Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Final Notes on the LPC(O) AGM

Here are a few final random notes about last weekend's Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) Annual General Meeting...

Marva Wisdom gave a presentation on the Liberal Renewal Commission (LRC) that is working on revitalizing the party. They're examining five areas: philosophy (values, faith and ethics), party structure, and the nature of a productive society, a democratic society, and a just society. They are committed to this being a grassroots renewal process. I'm sorry I took such poor notes on this initiative because it sounded very exciting and deserves much better coverage. The LRC has a web page here.

A fellow delegate made an interesting comment to me about the leadership race: He said the best outcome would be for no clear leader to emerge for several months so that we have time to have a good, broad-based discussion.

There are a lot of technical problems with the Liberal party web site and database. There is no process for becoming a member or making donations online. There are provincial registries of members but no national registry, which has caused all kinds of problems. Many people don't get membership cards. It really sounds like a mess. However, a new system is being rolled out that will address many of the issues.

I met a very bright, very nice high school student from the riding of St. Paul's (unfortunately I didn't notice his name) who was there as a youth delegate. He was in the process of meeting every leadership candidate. If he couldn't see them in person he would ask a staff member in the hospitality suite to set up a 5-10 minute appointment for him. He was asking each candidate a question, usually about how they would handle provincial equalization payments.

My table at lunch had a good discussion about the candidates. We agreed that Ignatieff needs to convince us that he can connect with Canadians. The worry is that he's out of touch (because he was out of the country and because he's been an observer rather than a player).

I've always wanted to make a list of how different political parties refer to the audience in speeches. For example, the NDP often refer to people as "folks" while the conservatives say "ladies and gentlemen". I noticed that Bill Graham referred to us as "colleagues".

In the South-Western Ontario regional meeting I attended, there was brief discussion of the formation of a caucus election readiness committee. I hope we're prepared for whatever Harper throws at us, because with his poll numbers he could do anything. I mentioned this to a fellow delegate who pooh-poohed me, saying it would only hurt Harper if he called an election too soon... but of course Harper could manipulate things so that he didn't call the election.

There has been a lot of talk in the Liblogs about the candidate's hospitality suites. A fellow delegate remarked to me that it's a pity they have to spend so much money on the rooms and booze. I got a lot more out of Ignatieff inviting us all to a bistro in the hotel for a sort of delegate scrum.

On the final morning we voted on constitutional amendments that were proposed by the executive. One proposed change was to do away with family memberships. People sitting around me thought it was very important that family memberships be outlawed because they were the cause of some abuse; for example, if someone wants to take over a riding association they can sign up unrelated people of the same name under a single family membership. It seemed that the amendment passed but then some very vocal people challenged something and we ended up voting again and it didn't receive the two-thirds majority it needed so it failed.

There was a group at the convention selling t-shirts that said "Women belong in the house" on the front and on the back, "And in the senate". I would have bought one but they were plain white and the writing was too high up. I was thinking how good it would be to have more variety of t-shirts at conventions, especially inventive and attractive ones, to raise money and party visibility.

My riding didn't subsidize my attendance at all so it was an expensive conference for me - $200 conference fee and $600 for the hotel, parking and transportation. However, it was a great experience and I don't regret the expenditure at all. Starting from when I arrived on Friday afternoon till I left 46 hours later, I soaked up a ton of information. Every speaker and every session was top-notch. I was on my own so was able to meet a lot of people, including a very nice woman from Toronto named Antoinette who introduced me to a number of her friends. When I used to be in the NDP I always felt like an outsider because I'm not a member of a union, but in this Liberal group I felt right at home. Thanks to everyone involved.


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