Sunday, June 19, 2011

From Here to Eternity

Job one for Liberals at the extraordinary convention was to stop the madness of a quick leadership vote. However, it seems we have gone from one extreme to another with a surprisingly long two year wait. I'm ready to move on with what was decided, but a few observations that I think relevant moving forward.

Almost immediately after the election, we heard of this "overwhelming" support for delaying a leadership race for two years. The trouble with the assertions, it mostly seemed to come from party brass. I have formally questioned that argument, because there appears a serious disconnect from sentiment I've seen and read from grassroots Liberals. In fact, if I were a betting man, I would have put all my chips on a compromised option, between a snap leadership and endless waiting. But, there are other forces at play and I submit yesterday's vote as symptomatic of a reality that needs reform moving forward. Not a sour grapes perspective, but important to know how things go down with the Liberal Party of Canada, and why that isn't necessarily attractive moving forward.

I note Scott speaks to a push from party brass on the two year option, which fits my perception. Again, I'm not going to belabour this point moving forward, but Liberals should understand that once again we have a top down thrust, a structure which handicaps the true reform spirit which is imperative for survival. Yesterday, Rob Silver tweeted after the vote that online sentiment sure wasn't representative of the Liberal vote. One could argue that the online Liberal community is different from the membership in general, but if you look at the demographics, various breakdowns, it appears to me entirely representative of the wider population. The fact we saw such a wide chasm between opinions expressed and ultimate vote, let's look at this with a critical eye, because it's important. This isn't to question the democratic component of this vote, merely the influence and manoeuvring behind the scenes to support certain wants, from powerful quarters.

I think two years is decidedly long, and I predict a stall at some point, Liberals spinning their wheels in wait mode. Why? I don't believe in the leadership messiah thesis, but at a certain point we need a pitchman, we need someone to rally behind and galvanize all the ideas swirling around. Liberals need time to develop reforms, but a leadership race doesn't exclude this process, in fact candidates become vessels for various perspectives. That said, we are where we are now, and I'll get behind the process in a positive fashion. However, I will not gloss over how we suddenly moved to the most extreme option during this vote, because at the root of this result offers a revealing clue as to where true reform must start.


debalap said...

I completely agree!

I was disgusted with what I saw being typed. It was obvious a certain 'team' and their minions were trying to manipulate the vote.

In my opinion, MPs are supposed to do what we tell THEM - not the other way around. Seems some haven't figured that out.

When I expressed with disgust on Twitter, a known Lib responded that "everyone has a voice".

If that's how the Liberals plan to move forward - if that's what they call "grassroots" building - I'll have to reconsider my membership.

Steve V said...

It was democratic, but I think more a statment on how influence works in this party. We're still dealing with the old ways, I have some optimism that will change in the years ahead. If it doesn't we're done anyways...

Shiner said...

I think the Libs need to get over the idea of a magical grassroots revival at some point. I listened in yesterday on the website and watched the discussion feed... lots of talk of renewal and some super leader appearing from the ether out of this *seriously* deep discussion everyone is talking about (but nobody seems to actually start).

The CPC has a model that works, even the NDP seems to be copying it. Liberals should too, but instead are focused on fuzzy nonsense about a grassroots revolution that will never take place.

Calgary Junkie said...

He [Dion] predicted the Tories will try to do to the next leader what they did to him and Mr. Ignatieff, define the person “in a very negative way,...

My take is that Dion is mainly trying to motivate Liberal donors. That's fine, nothing wrong with that. But I disagree that we Tories will go after the next Liberal leader anywhere near to the same extent we did with Dion and Ignatieff.

The most we will do with the next Liberal leader is take a few minor shots, related to prior leftwing policy positions. It won't make much strategic sense for us to beat up on the third place leader.
Harper wants to get re-elected way, way more than he wants to "destroy the LPC", as some have said.

If you look at the final days of the last campaign, our attack ads targeted the NDP Party, with no mention of Jack. I suspect we will continue in that approach, as Jack is too well regarded by the Dipper base. It's the NDP, socialist brand, which is the much better "scary" target for us.

sharonapple88 said...

Going through my notes... I believe the big guys coming for number three were Denis Coderre and Stephane Dion. Still, there were a lot of people speaking during the debate for support of number three. A lot. (I'll apologise for being a coward and not speaking up. Sorry, won't happen again. I will admit to swearing quite loudly after the results of the vote were in. ;P I know... what good does that do? Not much.)

