Saturday, April 04, 2009

OMOV with quotas? I can't get behind it

Regular readers will know I've long been an advocate of the Liberal Party moving to a weighted one-member, one-vote (OMOV) system for leadership selection. I'm happy to see there seems to now be real momentum behind this change, which was recommended by the Special Committee on Party Renewal, endorsed by the LPC executive, and will be voted-on by delegates at the LPC convention in Vancouver.

Apparently this proposal has caused some concern in the party's youth wing, leading to a proposed amendment from YLC that would guarantee 25% of the riding votes would go to youth delegates.

First, here's a primer on how a weighted OMOV system could work, from the report of the Renewal Committee:

In such a system, every riding association is assigned an equal amount of points (e.g. 100) that are allocated to a leadership contestant based on the percentage votes received from party members in that riding. The contestant who ultimately achieves over 50% of available points nationally becomes the Leader of the party.

As with the current system, it is likely that more often than not, an individual candidate would not secure more than 50% on the first ballot. Under an OMOV system, in order to avoid prolonged periods (or rounds) of voting, a single transferable ballot could be used. Such a ballot would allow members to rank their selections. As the votes are counted, the last place candidate is dropped out of the race in each round and the ballots of those who supported the candidate who is dropped from the contest are redistributed according to the next most preferred candidate indicated by their supporters. In this manner, a transferable ballot ensures that a majority of support is achieved. This eliminates concerns of regional dominance and gives an incentive for leadership contestants to mount a truly national campaign.

My primary reason for supporting such a system is that it would be a much fairer, and more democratic, method of selecting a leader. Going to convention as a delegate can cost as much as $3000, an astronomical sum that ensures only a certain strata of the party membership has a say in such important decisions as electing a leader. With OMOV, ALL members will have a say.

Now, under the current delegated system, in each riding a certain number of delegate spots are reserved for different demographics. Youth Male, Youth Female, Adult Male, Adult Female. Campus clubs also elect delegates, as does the aboriginal commission. And possibly seniors groups, I'm not sure.

It's not clear to me whether the commission clubs would be allocated their own points under OMOV. I haven't seen any mention of them in the recommendations or proposed amendments, so I'd assume they won't be. But it seems clear that, at the riding level at least, there will be no demographic quotas.

This has the YLC concerned about a loss of influence over the leadership selection process, and is behind the push for the 25% youth quota. My friend Braeden Caley, who I'm happy to congratulate for being acclaimed as the YLC's VP Communications (he'll continue doing a great job) has posted the text of the OMOV amendment, and the proposed YLC amendment. Here's the preamble from the YLC explaining their concern, and proposed solution:
The Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) has historically recognized the under-representation of young people in the political process, which manifests itself in the establishment of the Young Liberals of Canada (YLC) Commission. The Young Liberals are the heart of the Party; its strength, its energy, and its manpower. Approximately, one third, or 33% of all delegate spots are reserved for youth delegates under the current leadership system of LPC.

At the upcoming 2009 Leadership and Biennial Convention in Vancouver, there is a constitutional amendment being presented by the National Executive of the Liberal Party to reform the leadership selection method. The proposed change is a one member one vote (OMOV) system. Under the new system, each riding would be allocated 100 points which would be distributed by percentage of the vote per leadership candidate (i.e. if Candidate X gets 50% of the votes in a riding, he will be allocated 50 points). As the amendment currently stands, there is no provision to account for the under-representation of youth in the Party. This proposal is problematic for both the Young Liberals organization and the Liberal Party as a whole.

While some may argue that this defeats the whole purpose of OMOV, we argue that OMOV defeats the purpose of having YLC to preserve and protect the youth voice in LPC—a voice that continues to be heard, respected, and fights for what matters most to young, progressive Liberals. We owe this to all Young Liberals of the past, present, and future. Young Liberals of yesterday and today have worked and fought hard for our commission and the presence we have in LPC and we owe nothing less to those of tomorrow so that they may have a home in the Party, just as we have had for years and years.

The YLC is proposing an amendment to the amendment to allot a minimum of 25 points to youth voters in each federal riding in order to maintain our representation in LPC. This amendment would translate to having separate youth ballot boxes at a leadership vote in every riding, and the votes would be tallied separately and given a minimum of 25/100 points in that riding. However, if the percentage of youth exceeds 25%, the larger number will be counted.

As the YLC says, some may argue this defeats the whole purpose of OMOV. Yes, I would argue exactly that. I'm not a fan of quotas. While I agreed with Stephane Dion's desire to increase our number of female candidates, I didn't agree with his setting an artificial quota. I think it's not going to accomplish what you want it to, and only leads to accusations of tokenism. I prefer identifying addressing the root causes of why more women don't get into politics, and breaking down those barriers so more women compete in and win open nomination races.

I also support an active and vocal youth wing within the Liberal Party. But a quota? If we accept that, how do we justify drawing the line at youth? How can we not give a percentage to women? We have a Seniors and an Aboriginal Commission, shouldn't they have quotas too? When Dion announced his quota for female candidates, one of the louder outcries was from multicultural communities within the LPC. Why not a quota for this ethnic community, or for that one? If you're going to open the door, where do you close it?

And, frankly, I'm far from convinced youth even need a quota. The youth wing of the LPC is strong and vibrant, energetic and active. Why do they need special protection? I don't think our young members would have any trouble getting their members out and making their voices heard within the riding votes without any artificial quota. They're the most successful organizers we have, I know they'll make their voices heard.

