From February 20-23, federal Liberals will gather in Montreal, and one of their tasks will be to elect a new national executive. In the coming days, I’ll be publishing interviews with some of the candidates seeking election to the party’s national board.
Chris MacInnes won a contested election at the 2012 Liberal Party of Canada biennial convention in Ottawa as vice-president-English and, with no one running against him this time around, has been acclaimed to a second term, which will begin at the Montreal biennial later this month.
MacInnes, who calls Halifax home, brings some East Coast flavour to the party’s national board and was a key player on Stephen McNeil’s Nova Scotia Liberal team which won a surprise majority government in 2013.
I recently spoke with MacInnes about his first term as VP-English, his plans for the next two years and, going into 2015, some of the lessons the federal party can learn from the success of our provincial cousins. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.
How would you describe the role of VP-English?
It’s in large part determined by who your president is, and it flows from that. And the role is what you make of it.
In my case, Mike Crawley has been my president, and right off the bat he asked me to be the board’s point-person on the party’s response to riding redistribution. It’s an interesting file, a very important one and one I’m glad he gave me. It was one of immediate interest to me because of the change it would have to the House of Commons.
Constitutionally, the role is to support the president and chair meetings in their absence, but in large part it’s what you make of it.
What would you say were the key accomplishments of your first term?
I think the party’s response to the challenge of redistribution is something I would point to as an accomplishment. Given our diminished presence in the House and the strength of our opponents in the House, the redistribution process could have been much worse than it was. Because of the hard work of our EDAs (electoral district associations) and the hard work of the party offices we had a response that far outweighed our presence in in the House. At each stage where we were allowed to make presentations, the party was very well coordinated.
It was great to see how well the PTAs and the national office worked together on that file. Also, the leadership, the membership and supporter initiatives.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
I think as a board, the whole supporter class issue was a major challenge, because it had never been done before as a party. It took a lot of effort by the national membership secretary and the party office to make it happen, and they worked night and day to make it as successful as it was.
Why did you decide to run again, and what are your priorities for the next two years?
There’s a couple of reasons. I debated whether or not to run again, but I decided I would because I wanted to finish some of the initiatives I started. Redistribution is largely done and the ridings are in the process of having founding meetings, but building ridings takes time.
I had the perspective of being co-chair for the 2009 and 2013 Nova Social Liberal campaigns, and seeing the hard work it to us to get to a majority government. There’s a lot of work to be done and I want to be a part of it and with Mike (Crawley), Imran (Ahmad, VP-French) and Matt (Certosimo, national membership secretary) departing I thought I could offer some continuity.
The national fieldworker program is still in its infancy and it’s a very important initiative. We did it on a smaller scale in Nova Scotia with great results, and it can fundamentally change the way the party organizes.
Are there any lessons you can take from the Nova Scotia success to the federal level?
Some of the lessons we used at the Nova Scotia level were ones we used at the federal level. They modernized their infrastructure by investing in Liberalist and field workers. Nothing substitutes the hard work of the leader. In Nova Scotia, (Stephen McNeil) spent seven years going end to end in the province, and there’s no harder worker in the party right now than Justin Trudeau. He’s everywhere. I think there’s lessons to be learned both ways.
Any final thoughts?
I was very pleased to be associated with the people I was associated with on the national board and in the national office, particularly (national directors) Ian MacKay and now Jeremy Broadhurst, and their teams. There’s a great group of people at the national office and I’m proud to be working with them.
(Other party office interviews)
- Liberal Party of Canada presidential candidate interview: Brian Rice
- LPC national board candidate interview: Maryanne Kampouris for national policy chair
- LPC national board candidate interview: Arif Khan for national membership secretary
- LPC national board candidate interview: Leanne Bourassa fornational membership secretary
- Exit interview: Liberal Party of Canada president Mike Crawley
- Exit Interview: Liberal Party of Canada national membership secretary Matthew Certosimo