Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Liberal Buzzword: "Renewal"

Right out of the gate, Dominic LeBlanc puts the focus on Liberal party "renewal". Expect to hear all the candidates speak to the concept, akin to the nauseating "change" mantra of our American cousins. Everyone agrees that the Liberal Party is in need of reform, but the crucial point for me, who best articulates "renewal" in a substantive way, who puts meat to the bone, beyond easy platitudes and generalities.

We've heard it before, it was only a couple years ago that various candidates spoke to the need for "renewal", but in the final analysis, nothing really came of the rhetoric. In my mind, that failure to translate words to action is the greatest regret of the Dion reign. There was no sense whatsoever of a comprehensive plan to re-energize and expand the grassroots, make the party more egalitarian, less elitist, no direction in terms modernization and outreach. Maybe we ask too much, but the harsh reality, little evidence of even incremental evolution, it's still pretty much status quo.

Leblanc is wise to seize the "renewal" mantra, because I suspect many will see the other principles as representative of the Liberal establishment, the word brings an outsider flavor that will resonate with rank and file. But, I think we need to be careful, it's not about generational change or fancy slogans, no matter the candidate, who brings a real understanding of the institutional challenges, who demonstrates a depth and the drive to really make it a focus, rather than a convenient talking point.

I have plenty of real world ideas, and from what I gather, many ordinary Liberals are starting to express their concepts for moving forward. Rather than a pat on the head, it will be interesting to see who presents detail, a firm timetable, a credible plan. Within that discussion, obviously policy will be key, but it must go beyond simple arguments of appealing to different constituents.

The heart of the discussion, revolves around a simple practicality, MONEY. It's fine to articulate lofty ideals for "renewal", but any real application is dependent on cold, hard cash, it's all irrelevant, if you don't have the machine to drive the concepts.

I read yesterday, that only 5% of Liberals give to the party on a regular basis, a fact which is both a positive and a negative. That figure means there is a latent pool of support that already exists, the need to bring new membership not as crucial as first blush would suggest. That doesn't preclude a plan to draw in new members, but it means that the first step is motivating what already exists. Who steps forward with practical ideas to change the present apathy?

Rather than go through a leadership process, which effectively puts on hold the "renewal" until after the captain is chosen, I want to see if any of the candidates begin the practical now, give us something we can point to in their riding, as a template for the greater party. In other words, rather than taking to the stump to win over support, let's hope we see some multi-tasking, wherein a candidate can demonstrate some example of how the rhetoric meets the road. What strategies are you employing in your corner of the national party, what innovative ideas are you bringing to the table, what's working and why? Something you can put in a resume, rather than an essay. Everyone will seize the "renewal" agenda, it's a trendy necessity, but practical application, with a comprehensive depth, will move us beyond simple pandering.


Anonymous said...

Correction the new Liberal buzzword is "Iggy". Renewal is tied into that.

Anonymous said...

Iggy will be a disaster for the Liberals. Where was his "renewal" platform last time??
It is a sad time to be a Liberal.

Susan said...

Dion was about renewal - he started with women and a new focus on governing for people and the planet and a whole new approach to economic development, but the old guard would have not of it. And when he tried to freshen up some old guard ridings, they ran whining to the press. We need a system that makes the local ridings more accountable to their members and to the party for delivering the goods, and a mechanism for cleaning house if they don't. And they need to have a means of censuring the renegade idiots like Heard. I am not saying autocratic but accountable all the way up.

Jennifer Smith said...

I would argue that money vs. policy is a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Yes, you need money to sell your policies, but you also need bold ideas and/or personalities to inspire the grassroots to open their wallets. One without the other is bound to fail.

The Obama campaign isn't raking in the dough and energizing the grassroots just because they have a flashy website and a high tech database. A lot of it is Obama himself, but a lot of it is that millions of people are finally convinced that their money, their volunteer efforts and their vote will actually make a difference.

Repackaging the same old safe, prudent Liberal Party just isn't going to cut it. Fortune favours the bold, but only if the whole party apparatus gets behind it.