While another friend, YLC presidential candidate John Lennard, supports the quota, he also makes clear he'll be supporting OMOV with or without the quota, he also makes the argument that there's a better way than a quota for youth to make their voices heard:
Having traveled the country and met with countless party members, I am convinced, now more than ever, that the best way to guarantee youth influence within the Party is to grow our active membership. On leadership selection, we could settle for an artificial quota, be it 25% (as suggested), or 30% (as we have now), or 33% (as we had when I first joined the Party ten years ago). But nothing beats a robust organization with an engaged and growing membership to back us up. Membership can have a real influence on the party at all levels, and as Young Liberals, we need to seriously punch above our weight.

Exactly. There's no reason why youth should settle for an artificial 25%. Work hard, organize, grow the membership, and not only will the Liberal Party benefit, and not only will the youth voice be heard, but they'll get more than 25% of the vote, and they'll have earned it. The way to gain and maintain influence is through organization and work, not quotas.

Look, no system is ever going to be perfect. There is always going to be comprise. A regionally-weighted system means that a vote in a small riding in Skeena carries more weight that a large riding in Toronto. That's a compromise we make now though, by allocating equal delegate slates by riding, because we recognize this is a necessary component of building a truly national party that seeks to represent all Canadians from coast to coast, whether we're popular there or not. Only appeal to our base and we'll never grow beyond it.

But, on the balance, OMOV is a much fairer system than we have today. Today, only those that can afford to go have a say. But with OMOV, no spots are reserved for different demographics. No automatic sports for riding presidents or MPs or past candidates or privy council members or party executives, like we have today.

One member, one vote. Rich or poor, young or old, male or female, member of parliament or member at large. Let's vote for equality. Not for quotas.

UPDATE: You can read more at Far and Wide, The Progressive Right, All Politics is Local, What Do I Know Grit, Scott's Diatribes and Calgary Grit.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Jim (Progressive Right) said...

I read the proposed amendment too, and feel the same way as you, Jeff.

I don't like quotas. I support the weighted OMOV, but I cannot support quotas.

(Full disclosure though. I like weighted OMOV better than a delegated system, but not as much as a pure unweighted OMOV)

Mike said...

Jeff would appreciate your view on the following:
1) Since this is the same amendment as was on the floor in 2006 did you vote against it then?

2) If this amendment passes as it did in 2006 (and was suppported by lots of MPs), will you then vote against the overall OMOV package?

3) Isn't the form of weighted OMOV you favour also giving a "quota" to places like rural Quebec where like 10 votes could have their votes count 10x? There are many Liberal ridings across the country with fewer than a 100 members right now.

4) Do you really believe youth could ever reach 25% of the party membership? They are 13% now. Even if they doubled their membership numbers, who's to say white middle aged lawyers (who are a lot easier to sign up) don't triple at the same time? What matters is their percent not their numbers - so without this amendment they will almost definitely never have the same representation again, to argue otherwise is simply not realistic.

James Curran said...

Pardon the pun, but when will these kids grow up. OMOV was defeated in Montreal largely because the youth went south on the proposal.

With all due respect Mike, didn't Braeden just argue the youth is the heart, soul and energy of the party? You mean you have no confidence in the youth growing their own membership after young Braeden's view in his letter.

I have not seen more than 28 youth members in Niagara Falls and 20 in Niagara West Glanbrook in the last five years - with the exception of nomination fights.

Currently we have 17 youth members out of 280 members. So, I guess these 17 members (read 14 year olds not old enough to vote in a general election) should have 25% of the riding's voice?

Oh boy. Kiss OMOV goodbye...again.

Jennifer Smith said...

It strikes me as being a question of balancing incentives, i.e. the incentive of giving youth a greater voice vs. encouraging them to actually join and get involved in order to have a greater voice. Just as weighted vs. unweighted is deciding the balance of giving every riding an equal say vs. encouraging ridings to sign up more members.

I personally liked the option someone presented of OMOV up to a maximum of 200 per riding. That way, both incentives remain in play. Perhaps the same could be accomplished in this case by having a lower percentage (15%? 20%?) as the ceiling.

Mike said...

James that's some revisionist history. The OMOV YLC amendment PASSED in 2006.

Why would youth have then voted against the overall package after they got their own amendment attached?

I don't think you have any evidence for your claim.

The odds of OMOV passing are greater if this amendment passes. You may not think that's right, but the delegate system is the way it is and you can't get the 2/3 support needed without the youth. If the amendment IS passed much better chances of doing so. But I guess you prefer the delegated system to one that protects youth.

As for your point about no youth in your riding that's precisely the point - youth don't get a quota in nomination races, so there is no incentive to recruit them. If they don't have a quota in leadership races there's no incentive to recruit them for that either, why would leadership candidates even care in the slightest what young Liberals think then if they end up making up only 1/2 the numbers they are allocated now?

Much easier to just sign up all your lawyer friends instead than signing up youth. Watch the numbers of middle aged men skyrocket in their proportions against ALL other demographics in the party.

Because when it comes down to it, other demographics are always going to have more time, resources and money at their disposal then youth will so they will always outpace them in siging up members.

Goodbye Young Liberals then...

Though I suppose that's what some people would want - no more organized block to push the party into a more progressive direction.

James Curran said...

Jeff, perhaps Mr. Caley can tell us the number of current youth members that are in existance in the party.

Secondly, what percentage of the regular membership get to vote for the youth positions in the party? What's that you say? Zero?

