Saturday, January 07, 2012

Endorsing a roadmap from an old Liberal executive before electing a new one

Over the last few days I’ve dissected the 36 proposed amendments to the Liberal constitution that delegates will consider a the biennial in Ottawa, and I’ve taken a look at 10 of the more semi-interesting policy resolutions on the agenda.

We’ll also be asked to endorse the “roadmap to renewal” document prepared by the national board, which contains a number of resolutions asking the delegates to endorse decisions taken by the board or urge take certain directions in assorted reform-related issues. It’s important to note that, by my read, the actions in these resolutions are largely things the board has the direction to do on its own (with the exception of the constitutional amendments dealt with separately), with or without the endorsement of the membership. And as these aren’t constitutional amendments, only a simple majority is needed for passage.

So, in a sense these resolutions are largely symbolic. There are two ways of looking at this exercise. The more charitable one is that the board is presenting a vision for party reform, gathered after its own consultative process, and is seeking an endorsement/mandate from the delegates for this planned vision of party reform. The less charitable way would be to say any consultation has been minimal and rushed with more media leaks than member engagement, pushed down on the membership by a lame duck board that won’t be in a position to implement any of this and is seeking to bind the incoming board (to be elected in Ottawa) to a vision when they’re probably campaigning on their own ideas.

Personally, I feel it’s a little of column a and a little of column b. I believe the current board does genuinely want to put its vision forward, and I think we should discuss it. But I think it feels rushed and top down, and asking us to vote on it is unnecessary. Let’s discuss the range of options and move forward with a new executive and a new, more consultative process with ideas following up as well as down. (The LPCO resolution for a renewal commission is suddenly more attractive to me) The way this is presented seemingly seeks to put an end to a process that is really just beginning. So I’m not comfortable with this process.
That said, the Roadmap PDF is here (the resolutions are sprinkled throughout). They’ll be discussed in a Q&A session “sense of the convention” on Friday afternoon which competes with several other break-outs, and then voted Saturday at noon in the main hall. Comments on process aside, here are my thoughts on the specifics of what’s on offer. I’m ignoring those that discuss constitutional amendments because I’ve addressed those separately, as constitutional amendments.

2. That the Convention endorse the decision to build and maintain the “Strong Start” campaign, a special cash reserve for the purpose of promoting and defending its next permanent Leader;

I’d like to know more first about what I’m being asked to endorse here. Just what does this “Strong Start” campaign involve, how much cash are we talking, and how are you going to raise it? I agree allowing the Conservatives to bombard us with negative ads is one of the reasons we’ve had such a hard time the past two elections; we started with a handicap. That said, we’re not going to be able to match Conservative spending in a pre-writ ad war. If you can convince me you have a tactical strategic plan to counter the inevitable attacks, I’m inclined to be supportive.  If the price is right, of course.

I’m currently undecided but supportive in spirit.

3. That the Convention endorse a special, nationally co-ordinated, all-electoral district fundraising campaign in the spring of 2012 with the sole target of raising funds to enable the Party to make the investments required to fast-track the deployment, population and utilization of its universal database technology (i.e. Liberalist) in support of national and local organization, communication and fundraising efforts;

This sounds great on the surface. Database technology is critical to modern campaigning, and we need to get better in this area. And that costs money. But here’s the thing. This is two resolutions in a row now that propose major fundraising operations, with all of the money being sucked up to the national level. My concern is that Ottawa is going to tap-out the donor base and leave the riding associations dry. And ridings need to do their own fundraising to fund trivial little things like signs, literature, advertising and other local campaign expenses. And central already sucks up money through keeping much of the campaign expense refunds and requiring a fee for a riding services package of usually limited local value. The preamble had language about the importance of EDAs, and while they will benefit from the technology (which we already paid for in the last election’s riding services package, and probably will in the next one too), so far all I see is a lot of money going to Ottawa. That has me concerned.

I’m currently undecided.