I have no idea what people supporting amendment three (the one that past) were thinking. Yeah, I heard their reasoning, but, I'm still not convinced.

If we get anothe chance, I hope anyone who's even slightly interested will jump in. Volunteer, what's the worst that can happen? It was fun (yeah, I'm a political geek). Get a speaker phone though -- it's one long call. :P

Steve V said...


Interesting to note, our current PM is the result of a grassroots revolution that will never take place. Also, that magical grassroots revival is responsible for 80% of donations, so next time we get hammered, remember that. We either have said grassroots revival or we die, it's as simple as that.

sharonapple88 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WILLY said...

I too was not in favour of the extended 3rd option that was proposed by a member from BC, that won out and although Jeff gave a good presentation of his amendment, I opted for the original proposal. Jeff had good support in the comments until the third option was proposed and I really did not even realize it was Dion presenting the third amendment until someone commented.

There seemed to be little to no support to not modify the constitution, so it became a matter of how long to delay and in the end the longer the better won out. I saw no manipulation of the comments by the "brass" and the only time I recognized current or former MPs names come up was during the wait time, during tabulation of the votes and they were simple statements like voted for 1 etc.

Overall there was less intervention from Party officials that I would of expected and though Dion might have had a greater impact than a regular member, he did not mention the attacks in the details he stated in the interviews after and pretty much stuck to a script explaining the reasoning of the originators of the amendment.

Although new to all this group think thing :), I am usually not fooled by power plays and manipulation, and I believe that the result was truly the decision of the membership in attendance and as they stated at the beginning 2700 members applied to be delegates and no one was turned down, They ended up with 2100 people on line and that was the majority decision.

As for the party being scared BS, well that is just rhetoric. As for Harper calling an early election and breaking his own rules, no one has control over that and we can't waste our time fighting shadows. As you have stated in the past this is going to be an 8 to 10 year battle and also as I have read here and elsewhere the party has to be built from the ground up, and start listening to it's membership.

Well I truly believe that is what happened yesterday.

sharonapple88 said...

But I disagree that we Tories will go after the next Liberal leader anywhere near to the same extent we did with Dion and Ignatieff.

I do think there will be some attack. To get their majority, the Conservatives won in ridings that were formely Liberal. To hold them -- the Conservatives don't need more ridings to keep their majority -- it might make more sense to have the Liberal brand low.

We either have said grassroots revival or we die, it's as simple as that.


Shiner said...


Interesting to note, our current PM is the result of a grassroots revolution that will never take place. Also, that magical grassroots revival is responsible for 80% of donations, so next time we get hammered, remember that. We either have said grassroots revival or we die, it's as simple as that.

I think that's nonsense. Grassroots are for money and votes. The LPC is talking about policy renewal and that vision thing, that comes from leadership, not grassroots. Yeah, the CPC get a great deal of money out of Calgary sheep, but the success comes from party-trained hacks and Manning Centre "brains". Stephen Harper lives on Sussex precisely because he's gone out of his way to disassociate himself from the grassroots at every opportunity. If all it took was grassroots then Stockwell Day, and Preston Manning before him, would have been Prime Minister.

Steve V said...


Thanks for the comment, welcome. I don't dispute the democratic component, think I made that quite clear. What I do see however is certain dictation and people ensuring they have support, in this instance no question in my mind.

Shiner said...

Let me be clear, grassroots are important for resources and mobilization, but as far as success is concerned, I can't think of a case of grassroots revolution in a western democracy. The grassroots will always take credit for victories, but they're always the result of top-down organization and policy.

Steve V said...

You said it's nonsense, then you said you need them for money and votes. Ummm, without CASH, we're done, it's a simple as that and smart people acknowledge this fact.

I agree on one score, we need a leader to articulate policy, but to say that the grassroots plays no large role in policy, is silly. I think we can have both, you seem to be offering exclusivity.

I'll say it again, and you can scoff all day long, but if we don't swell our ranks and revolutionize this party, we will cease to exist. Your mentality is incredibly dangerous and I don't think comprehends how BAD the situation really is.

I do see signs that this grassroots movement is making noise, we are actually attracting new people who want to be part of the process. This is the key consideration moving forward and not just the lip service.

Shiner said...

Where's the cash coming from without a leader Steve? How on earth do you create an effective electoral machine with the resources to fight a contest without leadership?

