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 :)