We hear a lot of lip service, about engaging the grassroots and the idea of renewal within the Liberal Party. I don’t think anyone would deny that the Liberal Party in its current configuration is a top-down organization, prone to cliques, camps and inner circles. Clearly, there needs to be new approaches and reforms, if the Liberal Party is to adapt to a changing political landscape. If I could offer one reform that would be beneficial, for a host of reasons, it would be that the Party adopt a MANDATORY nomination process for all candidates, in every riding.
I don’t want to criticize Dion, because the practice is now an institution, but the whole of idea of appointed candidates, hand-picked by the leader, parachuted into a riding, is an affront to the grassroots. Are local Liberals not capable enough to decide who is best suited to represent them? How exactly do you energize people on the ground, when they aren’t part of the process? If someone is truly a “star”, why do they need the crutch of appointment? Doesn’t a nomination process demonstrate whether a particular person has the “right stuff”, sharpen the talking points, better represent the feedback from the members? If you are having problems with fundraising, doesn’t a healthy debate motivate people to get involved?
As I recall, Justin Trudeau made out just fine in a contested contest, and I would submit he is a better candidate for the experience. Why does the Liberal Party find in necessary to dictate to the ridings? The Liberals in MacKay’s riding were told there would be no candidate, other ridings have the anointed “star”, while many others must adhere to the idea of the gender quota. Where exactly does the grassroots fit in, where is the local voice? The message is clear, head office calls the shots, now be good little minions and tow the line, father knows best.
If the Liberal Party is really interested in re-building itself from the ground up, then there has to be a clear signal that the ground is important, as opposed to a convenient vehicle for the Party brass. Every local riding should have the final say on a candidate, the stamp of approval. The “inner circle” can suggest, coax, encourage, offer, but not dictate. In this way, no one is alienated, people actually feel important and relevant, and you build a real team.