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Liberals should replace the leadership convention.

I’ve seen this being mentioned elsewhere on blogs and in at least 1 newspaper article (though where escapes me at the moment as I search for it), but there’s been some talk on whether the Liberal Party should replace the traditional Leadership Convention (some would call it anachronistic) that uses delegates to choose Liberal leaders, with something a bit more democratic and a bit more modern – something like “One Member, One Vote”, where all party members would have the chance to elect their leader, and not just several hundred delegates (and allow those members to vote for the candidates from their own riding and even from their own home).

I think I’m in agreement with those who are in the OMOV movement for the following reasons:

a) The obvious democratic implications of allowing all party members a say, rather then a select few.

b) It seems to me that it would be a lot less expensive for the LPC to hold, as well as cut out the costs for delegates who in some cases are paying several hundred dollars (and sometimes more) for attending the convention through travel, delegate fees, and so on.

Now, there are some who have concerns that a pure One member, One vote system would favour large riding associations in urban centres, and that their advantage in numbers would give disproportionate power to large urban ridings (such as those in Toronto), and disproportionate power in electing a new Liberal leader. The other fear is that any leadership candidates would probably not bother visiting any other regions of the country (ie rural ridings) when they knew all they’d have to do is sway LPC members in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, where the majority of delegates would be in a pure OMOV system.

Jeff Jedras’s solution to that is enacting a weighted One Member One Vote voting system, which he explains:

..each riding association (is) granted the same number of leadership votes, with those votes apportioned based on the votes of its members, whether it be 100 or 1000 members. In this way, urban and rural ridings are equal, and must be equally wooed by leadership contenders

That seems reasonable enough to me, and it also seems reasonable to me that if the Liberals really want to reach the grassroots and give them more of a say in the party, this would be one big way to do it. It would mean Liberal leaders or potential ones would have to pay attention to all areas of the country, it’s more democratic, and it’s quite frankly more practical from, a cost point of view.


10 comments to Liberals should replace the leadership convention.

  • Neil

    I think we should look at a form of primaries.
    We have a series of mini conventions accross the country say BC then the maritimes, then the praries, then quebec then Ontario. We make each primary worth a certain number of points (electoral votes) based on pop. We make the voting done by phone but have a one or two day conference in each of the locations with debates at each convention on succesive weekends, so the whole thing takes 5 weeks, People can have their conventions but at a much reduced cost, we have debates focused on specific regions, we have intense media interest on the horse race and it energizes the party in all of those locations.
    It would TOTALLY rock.

  • Mike

    “End the women’s and aboriginal people’s commision, stop calling for a quota of female candidates and make it one member one vote. ”
    Yeah great solution after the last election saw the Liberals lose a big chunk of the women’s vote and Aboriginal turnout declined.

    I believe all 3 commissions (YLC, Women’s, Aboriginals), opposed OMOV vote last time (someone can correct me if I’m mistaken).

    What’s your solution to that Scott? Wouldn’t you agree that OMOV would be more likely to pass if those 3 commissions could encourage their members to support it? After all women will make 50% of the elected delegate spots at the next convention, youth 33% and Aborignals 7%. It needs 2/3 support from delegates not just a majority to pass remember.

  • Hi Alison,

    You stated: “as it was explained to me voting reform could only be raised at this Lib convention in order to vote on it at the following Lib convention. I hope that isn’t the case. Do you know?”

    My reply is:

    Where there’s a will there’s a way. It’s that simple.

    Although I have not looked into the mechanics (if requested by the Liberal Party, I would be glad to – I might even do it on a volunteer basis) I have enough experience that I am confident that where everyone is so motivated it could be done. I would sincerely question anyone at the top in the Liberal Party who says it is not possible and I as far as I am concerned such statements only support, whether by design or otherwise, the resistance to change.

