Sunday, November 09, 2008

8 Simple Rules for Liberal Leadership Races

And we're off! The rules have been set - Feb 6 membership cut-off, March 6-10 super weekend, and an April 30 to May 3 convention.

As we all know, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So here are a few lessons I think we can all learn from the last Liberal leadership race:

1. The polls are fairly meaningless, with the possible exception of the ones taken of actual delegates to gauge second choice interest; Liberal organizers and bloggers probably have a better sense of the relative strength of the candidates' than the pundits do. Things like number of donors, ex-officio endorsements, and caucus support aren't bad indicator either.

2. The policy proposals put forward by the candidates probably aren't super relevant - Ignatieff favoured a carbon tax last time and Dion opposed it.

3. Things said during leadership debates might come back to haunt you at a later date.

4. Leaked Tory memos about the leadership race should be ignored completely.

5. Directly comparing your candidate to Pierre Trudeau is a good way to make yourself look silly...subtly doing it might not be an awful idea though. I suspect the "Barack Obama corollary" to this rule will apply this time.

6. Solemn pledges to not go negative have a similar shelf life to yogurt.

7. Playing up expectations about how much support you expect to get is not a good idea. That said, if the media and Liberals don't think you can actually win, you're at a huge disadvantage.

8. Saying you know how it will end, at the start of the race, is a good way to make yourself look dumb come May.

I still don't have a horse in this race yet. I'm looking towards the long term health of the Liberal Party and for a candidate who is truly committed to renewal. If no one fits that bill, well, maybe I won't be as involved in this race as I was in the last.

But regardless of how involved I get, expect a lot of coverage about The Race For Stornoway here. I'll probably revisit my leadership projections come January, once we get some donor data. And given the number of delegates who read blogs, I'd expect a blog interview or two - at the very least, I'll be sure to cover any events I'm at.

And, regardless of whether I'm a delegate or not, I'll be in Vancouver this May. It figures to be a fun weekend.



  • I find it interesting that the number of delegates have been increased from 14 to 22, when the cost has significantly increased by having the venue in Vancouver for the vast majority of delegates.

    Also interesting, the Victory fund takes $120, per person/a away from candidates, the 10% tax takes $110 max donation/a and any old debt candidates are trying to retire also takes potential donations away from leadership coffers. Add to that, if I'm not mistaken, aren't convention fees considered a donation to the Party now.

    Last time it was $995. So a delegate can't give any money to a candidate or sign up for the lowest donation to the Victory fund and pay the convention fees without being over the legal donation limit.

    My point. There's no money for the candidates, far less the party, far less plane fares. Anyone who has given money already this year can't give more and next year they have to save their donation for the convention fee.

    How are ridings going to send 22 delegates? So I have two questions for those out there who know. Are convention fees donations? I think they are because it was stalled in the senate last time so the fees wouldn't count.

    And can the candidates substitue people who are in Vancouver, as alternates for delegates from other parts of the country if the slates aren't filled? Because that gives a significant advantage to campaigns with greater organizing strength in Vancouver. Also if youth fees are half this time like they were last time and "youth" can be substituted for adult spots, which I have a problem with, it a) means candidates will try to have as many youth in Vancouver ready to step in even if their fees have to be paid, and b) it significantly lowers revenue for the Party, which it counts on to pay for the convention for these spots. FYI I think it's fine for youth to take adult spots if they pay adult fees. It's a money issue.

    If anyone knows the answers that would be great. The other reason why this shouldn't have been tacked onto an AGM is that is significantly increased the fees last time. I assume it is the same this time. People should be allowed to just be delegates fro the leadership and pay half the fee.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:57 AM  

  • Your man, last time, on CTV last night...

    I am sure that Gerard is hoping to earn your support again.

    By Blogger MississaugaPeter, at 10:08 AM  

  • I believe, that donations to leadership campaigns have a separate $1100 limit, from the $1100 limit to party donations (didn't it go up from $1000 to $1100? I may be mistaken).

    And the party is offering candidates a $25 rebate on every victory fund sign-up they get, so they have created a bit of an incentive for leadership contenders to fundraise for the party.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:14 AM  

  • Draft Gordon Campbell, at least he's got a record of doing "something".

    then all the other candidates can stay home and count their pennies.

    By Blogger art, at 10:17 AM  

  • Do not underestimate the shelf life of yogurt.

    By Blogger Mark, at 10:30 AM  

  • Um yes it's 1100, but I believe that is all donations combined. I do not think you can donate 1100 to the Party and 1100 to a candidate. But if someone knows for sure, it would be great if they could comment.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:55 AM  

  • Dominic LeBlanc's first leadership event of the campaign will be in Vancouver:

    I also count 616 possible delegates from Alberta. Does that exceed the number of Liberals signed up in the party right now? This is important, as a riding like Medicine Hat or Macleod is much more likely to max out delegate count than a riding like Random-Burin-St Georges or Acadie-Bathurst.

