Monday, January 16, 2012

Green Shoots

It's important to not get carried away, after all you're in a room full of the faithful, one would hope to see some bravado, simply as a by-product of natural self interest. That said, for all the talk of a moribund party, the Liberals managed to bring in an impressive number of delegates, perhaps more encouraging a decidedly younger crowd than what I noted last time around. The mood was healthy and the end product does support the "change" mantra, even if the results were uneven.

I was surprised a few times at this convention. Particularly, when I heard the announcement "Crawley" for party President, I was genuinely stunned. Perhaps it was the buzz just prior to official announcement that Copps had won- my own sense of the room- but I never truly allowed myself to believe a generally status quo party could make this leap, especially against such a deeply rooted opponent. The closeness of the race speaks to how easily a different narrative could have emerged, but it also provides a testament to how much every vote matters, every conversation, every discussion back and forth, those "hallway" interactions were key. As a supporter of Mike, I look forward to his tenure and hope he makes good on his reform minded pledges.

As the convention unfolded, there seemed a very general sense that the "supporter" addition would fail, nobody I spoke with actually believed the new designation could get the 2/3rds support. I was a supporter of opening up the party in this serious way, but even I offered little resistance when confronted with negativism. And yet, the change was adopted, perhaps the most crucial reform to come out of this convention. Worth noting, I don't think this idea would have achieved the required 2/3rds had it not been for an impassioned plea just prior by Mr. Rae, I have little doubt that moved the room in a empirical way. As well, for those who argued membership should matter, Liberals rejected the idea of allowing "supporters" to participate at the local riding election level, so some condolence for that side.

The second half of the "supporter" addition revolved around this idea of Liberal primaries. In adopting this stipulation, Liberals agreed to let "supporters" vote for the party Leader, but there was another shoe to drop as the votes continued the next morning. Liberals rejected the idea of staggered, regional primaries, even though 58% favoured the concept, it didn't achieve the required support. I'm disappointed this idea failed, because I view it as tethered to the "support" vote, much of the rationale for opening up was to create this exciting dynamic, but now we will have one national vote, eliminating much of the potential drama. As an aside, I note Lawrence Martin on Cpac last night mentioned "confusion" over this question coming from party officials, some suggestion the issue wasn't quite dead yet, so stay tuned...

I would have liked to see the Leader's veto over policy dropped, and I felt the conversation around this issue was fairly muted, perhaps it got lost in the maze of resolutions. For example, on the question of marijuana legalization, the room of committed partisans was quite CLEAR, one would hope any future leader appreciate where his/her party sit on this issue and show some respect to grassroot want. I note, Bob Rae not only didn't shy away from the question but embraced it during his closing speech, soliciting massive cheers as he did.

I'm one who believe optics matter, not so much as it relates to press coverage, but moreso the general audience that gets information from the conduit. I sense that the Liberals have done the brand some favours, new faces, the idea of generational change, the word "open" a crucial evolution, it all congeals into something of consequence. I view the Convention as the first move in a long, laboured process. Soon, we will move to the leadership question in a more focused way, and here we hopefully cultivate more ideas, discussion. I'm not afraid of "messiah" talk, because the messenger is of paramount importance, leaders are vehicles for movements. In many respects, our current predicament is "freeing", and within that reality, I hope a true modernizing, reformist viewpoint can emerge and resonate. One thing is clear, Canadian apathy is a testament to a certain political void, I am more optimistic today that the Liberal Party can perhaps fill it. Time will tell.


sharonapple88 said...

I was plesantly surprised that Crawley won. I voted for Hartling, but Crawley was my second choice.

As an aside, I note Lawrence Martin on Cpac last night mentioned "confusion" over this question coming from party officials, some suggestion the issue wasn't quite dead yet, so stay tuned...

Yeah. The idea was presented that there could still be primaries. The board, though, wouldn't have more freedom in deciding what to do since they wouldn't be bound by the Constitution. I could be wrong on this (I'll admit to this).

(Funny thing -- we all complain about the length of the damn thing, but didn't we just add more sections to the Liberal Constitution at the convention?)

Jerry Prager said...

The Party done good I thought, first steps, I'm glad for the monarchy Vote: don't throw the old lady out with the bathwater, tradition, and the great majesty that is British Constitutional Evolution cannot be replaced by becoming yet another off-the-shelf republic. Commonwealth of provinces/territories, with free enterprise (non-corporatist capitalism) cooperative/credit union bio-localism please.

Steve V said...

I hope there is some loophole on the primary idea, particularly since we did get a true majority in a basic sense. Part of the rationale for supporters was intertwined with this staggered idea. As well, logistically a national primary will be harder to pull off, so that could "sway" sentiment.

D said...

Steve, I agree with your views regarding primaries. I am a supporter of a primary-like system because I believe it's important to bring the candidates to the prairies in a MEANINGFUL way as opposed to a debate that has little bearing on the leadership race. I agree that "infighting" may occur, but look at the damaged caused on 2006 w/ the Ignatieff-Dion exchange that was replayed ad nauseam by the CPC. Conventions are not bulletproof to gaffes and infighting.

But I think if people are truly concerned with hijackers -- I would posit that the best way to minimize this is to have members vote down the long-list of candidates by ranked ballot into the top 3 choices who will then be voted on by all members AND supporters. Would this safeguard defeat the purpose of supporter signing up in the first place? I don't think so. It would also encourage more people interested in the party and it's leadership to go that one step further and become a member.

However, with a primary system, it would be hard to do a two-vote leadership vote without giving preferential treatment to some primaries over others. That being said, the party could always FORCE everyone other than the top 3 to drop out for the last three primaries (most likely BC, ON and QC with their larger and more LPC friendly populations) while setting the tone in the Maritimes, Manitoba, AB, Sask and the Territories.

Clearly the role supporters will play in selecting the next leader is far from decided and the devil will live in the details; ultimately deciding whether or not the move will pay, or finish, the party off.

Steve V said...

There is a risk, but I believe this will be tempered IF candidates are truly resonating, then silly games by no life opponents will be meaningless. Seriously, we are only talking about diehard partisans, your average vote isn't interested in this sort of bs, so if WE can achieve good turnout through compelling ideas, I'm not worried.