Friday, October 24, 2008

Proposals for Liberal Party reform

Over the last little while in my post-election blogs I've been talking about the need to reform the Liberal Party and empower the grass roots. That's all well in theory, I'd now like to move further along by outlining some specific ideas I'd like to put forward. I hope to spark a wider discussion, and if a degree of consensus begins to build around some of these ideas, or others, we can explore taking them to the next step.

I see two broad areas of needed reform: policy and philosophy (who are we and what do we stand for), and party structure and procedure. I'll begin today with the latter.

Some of these ideas can be implemented by party executive and leadership, its a matter of gaining their support or electing people that support these ideas at the convention (and not just as leader, but all executive positions). Others will require constitutional amendment. At this point, to get a constitutional amendment to the next convention it would need the support of the executive of a provincial or territory association (PTA), such as the LPC(O) or LPC(BC). If we can develop a consensus around some ideas for constitutional reform, the next step would be lobbying a PTA to bring it to convention.

On to the ideas:

*We need to have a wider range of fundraising events. We shouldn't do away with the $500/plate dinners, but we need more $25/head BBQs and other similar, lower ticket events that are more accessible to the party at large. Such smaller events are as important as party-building exercises as they are as fundraisers. All the caucus needs to make a commitment to fan-out across the country and assist on this.

*Bring back, or revitalize, the twinning program. This program saw every Liberal MP assigned an unheld riding (they'll need to double-up now). The MP worked with the local Liberal riding association, providing them resources and support, advice, and served as their contact-person to the caucus. If the MP is involved, this is a very valuable program to spur activity in unheld ridings. The caucus should reinstitute this program and every MP should make it a priority.

*If we really want to empower and revitalize unheld and rural riding associations, and motivate low-hope ridings to push hard between and during elections, the LPC should give them a cut of the per-vote taxpayer subsidy. As the subsidy goes up the more votes each riding gets, giving the riding association a cut would be giving them a direct incentive to get out every vote they can. It would also give them the resources to build and develop the association between elections, and give the next candidate a head-start in the fundraising department.

*Membership forms should not be tightly controlled. In the past, access to forms has been tightly controlled so the incumbent power-brokers wouldn't have their positions threatened, and to guard against instant-Liberal takeovers. The first one shouldn't be a concern, and there's a better solution to the second I'll get to shortly. There should be one, low membership fee accross the country, cost recovery only to cover processing by the PTA.

*We should lengthen the time period required for membership to be eligible to vote in leadership and nomination contests. I would favour as long as six months. This would ensure long-time party members have a greater say, and a greater influence, in these contests than people that will disappear after the vote.

*We need to reduce the structure of the LPC executive apparatus and the party staff. We can't afford the overhead any longer, and its questionable whether we're getting good value for the investment. A leaner organization will also be be for agile and able to respond more quickly to developing events.

*We need to reform the nomination process. The appointment power of the leader must be sharply curtailed; the leader should simply have a veto that is only used in extreme circumstances. Only if no acceptable nominations have come forward and the writ has dropped should appointment be considered.

The nomination and greenlight process needs to be more structured. Nominations for all ridings should open on the same date. There should be a deadline for nomination submissions to the “Greenlight committee” which vets nominations. There should be a deadline for the committee to release its decisions, and they should be made public. And those decisions should be appealable, within a specific time frame.

Also, sitting MPs should not have their nominations protected. They should have to earn their nominations like everyone else.

*We need to move to a weighted one-member, one-vote system for future leadership races. Every riding is assigned the same X number of votes, to ensure rural and urban ridings are as important and have the same say. Each riding member votes, and their votes determine how the riding's votes are allocated. Every other party uses some form of OMOV. It's a much fairer system, and much more inexpensive, than delegated leadership conventions, which can cost as much as $2000 per person to attend. And the results better reflect the will of the wider membership.

If we do continue with delegated leadership conventions, we should sharply reduce the number of ex-officios that get automatic delegate status.

I'd also like to encourage you to check-out the proposals for party reform developed by Jason Morris at, there's some good ideas there too that should be carried forward.

These are just a few proposals I feel would make good progress towards reforming the LPC into a more grassroots empowered party. I welcome your suggestions, comments and improvements, and your own proposals for reform.

It's not enough to just talk about reform though. Once we develop some blogdom consensus, lets commit to bringing these ideas forward into the world at large.

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Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Fundraising events and townhall meetings that can draw in people outside the party, from the community at large also provides an opportunity to sign up new members. You can't keep dipping from the same well over and over via big ticket blacktie fundraisers. Small ticket, blue jeans fundraisers can probably accomplish more for the party. It should be a goal to increase the membership base with fundraising rather than approaching fundraising and membership drives as separate activities.

Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

Uh, maybe I'm giving away secrets to the "enemy", but I was once a young liberal, I voted Liberal in two federal elections.. and they lost me with poorly thought out policies like gun control and national day-care.

In attending meetings, my sense was that the somewhat snobbish "Liberal elite" attitude was more than a myth - and that if you tried to suggest ideas that brought the party down to earth (read responding to the average person) you were looked on either as a red-neck, or a dullard.

The country is dying for representation of the great middle - and the Conservatives are the closest thing to responding to that..

Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

Oh, and btw, "Go Canucks" from a former Vancouverite, now in Alberta who hates the Flames :)

Olaf said...


I don't have much comment on your specific proposals, but it seems like you have a good grip on the details. So, I'll leave the Liberal revitalization project in your trusty hands. :)

Demosthenes said...

Nice, all around. I can see some resistance on the nomination ones, but in some respects they appear the most important. Obviously a transition to something like primaries isn't in the cards--and it probably shouldn't be--but a more open and scheduled process would probably help the party immeasurably.

And I very much like that "splitting the funding" idea. Give local riding associations a direct incentive to increase their voting totals, even in ridings where they aren't likely to win the seat, and you've got a "50-state strategy" that builds itself!

Jamie Callingham said...

I agree, I touched on some of these in a post I wrote last night about leadership.


RuralSandi said...

One member one vote system - then Liberal supporters won't feel disenfranchised with the old fashioned, party for the kids, delegate nonsense.

I know several people who did not renew their membership nor donate because they were so fed up with this backroom, party time for the youth, and membership people don't matter attitude.

Amazing how people will get involved when they feel they can make a difference and their support counts.

Saskboy said...

Now if only Liberal brass would start listening to smart people with blogs, and other smart people with just memberships.

RuralSandi said...

Saskboy - what good did it do last time around.......and, perhaps if the Party would have a suggestions site instead of people airing the secrets online...that could help a lot.

This isn't just about a handful of bloggers - not enough there to win.

This is 2008 and it's time to update how leadership races are hendled.

Funny how bloggers seem to think they are the only ones that have a view or a say in the party.

Jeff said...

Sandi, I haven't seen it suggested anywhere that bloggers "think they are the only ones that have a view or a say in the party" so I'm not sure where that's coming from. Bloggers are part of the equation, and they're making their views known through their blogs, and hopefully in other ways too. Everyone has a view, and everyone needs to make themselves heard. We all need to speak up, and to stand up, in whatever way we can.