Saturday, September 02, 2006

This Is Democracy?

The first time I joined the Liberal Party, many years ago, it was done at the behest of my father, who was encouraged to signup as many people as possible to get a desired candidate the nomination in my riding. An "instant Liberal" if you will, the process always struck me as more an exercise in gaming the system than true participation in democracy. Now, many years later I have re-joined the party on my own accord, in the hopes of having a small voice in the democratic process. Let's just say, I'm hardly impressed at the way this party apparently operates.

I was offered a seat for the local provincial party executive, primarily to help support the person who originally came to the house to fill out the forms. Fair enough, although I found it quite odd that a new party member could sit on the executive so soon. What I found particularly distasteful was a conversation I had with a local member, wherein I was trying to find out about a Ignatieff appearance in my riding. I was essentially told that if I did attend this brunch to "make sure you mention you are on the executive because Ignatieff will be more likely to talk to you", implying that a mere party member is the equivalent of a serf in the eyes of the elite. BTW, I did speak with Ignatieff, but failed to mention my "credentials"- he was quite engaging.

Fast forward to yesterday, wherein I received a call from another party member concerning my desire to become a delegate at the convention. I asked about the voting process to determine delegates and I must say I was shocked at the response. "Well, Ignatieff already has quite a few delegates, and the problem with our riding is most of the power resides elsewhere, so we don't know how it will all play out". Huh? I don't recall a vote yet, how is it that Ignatieff has already secured delegates? I know the riding head supports Ignatieff, but why does that translate into automatic support? The person also mentioned some of the other candidates had committed delegates, including herself who intended to represent Dryden.

Pardon my ignorance, but I assumed we would have a meeting, wherein everyone votes on preference and delegates are alloted based on percentages. It would appear that "one person, one vote" is a mirage in this instance, as the local powerbrokers are already pulling strings to support their preference. My impression is that you secure the local party leadership and you guarantee support- period. My sense of democracy doesn't quite work this way, nor do I wish to try and manipulate to help my choice (whomever that may be). So, I intend to be present at the "vote", and if it reeks of anti-democratic, insider advantage politics I will make my opinion known. Clearly, it is time for online or mailed voting, with a detached voice to ensure representative democracy. I'm not naive enough to suggest all the parties don't work on the margins, but nor have I found my dealings with this party to be a shining example of equality and open debate. Time to burn down the backroom :)


Walks With Coffee said...

The case may be that in some ridings voters already know who they want as leader - maybe - and the delegate selection is all but a done deal - again, maybe.

What you can count on is that some supporting a particular leader want you to believe that the party faithful already know who is the best choice and that the choice is so obvious as to be a formality.

As for ending up on an exec, positions sometimes go to the guy not fast enough out the door at the end of hte meeting (humour intended).

Anonymous said...

I was also told a similar thing by a fellow liberal in my riding association - Iggy was their candidate of choice - but that was way back in May. Glad I'm not just being paranoid but it smelled rigged to me.

Steve V said...

It certainly sounds like top-down management, as opposed to all this talk about "grassroots".

walks with coffee

At the next meeting, I will be sure to stand near the fire exit ;)

Devon Rowcliffe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve V said...


Sounds good to me! One person, one vote- what a novel idea!

Walks With Coffee said...

steve v wrote, "It certainly sounds like top-down management, as opposed to all this talk about "grassroots"."

nah, just the way politicos communicate their choice (and they may be correct). Regardless, you still get to vote your way for the delegate of your choice. You could also run to be a delegate (but you will have to make up your mind as to your first, second and third choices and get those of like mind to support you). Nevertheless, just because others are pushing their opinions doesn't mean it's "top down". It does mean there is politics going on, which is sort of the idea here :-)

as for standing near the fire exit... maybe also memorize the path to the door just in case the power goes out... better safe than sorry.

Steve V said...

"maybe also memorize the path to the door just in case the power goes out... better safe than sorry."

Good advice all around :)

Robert said...


Steve, I think you'd be a fine addition to any riding association executive committee.

We need more people like you in those positions actually.

Steve V said...

Thanks Robert :)