Oh. I see, they demand 25% of the votes per riding, yet we get zero votes into who we think should represent our party at the youth level. Ironic no?

Northern BC Dipper said...

So, if I'm getting this right, the Young Liberals (YLC) want a have the vote weighted like the NDP weights its OMOV vote for "affiliated members" (in practice, Labour Unions, because any other organization who would affiliate with the NDP would lose charitable tax status). Either way, I'm not fond of these demographic weighted votes.

I suppose I can seeing somewhat where the YLC is coming from, but to be honest, I'm not sure if this is the best way to give youth more power. It would probably be better if the YLC worked to make youth an unmistakable feature of life at the riding levels and tried to get more positions on the various executive committees. If it weren't too late, I'd almost say that the YLC should be trying to get more committee spots using the argument that OMOV is going to hurt them, and that some sort of compensation is required.

Then again, what do I know? I'm just some Dipper.

James Curran said...

That's some great backward ass thinking there Mike. Middle aged lawyers? Geez. I wonder how many of your youth buddies are heading off to law school. One's running for President.

What a load of crap there Mike. You want respect? Go out there and double your membership. This party goes out of its way to secure fairness for youth. most of us give tirelessly to the cause financially, mentally and physically.

Again, how many of us are allowed to vote in the youth elections? Yet we're good enough to assist financially, aren't we.

So, if your amendment doesn't pass, you're going to hold the rest of us hostage and not vote for OMOV? Is that the idea? Well that's mature of you.

Jason Cherniak said...

I support this and I also think we should guarantee 50% to women members, since women make up 50% of the population.

The reason I've decided to support OMOV in principle, after opposing it last time, is that I think it no longer makes sense to have a step between voting for the leader and the general membership voting for delegates. Why not just vote directly for the leader?

However, it has long been important to the Liberal Party that organizers are forced to pay close attention to Young Canadians and sign them up in large numbers. That is what creates the base of the future of the party. If Young Liberals have no guaranteed voice in the vote, then the incentive to go after young people diminishes greatly.

All that said, I think the reality of today's world should lead us to increase the age of Young Liberals to 30.

James Curran said...

Give me a break Jason. You forgot the seniors too. And the aboriginals too. And then there's the visible minorites too.

That's an easy 150% if added together. To suggest anyone would be underrepresented in a system that would allow everyone to vote that has a valid membership is beyind ridiculous.

If youth and women and seniors and fat white guys like myself want to vote, then simply join as a member. That's what one member one vote is about.

Anthony said...

The youth currently have somewhere between 12 and 14% of party membership.

The YLC over the last little while has dropped the ball and saw its numbers sink, partly because there are no consequences for sinking membership.

Jim, to clarify, many young people voted for OMOV because a similar amendment passed in 2006.

OMOV failed because people refused to have a party of Toronto, English Montreal and Lower mainland BC. The original OMOV wasnt weighted...and if it was, my aplogies, because nbody knew that...

Jeff said...


I wasn't a voting delegate in 2006.

Will I still vote for OMOV this time if this amendment is attached? I don't know.

Sure, the regional weighting, while not a quota per se, is a departure from pure OMOV. As I mentioned in the post, some compromise is necessary if we're going to build a national party. But no one has convinced me WHY youth need a quota. Or how you justify a quota for youth, but not women, seniors, aboriginals, ethnic communities, and so on. Why are only youth deserving of special protection?

Can youth double their numbers? Why not? And since when are white middle aged lawyers easier to sign-up than young people? That hasn't been my experience. If we have a lot of those folks in the party, the bulk of them likely got active as Young Liberals.

And let's not the fact that your unearned quota is going to take vote away from non-youth. Take the numbers James provided for his riding. Why should the youth there have (for argument's sake, let's say) essentially 3 votes to my one? How is that fair? What does that accomplish?

Why would youth have then voted against the overall package after they got their own amendment attached?

Maybe many youth didn't support OMOV but wanted these protections in place in case it did pass. And many members may not have been able to support OMOV with those changes.

As for your point about no youth in your riding that's precisely the point - youth don't get a quota in nomination races, so there is no incentive to recruit them.

So youth can only organize if they have a quota? And they need to wait around for some white middle aged lawyer nomination candidate to do it for them? Why not get out and organize yourselves? If you want influence, EARN it.

Youth should sign-up enough members to they are a force within the riding association. So they take executive positions besides youth chair. So they support a nomination candidate that cares about their issues. So they can even support a dynamic young Liberal candidate.

Jeff said...

NBC, I had the same thought reading about the YL amendment, the special votes the NDP allocate to unions. I think it's a bad system, and I don't support it for my party either.

And this is exactly the issue, Jason. If you give 25% to youth, why not 50% to women. At least the last number is based on population, I don't know where the YL pulled their figure out of.

But how can you stop there? We have Seniors and Aboriginal People's commissions, shouldn't they have quotas? Let's say 10% each. That brings us to, what, 95%? What about multicultural communities though? They're going to be pissed off here, they were over Dion's female candidate quota. So give them 5%. That's 100%. I guess I just don't get to have a vote, although I'm sure the party will still accept my donations and volunteer labour.

The whole point of OMOV is to do away with the inequities of the delegated system, which saw real decision-making power restricted to those with the means to pay $2000+ to attend convention. Instead, each member is equal, everyone gets a vote. This ammendments, and the pandora's box they open, are a complete bastardization of that principle. It's .5 votes for some and 1.5 votes for other, depending on your age, or potentially other demographics.

