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.