Anonymous said...

I think Jennifer Smith hit on it.

That's why MI is so appealing. Much like Obama he can deliver on all fronts.

Anonymous said...

I think Jennifer Smith hit on it.

That's why MI is so appealing. Much like Obama he can deliver on all fronts.

Anonymous said...

An excellent, thought provoking entry, as always. You've articulated the "show, don't tell" rule of communication in your call for candidates to translate words into action. What the party really seems to be lacking is creativity and looking at problems and policy from many different angles that would allow for real renewal and some fresh ideas. Imagine if a candidate came out of the gate promising to run the cheapest campaign in Liberal history and challenging the others to spend less not more. Setting a target to raise as much if not more money for the party as they do for their own campaign, so every dollar for the campaign brings a dollar for the party war chest. I used these examples with some Liberal friends last night and we had fun brainstorming how you would run a campaign on as little money as possible, one idea was conducting virtual town halls to get a candidate seen by Liberals all over the country without spending gazillions on travel using modern technology of video conferencing, skype, etc. The theory being that we're in an economic down turn and we shouldn't be asking our membership to finance the Leadership race so instead an underdog candidate could "walk the walk" and create a really interesting campaign turning a negative into a positive. I'd be more inclined to dig deep in my depleted bank account for someone who showed initiative and creativity and also had showed they had respect for the limitations of my real world finances.

Anonymous said...

MI is no Obama, far, far, far from it.

Chrystal Ocean said...

Great suggestions about what be contained in that resume.

As a Liberal watcher, but not member, the renewal which most interests me is electoral reform - and not the Alternative Vote, which Dion favours.

Should a leadership candidate come forward with a policy that puts a citizen-driven process of electoral reform front and centre, and with conviction, then I'd listen.

Scott Tribe said...

That is one reason Liberal 308 was formed (or "10 + 3" as I prefer to think of it as) - to press the Liberal Party and/or it's potential leadership candidates to support wholesale structural and organizational reforms (and you have a standing invite to join the Facebook group, Steve :) )

Steve V said...


I agree with you on creativity, and I would use the last campaign as an example. While we ran a capable, gaffe free campaign, it was pretty much cookie cutter stuff, predictable, not terribly innovative or displaying any capacity to think outside of the box. A little too conventional methinks, it's time to be bold and break new ground on many fronts.

Anonymous said...

I think Susan hit the nail on the head.

If Dion could have had more support he clearly had the vision to which renewal could begun around. Now, we are stuck with a leadership race, no money, and probably a few years internal strife ahead of us.

I will be surprised if the next leader can hold on to as many seats as we've got now. Dion on the other hand would have been positioned as a leader in waiting (providing he could address some of his weaknesses that appeared during the last campaign).

There is not one possible leadership contender that excites me at all right now and few who could possibly drive me away.

Steve V said...

With all due respect to Dion, the first time I heard anything genuinely passionate on renewal was his presser to announce the resignation. YES, Dion did a few things, but there was nothing that spoke to institutional change, in anyway that I recall. If someone can point me to any speeches Dion gave, I'm all ears, but apart from a few token gestures, I never saw what Kennedy desired come to fruition. The only excuses I can surmise, he did lack support in the ranks and the party was continually put on election readiness footing, which may have undercut any real thrust.

Cari said...

Michael ignatieff is 20 years older.. than Dominic Leblanc Ignatieff 20 years ago,he was closer to Obama. He did have charisma then.

Dr. Tux said...

Dion was about renewal, just not the type of renewal you're thinking of here.

Dion was for renewal in terms of how government approaches problems - through an approach that brings together environment, economics and social justice. Through greater emphasis on gender equality in the house, etc.

Dion didn't really have as much of a bold plan and innovative plan for party renewal, other than getting more women involved.

It would be nice to find a candidate who can put forward credible plans for both party and government renewal.

Steve V said...


That's sort of what I mean, Dion had ideas, just nothing that really appealed to fundraising and re-engaging the grassroots by shifting party structure.