campaign spent trying to reach a number isn't going to prepare a candidate to stare down Mulcair and Harper in the House and on the campaign trail. The best prep for that is test-driving their messaging and ideas in the friendlier confines of a leadership race, where they're challenged to explain and defend their ideas beyond the prepared stump.

It's better for the leader, and better for the party.