4. That the Convention endorse the decision of the Party to establish, properly support and enforce targets with respect to Victory Fund and Laurier Club participation in all electoral districts, with such targets to be set in consultation with the EDAs based upon a national goal of doubling participation in both programs in each of the ensuing 3 years by July 1 of each year;

OK, now I`ve graduated from concerned to annoyed, and maybe even peeved. After two major spending initiatives at the national level , we get Ottawa demanding the ridings pay for Ottawa’s spending spree by requiring they go out and raise money and send most of it to Ottawa (Laurier cash is 100% Ottawa, and Victory Fund 50% to Ottawa). Instead of perhaps working *with* EDAs to help them fundraise for both local and national needs, Ottawa wants to unilaterally hand-down orders to the ridings on how much cash they’re required to send to Ottawa. Oh, and punish them if they don’t meet their quotas. Yeah, I’m sorry but no. This is indicative of the top-down attitude this party needs to lose. Work with ridings and support their local efforts, don’t treat them as cash cows to be milked. And I don’t like the idea of board members in Ottawa who have never been to Northern Vancouver Island telling our executive how many Laurier Club members they need to find at $1000/pop if they want to avoid execution. It’s ridiculous.

I’m voting no.

6. That the Convention mandate each EDA to undertake a comprehensive and nationally-supported voter registration drive in its electoral district between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013 to recruit new Members and Supporters;

This is fine in spirit, but again the language speaks volumes about the attitude that resonates throughout the resolutions in this document: mandating EDAs to do things. At least they toss in a line about national support; I want to know more about what that will actually entail.

I’m currently undecided.

9. That the Convention affirm the principle of requiring all LPC candidates for the House of Commons in any election or by-election to face an open nomination contest in their electoral districts in order to stand for election as an LPC Candidate in any election or by-election, subject to the Board’s right to approve specified exceptions to the rule at the request of and on the recommendation of the Leader.

This resolution is such a meaningless farce that it’s a shame it will be printed on even recycled paper. Never mind restricting or ending appointments – this is the opposite. Basically it says open nominations are great, unless the leader and the board want to appoint some hack or so-called star, so please delegates, confirm the status quo. It’s a pathetic attempt to appear to support open nominations to someone that doesn’t pay too close attention. If the board really did support open nominations, they’d have put a constitutional amendment on the table. But they didn’t. There’s only amendment that comes close to restricting appointments (and not neat far enough for my liking) and it came from the Ontario wing (see #21), not the national board. This is a farcical status quo resolution with no place in a supposed renewal document.

I’m voting no.

10. That the Convention affirm the Party’s decision to maintain a permanent virtual and real-time policy development process accessible to all Members and Supporters of the Party through its website, with management of the process and content delegated to volunteer expert policy working groups to be organized, maintained and supported by Caucus critics, assisted by Caucus staff;

Is this happening? Is this the web site with the stale policy resolutions and comment boards? That’s fine I suppose, but while the online stuff is nice what we really need is more in person policy workshops and debates. As I’ve said before, we need a complete overhaul of the policy process to make it inclusive and actually relevant to the platform we run on. This resolution just says “here’s a web site you kids can go play in.”

I’ll vote yes because it’s harmless, if woefully inadequate.

11. That the Convention endorses a streamlining of Party decision-making and operations as follows…(truncated because it’s really long, check the PDF for the text).

This is a long one with eight different items all under the general headline of streamlining decision-making, which in effect means setting out which level of the party (primarily, the national level and the provincial wings) does what. For example, uploading banking and compliance functions to head office. If that’s proven more cost-effective then it makes sense and I’m onboard. It envisions the PTA focus shifting more to helping the riding associations build their membership and resources, a focus which has been lacking until now in this  document. It envisions setting provincial targets for Laurier Club and Victory Fund members although, unlike with the EDAs, there’s actually talk of cooperation on setting the numbers. It talks about hiring field workers to help EDAs, who would report to both the PTA and Ottawa. As long as they work with (and not dictate to) *all* ridings, not just a target list drawn up in Ottawa, I like it.

I’ll vote yes, somewhat on faith.

12. That the Convention endorse the Party’s decision to appoint a Director of Digital Operations accountable to the Board to oversee the development, maintenance and utilization of the Party’s unified communications platform.

It’s curious that this person is reporting specifically to the board, and not the national director. This reads like a mash-up of buzz-words; I want to know more about just what they plan for this position and what systems are involved before deciding if this is flash or substance.

