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The case is made for the Liberal Party to adopt primaries to pick leaders

As those politically inclined know, the Liberal Party is holding a convention in Ottawa this weekend, where delegates will be voting to elect different candidates to various party positions, and also to vote on several different policy resolutions. One of those is to adopt a US primary-style system to open up a Liberal leadership vote to potentially hundreds of thousands of Canadians, rather then the 1000 or so delegates that have traditionally done it.

I’ve not had a strong opinion really one way or the other on this one, though it would serve the purpose of opening up the voting system to more Canadians. I’ve read a column by the Star’s Bob Hepburn, arguing for the Liberals to adopt this system, that has me “leaning” towards thinking it might not be a bad idea:

Despite their many flaws and bitterly fought battles, U.S. primaries are fabulous exercises in democracy, sparking widespread voter excitement, massive news coverage and generally producing a presidential candidate “acceptable” to most party supporters. Over the past two decades, dozens of states have implemented open primaries, mainly to build the parties from the grassroots. Voters take the primaries seriously, with huge turnouts…

…Primaries aren’t perfect, but are more democratic than anything now used by Canadian parties. They get millions of voters involved; they test the abilities and intelligence of candidates; they allow challengers time to recover from an early setback; they remove the final say of who will lead the party from the hands of a small group of party insiders and loyalists.

The last argument is the most appealing to me: anything that opens up the voting system like this and removes “inside politics” of choosing a leader is nothing but a good thing. We’ve read in the news the more controversial policy resolutions (ie legalizing marijuana, removing the Queen as head of state), but this one seems to me to be one of the more inportant indicators about whether the Liberal Party wants to do something bold to regain its way.




5 comments to The case is made for the Liberal Party to adopt primaries to pick leaders

  • Stan

    Power Corp will choose the new leader, same as they chose the last few.

  • Observer


    If you listened only to pundits or politicians, one might mistakenly think all ideas come only from America and nowhere else.

    I guess this is the price you pay for inundating one’s media and airwaves with news and stories from another country rather than with news and stories from your own.

    Nevertheless, it would be simpler to have one vote per party member and no delegates at all.

  • Stan

    Ahh yes, the liberal party appointed an American as leader, now they are adopting more American ideas.

    If the Conservatives walk by an American the liberals go nuts.

    Thanks for the laughs guys!
    Way to reap the anti-American bigotry you sowed for years.
    Or haven’t you figured that one out yet?

  • Historian Christopher Moore has argued that a return to the (pre-1919) method of choosing a (House) leader by elected MPs would restore power and influence to backbenchers.

    See these two items:

    “Come Together” in Canada’s History June-July 2011

    “Our Hidden History” in Literary Review of Canada July/August 2011

    Here is a quote from the 2nd of these sources:

    “On this central question of parliamentary accountability, we today live once again in something like pre-1848 conditions. What Canadian party leader ever cedes power because his or her caucus is changing its mind? Today we accept that any party leader who wins a majority has, not constant accountability, but a four-year free hand, during which any caucus member who doubts or disagrees will be put out of caucus and probably out of politics. We have replaced LaFontaine and Baldwin’s hard-won achievement of leadership accountability with the perverse idea that legislators are once more accountable to leaders, rather than the other way around. Where the backbenchers concluded in 1851 that they could dispense in mid term with the services of the two greatest leaders of a generation—and did—today’s members of Parliament accept that they must be the only people in the country with no political opinions of their own, just passive supporters for whatever leader extra-parliamentary processes have imposed on them.”

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