Decision Day Approaches
For logistical reasons, the convention has to be held in a big city. With the glut of Ontario candidates, I think it would be best to hold it on neutral ground, and in a region where the party needs to grow. To me, that makes Montreal or Vancouver the logical choices, with Montreal winning out on travel costs.
I still think the later, the better. A November convention would be absolutely insane, if you look at the timeline. Because membership form sales are cut off five months before the convention, that means the candidates would have from April to mid-June to:
-sign up members
I think a February or March 2007 date makes the most sense right now.
You obviously need an entry fee to keep the crazies out (but, then again, Fontana will probably run regardless...). But the race shouldn't be about money. I know the party is broke but 10 candidates at $50,000 a head makes a lot more financial sense than five at $100,000 a head. Keep in mind that more candidates means more Liberals get signed up, funneling more money back to the party via membership sales and donations.
Under the new fundraising rules, I don't think this will be a major issue since no one will be able to spend the 10-12 million Martin is rumoured to have put into his 2003 campaign. What the national executive needs to worry about, however, is accountability in spending. The last thing we need are 50 people with summer "jobs" at Magna being paid outside of the declared expenses. It's difficult to keep tabs on a lot of the soft money floating around, but there needs to be some accountability in the way money is spent.
This will most likely be left to the provincial associations to decide (why we don't have uniform membership rules is beyond me). But whoever is making the decision should lift restrictions on access to membership forms in this party. Nothing created more disgruntled Liberals during the last race than the membership rules. If you want to raise the cost of membership then fine, do that. But you need to make the forms accessible to everyone and you need to have Internet sign-up as a legitimate option.
There also needs to be a crack-down on paper campus clubs (and women's clubs) getting their four delegates. I know this stuff is hard to regulate, but you had one Ontario club submit a membership list consisting of the 1999 Cincinnati Reds during the last leadership. To the best of my knowledge, Barry Larkin was not a Paul Martin supporter, and those sort of dirty tactics need to be snuffed out quickly.
UPDATE: Here's what one riding executive feels the rules should be:
We must make ideas, not money the principal criterion for selecting the next leader. With this in mind, the executive of the Ottawa West-Nepean Liberal Association passed the following resolution last night.
"Considering the critical need of the Liberal Party of Canada to democratize the race for leader of the Party, and the need to be seen as a democratic party;
"Recognizing that the financial rules of the leadership campaign must encourage legitimate candidates to enter the leadership race and must not discourage any legitimate candidates;
"Believing that the leadership campaign spending limits must ensure a balanced, fair and democratic campaign for all candidates,
"Hereby suggest the following limits:
"Candidate entry fee of $25K;
"Campaign fundraising levy of 10%; and
"Campaign spending limit of $2 million"
We're calling on other Liberal associations to join us in calling for these reasonable limits.