    The fact of the matter is that the powers that be in the Liberal Party do not, in my estimation, want to change the system since that would represent a lose of power and influence. They, apparently, are prepared to have the Liberal Party sink rather than do the right thing and change it – i.e. if they change it, they for certain lose power, if they don’t there is a chance the Liberal Party will survive and they will reap the benefits. I would be very surprised if the general membership, at the grass roots, subscribes to this strategy.

    It must be kept in mind that at the last convention it was the elite of the party that attended – the method if selecting delegates, extremely high registration fee and travel expenses ensured this. This system allows the elite to maintain control. They voted to have the next leadership convention and vote done in the same way – surprise, surprise.

    Dion winning was a direct result of this. Because Kennedy was supported by a relatively few number of people (compared to the general membership) and they were, apparently, very closely knit, he was able to swing virtually all his support (they say approx 92%) to Dion. This swing was not based on what the general membership wanted or whether Dion was considered a good leader generally, but politically motivated by the ambitions of a few people. Don’t get me wrong, I think Dion is a good guy. But the issue is whether he is a leader, not where he is a nice guy and the general membership of the Liberal Party had no real input to his being elected. Had they, then perhaps this issues of whether Dion resonated with the people of Canada would have come to the forefront, as it ought in a leadership race.

    Apparently simply withholding their votes (900,000 or 800,000, according to source), during the election does not put enough pressure on the powers that be in the Liberal Party to compel them to anything but lip service to democratic, grass roots change.

    If the members of the party, at the grass roots level, stand up and be counted, the powers that be will have to listen.

    Hope this is not too long. But you can read my posting in full on this issue at:

    Lloyd MacIlquham,

  • If I could muddy the waters a little, I don’t agree with a weighted OMOV.

    The problem works the other way too — while some would be concerned about smaller ridings being overwhelmed, how many members in a riding constitute a riding association?

  • In reply to “Liberals should replace the leadership convention. “

    I posted a quite in depth discussion of the issue you raise on my Blog on 2 Nov.’08:

    “Liberal Leadership Race – As far as Gerard Kennedy throwing support to Dion.”


    On 14 Nov ’08 I posted a response to the G&M article “Dropping gloves early, Rae walks out on forum”

    …At least Bob Rae is on the right track. He should go that step further and suggest that there should be a number of votes – one for each province and where it is not the delegates that votes but the grass roots of the party. Each of these votes produces a number of delegates for each candidate. I know, it sounds familiar. But, it is a very successful formula for democratic participation and getting people at the individual level involved and [engaged]. Who knows perhaps if people feel they are involved and their opinions count they may even decide to support the party and actually vote Liberal come election day – and that’s a good thing.


    On or about 29 Oct I sent an E-mail to Greg Fergus, National Director, Liberal Party of Canada, upon his invitation to send feedback, regarding the very issue you mentioned:

    (the essence of which is set out below see below).

    If I recall I also sent a similar E-mail Douglas Ferguson, upon similar prompting.

    I sent another E-mail to Greg Fergus, on around 11 Nov.’08, asking for his reply.

    I have, as yet, received no reply from either to this issue


    (edited for length: People can read the article at your own blog- Scott)

  • We are in crisis with a neo con government in Ottawa and the Liberal Party is going to give us something other than a lame duck leader in MAY? Six months from now, seven months from the election.

  • There needs to be an end to affirmative action within the Liberal party. End the women’s and aboriginal people’s commision, stop calling for a quota of female candidates and make it one member one vote.

  • Not a Lib myself but as it was explained to me voting reform could only be raised at this Lib convention in order to vote on it at the following Lib convention.
    I hope that isn’t the case. Do you know?

    • @Alison

      That unfortunately is the case. The Liberal Constitution states as such, and I don’t see how we could get around it – particularly since the measure was voted down by delegates in 2006.

  • Jeff’s idea is sorta democratic. I would go the whole hog with one person one vote, period. The party’s actual policy would be developed by the leader and his team, so an Ontario-centric membership (for example) wouldn’t necessarily entail policy biased towards Central Canada.

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