What is wrong, exactly, with treating everyone equally? There are no barriers to membership. Everyone can join. So let's have a vote that reflects our membership. And if you feel the membership doesn't well enough reflect one segment of society, then go sign up members there.

Jeff said...

The youth currently have somewhere between 12 and 14% of party membership.

The YLC over the last little while has dropped the ball and saw its numbers sink, partly because there are no consequences for sinking membership.

That's a good point, Anthony. An artificial quota is an invitation to complacency, which is bad for the YL and bad for the LPC. An open system is a motivator to organize and get active. And as I said earlier, influence should be earned.

Is the YL saying they're unable to maintain their influence without artificial quotas? That they're unable, or shouldn't have to, compete in an open system?

And as I said earlier, I don't see why my vote should count for less than their's. I'm a member, just like them. I pay membership fees too, higher ones even. OMOV is all about eliminating the different tiers of membership the delegated system creates. This amendment would only create new distortions.

Jason Cherniak said...

Jim, you know as well as I do that there is still a preponderance of adult men who run the Liberal party. The Party's job is to win elections and I belive very strongly that it is harder to win if we do not ensure a balanced voice from men and women.

Agree if you want, but you've got to deal with my actual arguments. If your argument is that we should give a certain percentage to seniors and Aboriginals, then go for it and I'll respond. However, your counter example does not deal with my main point, which is that you give advantages to Young Liberals to ensure the future health of the party with young members.

James Curran said...

Careful Jason. You're one of those non-youth, non-female, non-aboriginal, non-senior, white, lawyers that Mike has described.

You're argument is ridiculous. With One Member, ONE Vote, every person in this country, regardless of age, gender or race, can have a say in this party. EVERYONE will be on an equal playing field. Last time I checked nodody has ever told women, youth, seniors, aboriginals that they cannot join the party and be heard. If anything, they will have a greater voice with fewer restrictions. Your argument holds no water.

Mike said...

It's just a fact that individuals 25 and under have less time, money and resources at their disposal to sign up members than do older individuals.

What's the average income of someone 25 and under Jeff and Jim?
How many are earning over $50,000K a year?

The YLC only has one paid staffer in the party, whereas leadership campaigns have dozens you shouldn't be surprised to know that leadership campaigns have a MUCH greater power to sign up members during a campaign than would the YLC.

So if the youth quota is gone WHY IN THE WORLD would leadership campaign have ANY incentive to sign up or listen to youth? Or Women or Aboriginals?

I agree with Jason here - I would like to see something on gender and maybe a few extra points for Aboriginals. But I'm not sure those amendments are going but I will support the youth amendment (as a convention delegate myself)regardless for the reasons above.

But Jeff your math is faulty on how too many quotas would add up to 100%. Polling companies use weights all the time where women and minorities get "double or triple counted" it's not that difficult:

So the vote could apportioned the following way:
7% Aboriginals
12.5% for male youth, 12.5% for female youth
That leaves 68% which is the SAME for adults as in the 2006 leadership race.

So let's say in a riding there are 400 voters:
85 are youth, within that 38 are female, 47 are male
15 are Aboriginal (right now I don't believe they classify Aboriginal delegates by age or gender)
300 are non-youth - within them 135are female, 165 are male

So that would translate exactly to:
12.5 points for female youth
12.5 points for male youth
34 points for non-youth women
34 points for non-youth men
7 points for Aboriginals (regardless of their gender or age)

Is that really so horrible given the REAL barriers that do exist to youth and women's participation (you know women are the primary child care givers and all might just leave them with less time to go join a party like men)? Especially since you want to give QUOTAS to ridings with memberships under 100 that could have their votes counted 10 TIMES more than riding is Toronto?

So a member in rural Quebec or Alberta matters much more than in Toronto, I'm still not getting why rural Quebec or Alberta matters more than women or youth or Aboriginals Jeff. There are WELL OVER 100 RIDINGS where their votes will count much more than others, that's just a fact. I'm ok with that and so are you, so I'm not getting why you don't admit that's also a pretty big quota for rural ridings.

This party has long established constituencies that OMOV would diminish, if you really want OMOV to pass shouldn't you COMPROMISE with those constituencies to ensure it does?

And Jeff it's INSULTING to hear you say the youth and women didn't EARN their representation! They fought hard to have it established by getting a constitutional amendment passed over 20 years ago that gave them enshrined representation in the delegated system. Now you want to take away their representation that they FOUGHT HARD for!

For instance, the Women's Commission's mandate is to exist until gender equality is established in the party and in candidates, the delegate system was set up for the same way. We're a long way from gender equality I think we'd all agree (well Stephen Harper wouldn't but I don't think any Liberal agrees with him...)

It's just a simple fact that fewer youth will vote for the overall package if the amendment doesn't pass (especially since it passed last time youth would have cause to be upset it didn't this time when it's the same amendment to the same proposal), there's no way you could argue otherwise.

It's a long way to 2/3 especially since it didn't even get 50% last time - ALL OMOV SUPPORTERS might want to think about that more.

Ok so this was like a blog post rather than a comment, sorry, but this a complex issue that can't be dealt with in anywhere near 2-3 line responses.

Northern PoV said...

Asking delegates to a convention to pick between their own (perceived) vested interest and OMOV is a little like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse

Mike said...

Oh and I should say Jeff thank you for answering my earlier q's, as a regular reader, I appreciate that you always get back to your commenters.

