Monday, March 02, 2009

Liberals make changes to MP nominations

I’ve heard from sources within the Liberal Party that the OLO has made several changes regarding the nomination process for sitting Liberal Members of Parliament.

What I’m hearing is that if sitting MPs want to avoid a nomination, they’ll need to have at least 400 members in their riding association, or two per cent of their vote total if they got less than 20,000 votes in the last election. AND they’ll need to have at least 40 Victory Fund members in their riding.

Meet these requirements, and their nomination is protected. Fall short, and they’ll have to run for the nomination like any other candidate.

I see some positives and some negatives here. I’ve long been an advocate of having open nominations and not protecting the nominations of existing MPs so, frankly, I don’t think these changes go far enough. MPs should be accountable to their ridings and their riding associations, and the best way to ensure they maintain that accountability is by having to face a nomination process.

These changes do take a small step toward that accountability by requiring MPs to at least spend some time working with and building the riding association to help it achieve and maintain a base membership level. And encouraging Victory Fund memberships is very much a positive – one (of many) unfortunate side-affects to the premature end to the leadership race was that we don’t have three (or more) leadership candidates driving hard to sign-up Victory Fund members to reduce their entry fees.

I’m not sure how much of an impact these changes will have, however. I’d be interested in seeing the membership numbers for riding associations of held ridings. Is 400 really that much of a barrier? Frankly, for a sitting MP, having 400 members and 40 Victory Fund members shouldn’t be that hard a goal to achieve. If you can’t manage that you really don’t deserve a nomination.

But here’s another, perhaps more significant, problem with these changes. Let’s say I have issues with my existing MP, and I would rather not see them there. Maybe I’m organizing for a nomination challenge, or the day when they leave. Why would I join the riding association, and/or recruit members (or join Victory Fund)? My activities would only be helping to secure the position of that MP.

The rule changes from the OLO are interesting, but I would much rather see an entirely open and transparent nomination process where all 308 seats are open to nomination, held or not. Fully open nominations, no leader appointments, and a leader veto as a last resort only (takeover by crazies or something). That's what this party needs.

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Ted Betts said...

I agree generally with the idea of open nominations always.

But let's not forget why the rule protecting elected MPs was put there in the first place. It avoids a lot of infighting that was killing the party, infighting from leadership camps but also from candidates who lost in prior nominatino battles, secret organizing against a proven winner, rush and surprise membership drives, distraction from duties in Ottawa. Also, if you know you won't get another shot at the nomination for several more years, competing candidates do tend to put their sabres down and try to work with you to win the riding, instead of plotting for the next few years and keeping your donors and supporter lists to yourself.

These are real problems. Not enough to say we shouldn't have open nominations but enough to try to address.

I think if you win election you should have a freebie or two and then it is open nominations. So you are safe for several years and can really focus on MP work and rebuilding after a divisive nomination campaign, and can establish yourself, but then you can't get too comfortable or complacent because you will have to answer to members to secure your nomination after say two elections.

Oxford County Liberals said...

Well Ted, that's pretty easy to solve: you reform the nomination process. Two examples would be you either freeze the membership and set a date where it would be tougher to have "Drive-by Liberals" and not allow "secret drives", or else you do what the US does and allow a form of open primaries.

Incumbents can get far too comfortable up here.. and there should be another process besides voting for another party or an independent where the Liberal Party members in that riding can express their dissent with the incumbent (and by extension in some cases even the party leadership) if he/she isn't representing the riding's constituency.

A View From The Left said...

400 shouldn't be a hard total to hit, unfortunately too many MPs are just plain lazy and don't bother working at signing people up or getting people involved unless they have to run a nomination race.

Jason Hickman said...

Under the new rules, would the leader still have the power to appoint candidates?

Alex Plante said...

400, in my mind is pretty low. The Quebec Liberal Party requires the sitting MNAs to have 1000 members in their associations. (Provincial ridings are about 2/3 of a federal riding in Quebec). Each MNA is required to bring 50 000$/year to the Party (Ministers are asked for 100 000$). If they fail one of those two objectives, they are not the candidates for the next election.

Jeff said...

Ted, I'd like to see some other significant changes to the nomination process.

*Open all nominations at the same time

*Make the requirements for candidate approval clear

*Set a deadline for approval of candidates

*Make the decision on candidate approval transparent and appealable

*Set a longer minimum time period for membership to eligible to vote for nom: say 6 months at least, maybe one year

*And if we could do something to combat the hording of forms, that would be good too

The end result of such reforms, I believe, would be a more transparent process where everyone knows who is organizing, everyone has a chance, and longer-term Liberals will be favoured over insta-Liberals. It's always going to be a balance, of course, but I think it's time to swing the pendulum a little.

Jason, the power of appointment is granted the leader by the constitution, so an amendment would be required to remove it. The leader could promise not to use it, but I've heard nothing on appointments from Ignatieff. I'm not aware that he has signaled a policy.

James Curran said...

Actually, the 400 figure was always in the constitution. It just wasn't adhered to. The freeze on people running against sitting MPs was put in play by the Martin gang agter the 2004 election to protect a resurgence of people like Copps.