Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ideas for opening Liberal nominations

I’m a big proponent of open riding nominations. During the Liberal leadership race, I was proud when my candidate released an extensive party reform proposal including an open nomination process, and I was pleased when many of the other candidates – including the eventual winner, Justin Trudeau – joined us in supporting the concept of open nominations.

I don’t know enough of what’s going on in Toronto-Centre to comment on that process. I know Justin has promised open and fair nominations, and I know the party membership believes that open nominations are important to the renewal of our party.

So instead of getting into the weeds of what may or may not be happening downtown, I’d like to talk about a few ideas I’d like to see for a reformed, open nominations process, and invite you to share your own ideas.

The biggest problem with nominations over the years for any party has come when there’s a lack of transparency. Dates can be announced with short notice, and some people may get more notice than others, which can give one candidate an advantage and lead to the appearance of favourtism. This is the most common way the process can be manipulated. The solution? Transparency and plenty of advance notice.

As we prepare to nominate our candidates for the 2015 general election, I’d like to see all the dates published publicly well in advance. Nominations for all ridings (or you can do them in batches, but all published well in advance) open on this date, candidates must submit their nominations by this date, they’ll be accepted or rejected by this date, the membership cutoff is this date, and the nomination meeting is this date.

We could also consider lengthening the period of time between the membership cutoff and nomination meeting, if processing and approving membership applications is going to be an issue.

If everyone knows all the dates well and advance, it’s a fair and open playingfield on which everyone can compete. It would also ensure that anyone who signs up in good faith to join our party and support a candidate within the sign-up period is able to exercise their vote; retroactive membership cutoffs are one sure way to alienate supporters.

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Vancouverois said...

Actually, I approach membership cutoff from the opposite angle. It's great to sign up new members as a result of a race; but it sucks for dedicated volunteers to have their votes swamped by people with no interest in or commitment to the party, who have only signed up for the express purpose of supporting a specific candidate. And that would be my main concern.

Your idea of publishing the dates well in advance seems like a good one.

Jeff said...

I was talking open in regards to the process being transparent and dates known. While there needs to be a balance between longevity of membership and new sign-ups, I too would favour a longer period of membership being required to vote in a nomination. My main thesis in this post was just the need for all the dates to be well known publicly and in advance.

Anonymous said...

Very good point Jeff. I think we're supposed to have fixed election dates now aren't we? Although who knows with Harper.

If so, it should be easy to fix nomination dates/cut-offs etc. In defence of political parties, that wasn't always the case.

On a slightly more controversial note, I have absolutely no problem with the party Leader, in a fairly conducted nomination process, stating his or her preference for a particular candidate. Good Leaders still need to recruit good candidates for office to build a strong team. Agree? Disagree?

Jeff said...

Jamie, it's a fine line. In theory, I'm fine with a leader stating a preference. But when there are rules that are open to fiddling, even the appearance of fiddling them in favour can lead to issues. Would be good to avoid that.

If we can open the system with fixed dates, which as you mention should be easier with supposed fixed election dates, then the ability of the party to call dates that favour one candidate over another can be greatly lessened. Which makes it more acceptable for the leader to have a preference.