Though I did have one point to add:
The fee for youth to join the party just doubled from $5 per member to $10 per member as of April 1st. Is that not another barrier that will make it harder for youth to increase their membership?

$10 may be nothing to you, but again what's the average income of individuals 25 and under, many of whom have lots of student debt?

I still am waiting to hear from James Curran how it's somehow easier for youth to sign up members with less money and less resources than it is for lawyers to sign up their all their colleagues (who many lawyers are 25and under James?)

There's a good reason why I think if you looked at all 308 MPs you'd find lawyer is the most common occupation, they have the easiest time signing up members and winning nominations.

If the youth membership doubled which perhaps it will, I'm sure other groups with more resources at their disposal will triple, so then they are actually at less than the 13% they are now. When you have less resources at your disposal how can you keep up? It's like expecting someone running a campaign with $1000 to beat the person who has $1 million. Doesn't matter how energetic you are, money and time matters.

Mike said...

Oh and just to be clear, nothing against lawyers, I just think the nature of their job makes it easier to sign up members and win nominations, especially when compared with youth.

Aurelia said...


There are huge barriers to female participation in any aspect of the party. Just a quick example---most local riding meetings are held at night, at the exact time I put my kids to bed. To attend a local riding meeting, or a fundraiser or any other event, I have to hire a babysitter. Minimum cost is $40.

A cost most men don't incur because their wives watch their kids. And yes, I suppose my husband could watch my kids, but he gets home late, and it's highly unlikely he'll make it before I have to leave.

Children are almost never welcome in campaign offices, and so women tend not to bother.

We go where we are wanted. Charities, community organizations, churches, shelters, schools all have way more flexibility and policies that make women part of the organizations.

What you are missing in all these analysis, is that the party needs us more than we need you. You have loads of white out-of-touch men.

But so do the Tories, and if only white men voted in general elections than the tories would be elected forever.

Thing is, women will vote Liberal and they won't vote Tory, but they might stay at home, if the party doesn't appeal to them. Same for youth. Same for aboriginals. Seniors vote regardless, but again, you need to know why they vote certain ways, and what will appeal to them. Polls just don't cover it. Knowing real actual female and young Liberals does.

But the single biggest reason that we need weighting? To prevent takeovers by the single issue voters, the pro-lifers, who have spent the last 30-40 years trying to take over the party and turn it into some sort of warped right wing nut haven. I've fought them at conventions and in ridings, and I'll be damned if I watch them destroy the Liberal Party the way they destroyed the Tories.

Did you know there used to be pro-choice, socially middle of the road Tories? Ones who weren't crazy psychos?

True, I even married one. Who laments the loss of his party like no one else.

If you want crazed gun-nuts, pro-lifers, and Randy Hillier clones to take over the party and wreck it like they did to the PCs, keep it up. There is a good reason to weight these votes.

Jeff said...


What's the average income of someone 25 and under Jeff and Jim?
How many are earning over $50,000K a year?

You're generalizing. I can assure you I make no where near $50,000. And I can assure you I have very little free time. As a matter of fact, I had more time to devote to politics when I has a Young Liberal in high school and university, for what it's worth. But someone doesn't become a wealthy lawyer as soon as they pass age 25. If wealth is your concern, why noy make it a quota based on income, not age?

The YLC only has one paid staffer in the party, whereas leadership campaigns have dozens

So? If the YLC wants more paid staffers, why doesn't it go out and fundraise and hire more paid staffers?

So if the youth quota is gone WHY IN THE WORLD would leadership campaign have ANY incentive to sign up or listen to youth? Or Women or Aboriginals?

Because youth have organized themselves and grown their membership to the point where they represent an important block of voters, not to mention volunteer workers. What incentive does a leadership candidate have to listen to anyone?

And Jeff it's INSULTING to hear you say the youth and women didn't EARN their representation!

I didn't say that, I said by the youth growing their actual numbers instead of relying on an artificial quota they can earn real, effective influence. And, frankly, earned influence is much more effective.

It's just a simple fact that fewer youth will vote for the overall package if the amendment doesn't pass ... there's no way you could argue otherwise.

I don't doubt it. And it will be unfortunate if they can't look past artificially protecting their power base at what's good for all Liberals. It's also a fact fewer Liberals will vote for OMOV is this amendment passes. There will also be a lot of unelected ex-officios at convention. Many of them may be unwilling to vote for OMOV because they lose their privileged status under OMOV. Because it gives them one vote, just like everyone else.

$10 may be nothing to you, but again what's the average income of individuals 25 and under, many of whom have lots of student debt?

Again, why does everyone become wealthy at 26? I'm 30, I have substantial student loan debt. I just had an involuntary pay cut because of the economy. And yet I don't get a special "youth rate" for dinners, conferences and events. Nor an I arguing I should have one. But broad generalizations such as yours here don't make sense.

Look, weighting by region is something we have now. Each riding sends the same number of delegates. OMOV tries to address the fact that a)delegates are freelancers after ballot 1, meaning all other members don't have a real say, and b)it costs a helluva lot of money to be a delegate, so access to democracy is restricted.

Given the drawbacks of a delegated system, it made sense to have certain demographic protections and quotas. To ensure that, despite the barriers to entry in a delegated system, there will still be some semblance of broad representation.

But under OMOV, those barriers simply aren't there. All that you need to do is buy a $10 membership, and come to a meeting and cast a vote. Usually, polls are open for most of the day. You drop in, cast your vote, and go home. Should take 5 minutes. If there's a line it may take a little longer. It's as simple as that. What barriers are there, exactly?