I’m undecided.

13. That the Convention endorse the Party’s decision to consolidate and integrate:
(i) all Party organizational and fundraising data into a single database; and
(ii) all technology operations at the National Office of the Party where feasible

14. That the Convention endorse the Party’s decision to fast-track the deployment, population and utilization of its universal database technology in support of LPC’s national and local organization, communication and fundraising efforts based on an implementation and investment plan to be approved by the Board.

Does the biennial convention really need to take the time to weigh-in on your database choices and the roll-out schedule from development to production? Just go and do it, fellas.

I’m voting yes but wondering why I’m voting on this at all.

17. That the Convention endorses the Party’s request that the new permanent Leader of the Party be requested to reconstitute NERC no later than September 1, 2013.

It took me a few seconds to translate NERC as National Election Readiness committee, at which point I was pissed-off NERC wasn’t some kind of secret red election-winning robot. Anyway, sure, get that sucker up and running and lets start recruiting, screening and nominating candidates.

I’m voting yes on this one.

18. That the Convention endorse the Party’s request that nominations for LPC electoral district candidates be opened (i.e. the freeze be lifted) no earlier than October 15, 2013.

What I said a second ago.

I’m voting yes.

19, That the Convention endorses the Party’s request that the next Biennial Convention of the Party be focuses on the policy and platform of LPC and be held no later than May 30, 2014.

I trust the typo will be fixed at some point. Anyway, we pick a leader in 2013 so I’m not sure what else the biennial would be focused on besides what conventions are always focused on: policy, constitutional amendments and executive elections (pending several  constitutional amendments under consideration) and sipping root beer in hospitality suites. If calling out policy is meant to mean prioritizing it over election readiness, then I have a problem with that. We need to do both. Yes, policy has been overlooked for too long. I want a strong focus on policy too. But we’ll also be one year from a campaign. We can, and must, do both. But I’m probably just quibbling with language. I’m fine on the timing, but I’d love to see a straw poll on host city. My top three: Halifax, Quebec City or, if we’ve finally annexed them, Turks and Caicos.

I’m voting yes.

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A Eliz. said...

I read something about the Young Liberals denouncing the Queen..I hope this gets fixed..lose a great many voteas on that!

Quito said...

Thanks for posting this Jeff, some good thoughts. One comment on the targets and enforcement of Laurier Club and Victory Fund...LPC since 2009 has taken an ever larger percentage of all cash that comes in and that is fine as long as we know what they are spending it on. Fact is, more accountability is needed in this party on the part of the EDA's and riding Presidents need to be given incentives and clear direction to be active or move on....there are many riding Executives that take the positions and are inactive. But...the party, the leaders office, the executive MUST also be accountable to the EDA's and make sure our efforts and the resources we provide are not spent foolishly. The Executive and by extension, the party office and leaders office is asking a lot in this "roadmap to renewal" of it's members....but it isn't offering much back in return. Accountability is a two way conversation, not a monologue as you know.

marie said...

I agree with Quinto. We have to have a new Liberal party that is up front to their members and to all Canadians. one that can communicated with all of us especially through the media. We do not want to fall into the Harper's hidden agendas nor their lies and bulling.

BTW I happen to like the Royal family and I am sure I am not the only one. I would hate for us denounce the Queen.

WE need a new Liberal party that is able to communicate with their member's and we definitely need new blood leading the pack. I like Bob Rae and especially more so that the Harper regime are I think a little scared to see him become the Liberal leader. That is very telling. He can control Harper to a point and the Media does give him a lot of air time.

I will be checking in often to read your blogs of the happenings at the convention.

Good Luck at the convention. Cheers to you all. Marie

Jeff said...

A. Eliz,

On the queen, check my previous post on 10 policies that caught my eye, I talk about that one there.


I agree, as I read more and more of the roadmap it became increasingly clear it was about the national level taking from, not helping or working with, the EDAs. I agree with the problem of closed or inactive EDAs -- I have lots of experience with that -- and I want that addressed. But it does need to be cooperative, and this document doesn't seem to share that feeling.

Thanks Marie, lots of blogging ahead! Between the parties, that is... :)