Steve V said...

Are you reading me??? I said we can't wait for a leader forever, at some point we stall. Geez.

Shiner said...

We're talking past eachother, I apologise. I agree with you that the wait is too long. I was in favour of Jeff Jedras' option. My first comment was directed to those making the case for box #3 last night. Grassroots are important, but they don't act alone.

Steve V said...

Agreed. When I say grassroots I don't mean that's the only part of the equation. However, one thing I've found since I joined this party is we lack activists so to speak, we lack a on the street perspective that has real voice in the party and that is big reason why we've lost our way with the electorate. We need an engaged grassroots that will pony up Victory Fund money, 40-50 thousand strong, providing cement under the leadership. We only get there is people feel they have a role to play, an egalitarian sense, a notion that my ideas can resonate. It's here that reform comes into play, we have a direct relationship between leaders and ordinary Liberals, that will provide the energy and commitment we need. I want to bring new people in, this is how we attract them, active participation, not pat on the head mentality. said...

Party brass had to have been behind it if you say most Liberals were of your opinion. I just wish we had a vote to determine that.

Oh but then you could say Party brass influenced it and as we all know Party brass is so influential. And it is, if you ignore infighting, disagreements within party, election losses, party decimation, etc. Party brass is influential.

This wasn't a close vote, this was a blow out. Influence was not a determining factor.

Steve V said...

It wasn't a blowout on the amendments. Everyone realized this fall was crazy, but the options were another matter. said...

Sub-amendment 3 had over 50% of the vote in the first round, the remaining was split between two other options. I realize we don't have exact numbers but it would be reasonable to assume there was a sizeable margin between sub-amendment 1 and 3.

Steve V said...

I was replying to the blow out characterization.

D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D said...

"Liberals need time to develop reforms, but a leadership race doesn't exclude this process, in fact candidates become vessels for various perspectives."

Exactly! And this is why the more I ponder the future of the LPC the more I lean towards a primary-style leadership race.

I was unavailable to be a part of the Extraordinary Convention (as I am visiting my Fiancee) but from what I am reading on the internet and from friends who were a part of it, it seemed like much of the same talking points that have been popular since May 3.

Two weekends ago I heard Bob Rae at the MB Liberal AGM (federal and provincial) and all speakers were pushing money, membership, and grassroots engagement. I believe ALL that becomes strengthened when committed Liberals - like many of us here - take active roles in the party (which many of us are). So stop for a moment and pat yourselves on the back. We are up to the task. And if you're not active in your EDA then GET active. Moreover, there's lots of politicking to be done as provincial elections get underway across the country. Saving the Liberal brand nationally, in part, begins with saving it in Ontario.

Push for innovation, push for bold ideas, and talk to our MPs, Senators, and party organizers. Alf Apps is coming to Winnipeg on Wednesday and I'll be there. I don't know him from a hole in the wall, but I'll be there to have the conversation.

I sat in Starbucks last week before going door-to-door with a strong MB Liberal candidate for the October election. I listened as two men talked about how all politicians are crooks. One had to qualify their lambasting of MLAs and MPs by saying "but we elected them!" I had an opportunity to engage those people in a conversation on how THEY want to see politics done and I sat back. That was my first missed opportunity. I won't make that mistake again.

I think all EDAs should have a committee whose only task is to go out one weekend a month to public places and engages people in everyday spaces: parks, coffee shops, the street; and ask them if they'd like to take five minutes and talk about what they think of politicians in Canada. Many will be receptive, some will not. The committee does not have to wear Liberal shirts or even mention their membership status, but just asking the question is important and we might learn a few new things if not about federal politics then certainly our communities.

Well, that's a long one for today. Thanks for the post Steve. I love 'em all.

weeble said...

Do you think that this push came from the Rae camp? I wonder if the delay has much to do with allowing him to be the de facto leader of the LPC with hopes of setting his agenda and in doing so become the leader in to the next election.
I would hate to see the same-old-faces at the healm, surely Bob realizes this as is not a formula for success.
I think we need a leader from Quebec to make these breakthroughs, not from Toronto.

Omar said...

It's a Quebeckers leadership turn, is it not?

Möbius said...

Two years is an surprisingly long time to go without choosing a real, non-interim leader. Who voted for this? Does any party member have a vote?

It seems to be an attempt to cement Bob Rae into the position.