And no one has still told me why my vote should be worth .5 of a vote and someone else's worth 1.5? Where's the fairness in that exactly? What is wrong with every PERSON having one equal vote? Isn't that kind of what DEMOCRACY is all about. You mentioned being insulted before. Frankly, I'm very insulted by the notion that because of my age or gender my voice should count less.

Jeff said...


To attend a local riding meeting, or a fundraiser or any other event, I have to hire a babysitter. Minimum cost is $40.

I'm sorry but in my view you're talking about barriers to people getting involved, not just women.

But granting your premise, how does giving one demographic group a guaranteed portion of the votes break down those barriers of time, childcare, etc. It doesn't. Indeed, I'd argue it removes any real impetus to deal with those barriers.

If child care is an issue in the riding for meetings, why not organize a group to watch everyone's kids during the meeting? You mention the flexibility of churches and charity groups. Can some of what they do be ported over to the political sphere? And wouldn't that be more effective, finding ways to actually address those barriers, rather than just implementing a quota that makes one person's vote worth more than another's?

But the single biggest reason that we need weighting? To prevent takeovers by the single issue voters, the pro-lifers, who have spent the last 30-40 years trying to take over the party and turn it into some sort of warped right wing nut haven.

I don't see what weighting for gender or age has to do with single-issue takeovers. Are there no women pro-lifers? Are there no young gun enthusiasts? Are only men right wing nuts? I fail to see your argument here.

Anyway, if you want to talk about barriers, let's talk about barriers and let's talk about breaking them down. Weighting or quotas won't do that. The fact those barriers still exist, despite the delegate quotas that some are arguing we should maintain in new form, would seem to support the view it's not working, and maybe breaking down those barriers will require another approach.

Aurelia said...


With respect, for twenty years I have tried to make the Liberal break down barriers to women and youth being involved. Everyone makes nice mealy mouthed promises, but it never ever ever works. The only thing that works is quotas, because if the parties involved know that they have to fill them, they make the effort to try and get women and youth and minorities involved.

I know that you do some work with the party, but frankly, I've been around longer and I know more. I used to think like you, but long hard bitter experience has born this out.

The only give a shit when they are forced to.

As for the single issue groups, no, there are very few gun nuts or pro-lifers among women and minorities and youth. (And of those few that I know, they only advocate it when their white male fathers, husbands and bosses are watching.)

Ask Warren, right now he has a post about the destructive nature of the right wing crazies on the Tory party. He has had to watch it too with his spouses' family. OMOV always makes it worse when you have to fight crazy one issue nutbars, because it would cost them a mint to fight it out at a convention and they can turn out people but not always cash. At minimum, a weighted OMOV would help to diffuse their toxic influence.

Mike said...

Thank you Jeff to answering my points in detail. And I should apologize for getting a little heated and making overgeneralizations, I'm referring to averages in resources, time and money for different groups, but I'm sorry if I made it sound like I was singling you out.

But your one comment I found especially interesting:
"And no one has still told me why my vote should be worth .5 of a vote and someone else's worth 1.5? "

Ok but that's exactly what would happen anyway even without the YLC amendment as your vote as a resident of Toront would be worth less than those in rural Quebec and Alberta.

I'm still not seeing it's ok to do that but take away others representation. Gender and age are real sociological constructs with real consequences for our lives whether we like it or not, barriers exist to other groups participation and people do seek them out less as members.

As for fundraising, the YLC already raises more money than the party gives it and I believe there may yet be more staffers hired but it will pale in comparison to the money and organization behind a leadership campaign. There's just no way the YLC would have the same resources in that to engage in membership recruitment.

The same is true for women and Aboriginals as Aurelia points out.

I'll just make one last point that I think applies well to anyone that rails against "quotas":

People keep saying oh we don't need no quotas, we'll just recruit youth and women out of the goodness of hearts for candidacies, leadership etc...

Well we used to say the same thing about the environment, voluntary measures are sufficient to get companies to "do the right thing". Turns we were flat wrong and everyone (except Harper I guses)realizes now there needs to be real regulation and taht voluntary measures don't work.

Mark my words if OMOV passes without any gender equity amendment or the youth amendment with each passing year the percentage of youth and women in the party will decline.

In fact I'd even place a wager of $500 on it.

Anonymous said...

"Oh. I see, they demand 25% of the votes per riding, yet we get zero votes into who we think should represent our party at the youth level. Ironic no?"

It's not ironic James. You don't get a vote in youth positions because those youth don't represent you. They represent Young Liberals.

On the other hand, the Leader of the Party is the leader for all Liberals, including Young Liberals.

James Curran said...

Oh I see Justin. Well if they don't represent me, why do I need to give them 25% of my rinding's votes?

Jeff said...


As for fundraising, the YLC already raises more money than the party gives it and I believe there may yet be more staffers hired but it will pale in comparison to the money and organization behind a leadership campaign.

Comparing the resources of a commission with the resources of a leadership campaign is comparing apples to oranges.

And I don't get this sense that it's up to other groups to recruit youth. The impression I'm getting here is of youth sitting around at home, waiting for someone to bring them into the party. Be it a nomination candidate or a leadership candidate. That doesn't make sense.

First of all, candidates are going to try to recruit whomever they can. Particularly under a OMOV system. A vote is a vote is a vote.

