Sunday, November 02, 2008

Changing the Leadership Convention - Another Plea to Sign the Petition

If we don't find a way to choose a leader who the majority of Liberals can get behind, we're in big trouble. It all comes down to that. The last leadership race was dreadful for party morale - not because there was bitter fighting (there wasn't) or a Chretien-Martin style feud (there wasn't) - but because less than 10% of the party membership voted for delegates who supported Stephane Dion. And then, to make it worse, Dion did not do enough to bring us in. He didn't even bring the party membership around to his flagship policy. People can try to stay loyal, but after a certain point of feeling their membership doesn't count, they're just not going to be able to mark the X in the Liberal circle. On October 14, many Liberal supporters and even party members voted for other parties.

The reason we have to move to one member one vote for this leadership race is to ensure that the party membership doesn't suffer a further blow with another leader who a majority of them do not support. The only way to do that is to have a direct vote of party members, with a cutoff date for party membership and a virtual convention.

In the last leadership race I supported Bob Rae, but I convinced myself I had to support whoever won of Rae, Ignatieff and Dion. I thought the way Dion won was despicable and I was bitterly disappointed, but I tried my best to support the choice of the, er, not the majority - the young Kennedy loyalists who voted where they were directed, er - whatever. I wrote a number of pro-Dion posts on this blog, and a major reason for them was that I was trying to convince myself.

If this leadership race ends like the last one, with say Ignatieff winning with a tiny fraction of the membership vote, then I don't know if I can stay in the party - particularly if delegates are chosen by "instant Liberals" who delegate-wannabes sign up for a day. It's not that I'm anti-Ignatieff: I'm equally worried that Rae could win with a tiny fraction of the vote, driving out supporters of other candidates.

We have simply got to move to one party one vote. People say we can't do that because of our constitution. However, that's not necessarily true. Article 64 (3) says that the national executive can call an extraordinary convention and leaves the form and location of the convention open to interpretation, so why not a virtual leadership convention, say in February. Article 67 (1) gives the national executive the right to make bylaws to regulate the procedures of delegate selection. It also does not strictly define who a delegate is, so why not define every member who joined by October 14 as a delegate.

The counter argument is that one member one vote was voted on at the last convention and did not pass, while Article 27 (6) says "If a bylaw, an amendment or a repeal is rejected by the Council of Presidents or the Party, no subsequent resolution of the National Executive to make, amend or repeal a bylaw having substantially the same purpose or effect is effective until it is confirmed or amended by the Party."

The suggestion of holding a virtual, OMOV leadership convention is a one-off for this particular situation, not a change to the rules. There is precedent to bend the rules on occasion. It looks like the Council of Presidents might skip their constitutionally-mandated annual meeting this year. Our executive once cancelled a biennial in order to avoid a Chretien leadership review vote.

As Rich Clausi says, "A constitution is a living, breathing and dynamic document that should be interpreted in a way that facilitates problem-solving. doubt, there were rules against running on the decks of the Titanic."

So please, go read the petition to change the leadership convention at


Anonymous said...

Yappa as I posted on your last post on this subject, it is literally impossible to have one member one vote elect the next leader. If it was used, the leader would be unconstitutional and invalid.

I want one-member-one-vote too, but its impossible, completely impossible to be adopted before the next convention.


Mike said...

One Member One Vote last time would have still given us Dion, because when no one gets 50% in a OMOV system votes get spread to your second choice - Dion was the second choice of probably 80% of the membership. One member one vote in Alberta gave the PCs Stelmach in a similar way. If Iggy/Rae can't get above 35% on the first ballot then it'll likely be the 3rd guy again with OMOV or not.

The reality is it's not the system, but rather whether a single candidate can score a convincing win on the first ballot like Paul Martin and Jean Chretien did. Failure to do that, no matter what system is most liko likely to lead to someone coming up the middle.

We've also had some pretty successful leaders elected through the current system - Dalton McGuinty provincially in Ontario and of course Pierre Trudeau. Exact same system. No matter which system I think you'd end up with pretty similar results.

