What I find quite refreshing about Rob Silver- apart from his terrific political instincts- the man understands the gravity of the situation and is positioning himself as a leading voice on the Liberal "reformer" front. For my money, Liberals would be wise to listen to him, that kind of energy and almost revolutionary commitment is SORELY needed moving forward. Yesterday, I read Rob seizing on an Ibbitson idea about having Liberals having American style primaries. I admit, my first instinct was to reject, primarily(oh punny!) because I worry about scenarios that allow for "gaming" of the system by our rivals. However, after letting it settle in, reading Rob's column, there is merit which is worth considering, particularly on the broader point of REFORMING how we pick our candidates.
I've long argued that ridings remind me of little fiefdoms, once someone wins a riding, they purge all dissent, installing a rock solid infrastructure that completely disallows subsequent challenges, at least formidable ones. It is this dynamic which contributes to the ROT in the party, people stay on to long, the same people control ridings, stifling new entrants, new vision, new blood, new ENERGY. I'm completely on board with any reforms that OBLITERATE the current conventions, but that's a wider point.
On the question of primaries, again I agree we need to open up nominations and voting. All to often, the process to become our standard bearer is reduced to marginal tactics and internal "gaming", rather than healthy democracy. A little club, that manipulates to pad the ranks, then restricts to put it back in smaller hands. I've always found it kind of unhealthy, particularly on the "new blood" front. I'd use the analogy of compost, if you just put it out and let it sit, it doesn't really work, you must constantly turn and change the composition to get a final product that optimizes eventual growth.
The one caveat with primaries, how to ensure our opponents don't bastardize the intent. I don't see massive numbers like down south, which suggest ample reason to worry about a motivated opponent base reeking havoc. One idea I have to further Silver's point, that respects my concerns, what about an open primary, with the stipulation you can't be a member of another political party and/or donated to any party other than the Liberals in the last year or two? Logistically, I'm not sure that is "on", but in this way you eliminate naked manipulation and you don't really "close" to the general public. Anyone who is a member of another party, or donates, is very unlikely to be receptive to the Liberals, so no danger of excluding potential voters, with the added bonus of keeping the process a "cleaner" presentation. Donations are readily available on the EC site, not sure about member lists, this may be a non starter, but worth considering.
Let's open up the process, I for one open to radical ideas, but not just for reforms sake. Upon reflection, the concept of an open primary has some merit that we should flesh out. We would just need some measures in place to keep certain interests from manipulating and making a mockery. One thing is clear, although I won't agree with everything, people like Silver have the right idea on where this party needs to go if truly is to survive.