Second, why wait around for someone to recruit you, or recruit for you. We have a youth commission specifically to reach out to and recuit youth. That is the reason d'etre of the YLC.

And the way to really ensure that nomination or leadership candidates will take you seriously is to a) build your numbers, and b) organize and use that strength. Use your numbers to support candidates that share your views.

Look, as I said, I supported demographic quotas under a delegated system because there were real barriers to entry under that system: the $2000+ it costs to attend a convention as a delegated system.

OMOV does away with those barriers. The only barrier is a $10 membership, and that's not much of a barrier at all, as well as taking 30 minutes at some point on DSM say to go cast your vote in your riding. Heck, it may even be possible to do it via phone or the Web.

So with such a wide-open system, the barriers are down, and so are the arguments to protect certain demographic groups that could be disadvantaged by them. Where is the barrier to anyone getting involved, that wouldn't be a barrier to anyone. What is the specific barrier to youth buying a $10 membership and casting a vote in their community that warrants them being guaranteed a double-vote?

Jeff said...


You say quotas are the only thing that works, but you also say all the barriers and what not are still in place. Wouldn't that therefore mean the quotas actually aren't working?

And as I said earlier, with WOMOV we're talking about everyone who a) takes out a $10 membership, and b) finds a few minutes to either vote in person, or maybe by Web or on the phone, being able to cast a ballot for leader. What is unfair about such a system to any one group that warrants them being given a quota for protection?

Jeff said...

Something that no one has explained to me yet is how the YLC arrived at the figure of 25%? What metrics and background is that number based on?

While I'm on the record as opposing quotas for any group, if you were to argue for a, say, 50% quota for women you would at least have some grounds to base that argument on: their percentage of the Canadian population.

As for the youth amendment, however, where do they get 25% from? It seems like an arbitrary number to me, unless you can tell me that people aged 14-25 (the YL age group) make up 25% of the Canadian population. I'd stand to be corrected if I'm wrong, but I really don't think they do.

Someone earlier here mentioned people being entitled to their entitlements. Well, I ask the YLC that is asking delegates to support their amendment, why 25%? Why a figure that is not only roughly double their membership in the party, but substantially more than their percentage of the Canadian population.

And when you ask for more votes than you would get based on sheer numbers or population, that means you're taking votes away from other groups. I'd like to understand why it's a good idea to disadvantage some groups in favour of others, rather than having a level playing field: one member, one vote, with the only barrier to entry a $10 membership fee.

Mike said...

Jeff, so you want to take a $500 bet that women and youth's percentage of the membership wouldn't decline year after year should this pass without any quotas to protect their representation?

It's simple, you're right a vote is a vote, and it's easier to sign up non-youth and men.

If it's not why do they DRAMATICALLY outnumber women and youth as it is? If it's so easy to get a membership, why aren't women anywhere close to 50%? How would removing the quota make it MORE likely for leadership campaigns to recruit them?

Voluntary measures don't work, we don't just recruit "out of the goodness of our heart", there needs to be a strong incentive, politics is brutal that way. I wish it weren't that way but I think you know it is, you just happen to not have a problem with women's and youth representation and influence declining in the party relative to where it is now.

Let me ask you another question: since you know that leadership campaigns have more resources to recruit than do commissions, you tell me if you were a campaign manager of a leadership campaign, WHY would you suggest to target women and youth when it is easier to get other groups? And even if you did want to target them, would you really strive to get 50% women and 25% youth as a iron clad goal?

No of course you wouldn't and neither would any other campaign. They'll have some women and youth sure, but it will less than they had in the 2006 campaign guaranteed.

The reason why this debate goes on forever though is we have fundamentally different views of what's important. I don't believe women are equal, I believe there are barriers even to signing up a member, I think that needs to be protected. Quite honestly I feel stronger about than youth (but I believe both are important, and Aboriginals too). I have ZERO faith that without quotas there wouldn't be a decline in representation in those groups. Sure someone like James could say that means I don't have faith in the YLC leadership or whatever, but they just do'nt have the resources leadeship campaigns do and it's in those cmapaigns, epecially under a OMOV system that our membership grows most greatly.

So again would you take the bet? Are you that confident? Why so?

Jeff said...

Mike, I think we've both been repeating our same points for a few rounds now, so I think we can safely say we disagree on this and largely leave it at that.

As for taking your bet though, no, I won't, and not just because I'm not a wealthy lawyer than can afford to wager large sums of money. But because there is no way to prove a direct cause and affect in the scenario you posit.

It's my understanding that youth membership has been on a steady decline in recent years. Despite the quotas under the delegated system. That would seem to indicate there are factors other than the the quota, or lack thereof, that are influencing a decline in youth involvement. I believe somewhere way back in this thread Anthony mentioned a lack of innovative or attractive policy from the YLC to drive recruitment.

Now, the best you could say would be that the quotas have been a bandaid to help stem the bleeding somewhat, that without them the decline would worsen. However, I maintain that the issue of quotas is separate from the challenge of engaging youth. It neither helps nor hinders it.

And, if we're concerned about youth involvement (and I'd love to see 50% of the membership be Young Liberals) I would submit that, rather than fixating on maintaining artificial quotas (which is in my view a side issue) it would be more productive to ask why, with the quotas we have today, are more youth not getting involved?

It may surprise you, but I was a Young Liberal not that long ago. And while I could tell you some less than savory stories of YL politics, let me just say this: I did not join the LPC because youth were guaranteed X number of delegate spots to conventions. I joined the LPC because I believed in the ideals, principles and vision of the party. They most closely spoke to me, and reflected my own. And I thought Jean Chretien kicked ass. I still do.

