Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blogger debate video: BCer in Toronto vs. Calgary Grit on primaries

Well, it's the eve of the 2012 Liberal Party of Canada biennial convention and one of the debates generating the most interest and discussion (besides the great #lpc12 vs #ott12 hashtag debate with threatens to tear our fragile party asunder) is the proposal to adopt a primary-style system (see 2, 3, 4 and 12) to pick our next leader.

It would involve creating a new category of non-member, called supporters, who could vote for the Liberal leader if they pledge they're not a member of another party, say they abide by certain Liberal principles, and agree to give us their contact information so we can send them fundraising pitches. As envisioned in the proposal, both members and supporters would cast their votes in a serious of rolling regional votes over as long as seven weeks, timed for maximum media attention.

I'm opposed; I feel its a gimmick unlikely to generate the wave of participation its proponents predict while, at the same time, further devaluing Liberal membership at a time when we need to engage, empower and grow our membership more than ever before. Canadians could care less about how the third-place party picks their leader; they care about their everyday lives and its convincing them that we genuinely care about and will fight for the issues that matter to them that will engage Canadians in the Liberal Party.I also feel our need to be seen to be bold and innovative is leading us to rush into primaries without thinking it through; I'd rather begin with a pilot project on the riding level. At our last convention we brought in bold, innovative change that we haven't even tried yet -- one member, one vote -- which opens up the leadership from a delegated convention to every Liberal member. Let's give it a try.

Proponents, such as my friend Dan "Calgary Grit" Arnold, point to the recent Alberta Liberal primary as a success, and feel the system will both generate the voter identification data critical to modern campaign as well as energize and democratize the Liberal Party, growing our supporter base and earning oodles of free media as our bold experiment captures the attention of Canadians during American Idol's off-season.

Dan and I recently went to a bar, as Liberals are known to do, to debate the issue. Also, stay tuned until the end for our predictions of whether or not the primary proposal will succeed this weekend.

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