Anonymous said...

You are wrong in your interpretation of the constitution, there is no power for the Executive to call an alternate form of Leadership Convention. The "general" cannot supercede the "specific" in the Party Constitution.

Furthermore, delegates at the 2006 convention specifically and deliberately rejected one member one vote. What part of democracy do you not get???

Anonymous said...

"the way Dion was elected was despicable"

What are you talking about???

Dion was democratically elected by the majority of the Party. Fair and square.
As a middle age Kennedy delegate, I was not told to vote for anyone.
I voted for the next best choice after Kennedy, and it was Dion.I don't care which way Kennedy would have voted.
Your arrogance and the arrogance of the Rae and Ignatieff camps is stunning. Bob Rae had no way of winning. Get over it. The majority of the Party did not want Ignatieff and they chose Dion.

Yappa said...

Hi all,

For those who think that we should have OMOV but that it's impossible, I think you're being defeatist. If a large number of members signed the petition, perhaps the leadership would decide that it has legitimate support and they'd find a way to make it happen. Maybe call an extraordinary convention to vote on it. Maybe find a way around the rules.

To Mike who claims that Dion was the second choice of 80% of the membership and anon who claims the majority of the party wanted Dion - there's no evidence of that whatsoever, not even polls, and widespread dissatisfaction with him suggests otherwise.

This is a fairly extraordinary situation that we're in. We can't end up with unsatisfactory results similar to last time. Why can't we rally round and try to change things rather than shoot down good ideas?

Anonymous said...

I'm getting tired of this. It's not "defeatist," it's the supreme law of the liberal party. It doesn't matter if everyone in the Liberal Party agreed to override the constitution, it would still invalidate the document and make any leader elected that way invalid.

You can live in this false reality all you want, but your suggestion that this petition can change the system in any way is a lie.


KC said...

No matter who won last time they would not have enjoyed the support a significant proportion of the party. Ignatieff and Rae only won pluralities not majorities, and each inspired strong negative feelings from a lot of people. On the first ballots Iggy and Rae had only 29 and 20% support from elected delegates respectively (these numbers roughly reflect the vote at the DSMs). Thats hardly a mandate from the party memership.

Also remember that MORE than HALF of Rae's ~1300 third ballot delegates went to Dion on the last ballot in part to stop Iggy. The leadership wasnt won by the combined power of Kennedy and Dion delegates alone. There is also the fact that Rae's vote only grew ~400 between first and third ballots--hardly the making of a consensus candidate.

There was no way of figuring out who the membership really wanted without: 1) getting every Liberal in the country to go to convention or 2) having some sort of a preferential ballot which wasnt permitted by the LPC constitution.

I knew LOTS of party members who loathed Rae and/or Iggy--I was one of them although the former has grown on me over time. There was no consensus candidate to be had.

It would have been interesting to see how Iggy/Rae would have played out on a head to head final battle. My expectation is that it would have ended up pretty close to 50-50.

The Mound of Sound said...

The Liberal Party must, if it is to recover, get back to its roots as a party of brawlers. Look at our two most successful prime ministers of the past half-century, Messrs. Trudeau and Chretien.

Both of them were ready, at an instant, to drop the gloves and drop their opponents and, once they were down, kick them right to the curb.

When you're trying to forge a majority from the very centre, you have to be tough, as tough as it takes. If you're not, you'll just get squeezed from the left and from the right until you simply lose your relevance.

Great Liberal leaders have offered up a vision and have fiercely defended that vision against opponents and in the public eye.

In Mr. Dion the public was greeted with the perception of a milquetoast party run by a milquetoast leader. No wonder they split both left and right, abandoning the Libs in the centre.

We have lost an awful lot of ground under Mr. Dion and it's going to take a highly aggressive, do whatever it takes resolve to get it back.

I wish I saw that sort of candidate waiting in the wings. I don't.