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. ...no doubt, there were rules against running on the decks of the Titanic."
So please, go read the petition to change the leadership convention at www.kw.igs.net/~raclausi/petition.htm.