If the YLC is trying to recruit new members based on quotas, then no wonder numbers have been declining. New members could care less. It's about vision, it's about policy, it's about ideas. That's how you engage youth, in my humble view. Not with math.

Mike said...

Full disclosure: I posted this at Curran's as well. I just thought I would post it here given the spirited debate we were having and as it seems now that the whole idea of this amendment has been made moot by a change in the rules. Here's what I posted at Curran's - I think it applies just as well to you, so would like to hear your thoughts. I've replaced James' name with yours just to make it seem more personal :).
Jeff perhaps you'd be pleased to know that the new rules (that are VERY DIFFERENT from 2006) for the constitutional plenary make it next to impossible for delegates to even be ALLOWED to VOTE on the YLC amendment.

Though maybe I'm being too harsh, you have been a voice for the Liberal grassroots in the past, so maybe you'd speak out against this rule change even though you don't want the amendment passed?

Truth be told the new rule change is quite likely going to make it extremely difficult for OMOV to pass at all either and since youth are having their amendment quashed you can't expect them to fall in line with what the party or you want. Put yourself in their shoes given that this amendment was put forth under the full expectation the rules would be the same as in the 2006 constitutional plenaries.

Just imagine Jeff if there was another const. amendment on the floor that you felt should NOT pass UNLESS an amendment YOU proposed were attached to it. Would you vote for the OVERALL package BEFORE knowing if your amendment to the proposal was going to pass? (and that you don't get to vote on your amendment unless the overall package passes)

Seems counter-productive in passing the overall motion to set things up this way don't you think?

But that's what seems to have done. Will you say anything about it?
IF you agree with my perspective (on the rule change, not the amendment), it would be great to see a new post about it since surely no one is reading this thread anymore...

And if you don't agree with me well the writing is already on the wall for this amendment (and probably OMOV as a whole) it seems and that's just an unfortunate loss already around in my view.

Mike said...

Jeff to be clear I don't want to debate any longer the merits of the YLC amendment since I think we've each had our say and we can agree to disagree on this, but I would like to know your view on the new procedure and ask you take the YLC perspective.

I recall you once said: "I think the opposition parties should and must secure a finalization of the political financing question. Now is the time to settle this. Personally, I'd be fine with ending public financing if it comes with a much higher limit on individual donations (say, $10,000) and possibly limited corporate and union donations."

Sure this isn't an all that appropriate parallel, but essentially you were saying that the Liberals should not FIRST support ending public financing UNLESS they KNEW donation limits would be increased.

But LPC wants the YLC to FIRST vote for OMOV without first knowing if their quota (which you can think of as equivalent to raising the donation limit) is kept.

Again I'm not saying the two are exactly parallel [since there are many more merits to keeping public financing than the delegate system :)], but they are the same in the sense that both involve having to endorse something without first knowing if an ESSENTIAL concession (at least from the YLC's point of view) is going to be obtained. And you said quite clearly the LPC should not vote for the end of public financing UNLESS they get that conession, so why would you ask the YLC to do different?

From a procedural point of view, many young Liberals believe (rightly or wrongly) that the end of quotas would do the same thing to the YLC that the end of public financing would to the LPC.

Jeff said...


It is an unusual change in procedure that certainly runs contrary to Roberts Rules, and the procedures of most organizations I've been involved in, ie. student government.

I'd be interested in hearing the reasoning behind the change. And I'm not aware of the timing of the change, so I won't speculate without knowing that what the motivations may be.

It does, however, put the YLC in an interesting position. Do they vote against OMOV for fear their amendment won't pass? Or do they pass OMOV (which I'd argue has broad support across the party) and then hope they can get the 2/3s to pass their amendment?

It's a difficult position, to be sure. But the fairness or unfairness of this rule change aside, I'd argue a YLC decision to outright oppose OMOV would engender a significant backlash. But that's a decision for the YLC to make.

I guess the question also now becomes does the YLC feel it can get 2/3s support for its amendment?

As you're a Liberal member, you may want to continue this debate at En Famille:

Mike said...

Jeff no offense to En Famille and the concept (which I did use to vote in the "consultation" for biennial policies) but I prefer commenting where everyone can see (since in reality I'm not even sure all that many Liberals know about that En Famille thread, it's not a coincidence that they've made dozens on comments on fb to rebut similar points but have made none there).

As well, probably most people who commented on this thread in the first place are being e-mailed this comment so I'd like them to see it as well.

If you doubt my membership though (or that my name is Mike) I could cite for you passages from that En Famille thread or even gladly meet with you at convention to debate it all in person before the vote.

But I'd like to ask what I feel is a perfectly valid question that I think would help you better be able to take a youth's perspective on the new rules. I think anyone against this youth amendment but that supports weighting by riding should ask themselves this too.

Let's say the "main proposal" was actually PURE OMOV. And that the sub-amendment were weighting by riding (and for the sake of argument there were NO other sub-amendments on the table).

Would you vote in favour of passing PURE OMOV BEFORE knowing if the weighting by riding sub-amendment was going to pass?

Because even though you don't agree with them the large majority of LIberal youth see weighting by age as JUST AS IMPORTANT as weighting by riding.

So I would appreciate an honest answer and your reasoning behind it.

Thanks again for engaging in such civil debate (in fact being more civil that I was!) on this issue.