I had a pair of Liberals e-mail me today asking for my take on the Red Ribbon Report amendments
so I figured this would be a good time to post my thoughts on the proposed constitutional changes (as the sound of hundreds of readers who could care less about the Liberal Party constitution leaving this site sounds in the background).
I had the chance to chat with Steve McKinnon about this last week and I must say I'm very supportive of the changes which are being proposed so I'm going to waste some virtual space talking about why I think passing this report at the convention is essential - even though I know most readers would rather read a few Volpe jokes instead.Background
The authors of the Red Ribbon Report
(which I'm just going to refer to as the RRR for the rest of this post to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome) clearly understand the biggest obstacles facing this party. The party has a bloated executive after years of appeasing every special interest group by giving them a seat at the table (coming soon "Southern Alberta blogging representatives
"... one for each of the youth, seniors, women's, and aboriginal commissions). And, to put matters bluntly, the Tories are kicking our ass when it comes to fundraising. Say what you will about their tactics, but their "keep the gays from marrying - donate 50$ today"
letters have been remarkably successful. They say the first step to a cure is admitting you have a problem, and the Red Ribbon Committee was willing to do that. In fact, the report is brutally honest about everything from the facade of a policy process to PTAs "perverse" abuse of membership rules to help leadership candidates. For that, the authors of this report, deserve to be congratulated - they could have sugar coated things but recognized that the only way to solve the problem would be with a complete and honest examination of the party.National Membership
I've been saying for eons that it's an absolute joke that this party doesn't have a national membership form. 1$ memberships, 20$ memberships, family memberships, out of riding memberships, lifetime memberships...having fifty million different house rules may be fine when it comes to playing Crazy Eights, but it just doesn't work for a national party.
The recommendations on National Membership are probably the RRR's most crucial. The report calls for a single national membership with a central office handling the administrative aspects of it. There will be one
national fee and one
set of national rules. This will save money and allow the central party to communicate directly to it's members.PTAs
(Provincial and Territorial Associations AKA Acronyms 'R' Us: LPCA, LPCO, PLCQ, SLA...)
The RRR resisted the urge to get rid of the provincial associations but by offloading many of their administrative responsibilities to the national party, this should hopefully let the PTAs devote their limited resources to election readiness, membership recruitment, and policy development.Governance Structure
(So long to the Albino Maritime Fiddlers Commission)
The Red Ribbon committee was quick recognize that it's not simply a case of trimming fat on the National Executive; liposuction is required. As a result, the bloated 60 member executive has been cut in half and a nine person management committee will be established. This will save money and, more importantly, actually allow decisions to be made. I've never been to a National Executive meeting but I can only imagine how difficult it is to get anything done when 80 people are sitting around a table.
There's also a proposal for a Council of Presidents (sounds like something in a futuristic sci-fi movie) which I have mixed feelings on. If one of the beefs with the old National Executive is that flying 60 people to Ottawa once a year was too expensive, I'm not sure flying 308 people to Ottawa once a year is going to help fix this problem. I know the idea is to try and revitalize the riding associations but I'd much rather see the council be run over the Internet and maybe have information sessions in person for the riding Presidents when the provincial associations have their own conventions. It's my understanding that the membership rules and fees will be decided upon by the Council which will be a good thing since it will diffuse some of the power away from the smaller National Executive.Policy
The RRR proposes to establish a standing committee on policy and platform development and there seems to be a general thrust towards more policy development. The real mystery here is how it will translate from theory into practice and, unlike the other proposed changes, that's hard to predict. The leader will still be able to veto policy but he (or she!) will be forced to give a reason for his (or her!) decision ("guys, we can't run on a pro pot and hookers platform if we want to win
"). I think the future of the policy process will depend on the individuals who are elected to sit on this new policy committee.Conventions
The RRR proposes a few changes to conventions. Firstly, the number of delegates eligible to go from each riding will increase to 20 (6 youth, 2 aboriginal, 2 senior, half female) which I don't have a major problem with since it lets more people go to conventions. Interestingly there will only be a leadership review vote after the party loses an election, clearly an implicit condemnation of the Martin tactics of the past decade.Leadership
The vote on a new leadership selection process will be separate and, therefore, it deserves a separate post.