    By Blogger Rob, at 12:18 PM  

  • "3. Things said during leadership debates might come back to haunt you at a later date."

    If the Conservatives try to brand the new leader as they did last time... the Liberal party has to fight against that... and with significant effort.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 12:31 PM  

  • It won't be a problem to find 22 delegates from the Calgary/Edmonton ridings at all. With all the various quotas (Rae youth female, LeBlanc senior male, etc), it might be tricky to round out complete slates from some of the rural AB ridings.

    But I'd be just as, if not more, concerned about finding 22 bodies from some of the rural Quebec ridings willing to fly out to BC for this one. I guess it all comes down to the backfilling rules (ie. can I sub a delegate from Edmonton Centre into Athabasca? Rules on that were very ambiguous last time, to put it mildly.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:37 PM  

  • "I also count 616 possible delegates from Alberta. Does that exceed the number of Liberals signed up in the party right now?"

    Rob that is hillarious. You made my day. And yes the backfilling rules would be interesting to know. Campaigns, I imagine will be trolling the campuses and trendy youth areas of Vancouver asap to sign up alternate delegates, just in case they can back fill these at convention, which I think they can. Why youth, because they are cheaper. Or oraganized folk like unions and temples who will put up the money for their people.

    They have to try at first to get people from the riding within quotas, I believe. If that doesn't work, then they need to try to fill the quotas, senior, female, aboriginal etc. from anywhere I believe, but before the convention, could be provincial but I think anywhere. If that doesn't work, the $25,000 question is at convention after sign in deadlines can they back fill these with anyone who filled in the form to be an alternate before the deadline????

    I think they can, but also I'm not sure if these people would have had to pay their fees as alternates before they can be given full accreditation??? Again an important question because less people are likely to put up money, or even campaigns without knowing. Unions and temples might though for influence. Although campaigns should know how many people they will need for backfill.

    I believe some of these specific rules are hammered out at later meeting of the executive committee in charge or organizing the Convention. It would be interesting to know who is on that commmittee if anyone knows?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:18 PM  

  • And before people say that organizations, such as unions and temples can't contribute to political parties, true but they can pay delegate fees.

    Also richer ridings, if there are any anymore will be able to send alternates and help pay their delegate fees, which would also be influenced by who the riding association supports.

    Last time the riding i was in was split and wouldn't pay any fees, not even $100, which I thought was crap. They paid the full fees and costs of delegates going to annoint Martin leader, and they still had the money.

    If ridings have money they should be asked to help out regardless and committ to doing so before the DSM, so it isn't about who members want to be delegates for.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:22 PM  

  • The donation cap is $1,100 which may go up to $1,200 for the leadership since it is based inflation increases on April 1 of each year. The limits apply separately to parties, MP candidates and leadership candidates::

    1. no more than $1,100 in any calendar year to each registered political party.

    2. no more than $1,100 in total in any calendar year to the various entities of each registered political party (registered associations, nomination contestants and candidates) (i.e. can donate $220 to 5 different MP candidates in addition to party donations).

    3. no more than $1,100 to each independent candidate for a particular election

    4. no more than $1,100 in total to the leadership contestants in a particular leadership contest (i.e. $900 to Iggy and $200 to curry favour with the next after the next leader, Leblanc). Note this applies to the leadership contest not the calendar year so there is a separate tally for the 2006 and 2008 leadership races.

    By Blogger Ted, at 3:29 PM  

  • I don't think you are correct about delegate fees, anonymous. These are paid as donations to the party and tax receipts are issued so only individuals can pay for this... at least above the table.

    By Blogger Ted, at 3:30 PM  

  • No one member-one vote?

    By Anonymous daveberta, at 7:03 PM  

  • You do know that yogurt has a very long shelf life outside of a refrigerator? I'm talking about real yogurt - not the sweetened, flavored dept store variety. The lactobacillus in yogurt keeps it from "going bad". Yogurt is in itself, "milk gone bad". This is how yogurt became so popular around the hotter climates around the world - from Northern India, through Central Asia, into the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.

    Just being "tongue-in-cheek" snarky... Cheers!

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 9:33 PM  

  • A lot of people are taking a solid second look at Bob Rae this time. he's proven himself in the interim. For me it's between GK and Bob. This was on liblogs:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:18 PM  

  • All Bob Rae has proven is that he can hang around the Liberal Party for 2 years because he senses a Leadership vacancy, backstab the current Leader, openly criticize Kennedy for not picking him and be in charge of a losing election platform.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:18 AM  

  • Calgrit, while I'm a big fan of pseudonymity and no fan of the mocked-up "blogger" accounts that are employed only to troll...

    ...I think you're going to need to turn anonymous commenting off. At the very least, they should be using some kind of a handle.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 1:57 AM  

  • Last time Liberals picked the wrong leader ... and now they don't even know how to pick the next one.

    By Anonymous Observant, at 2:34 AM  

  • This Party needs a forward thinking person to renew and energize our party. Why does the media always report that its between Ray and Ignatieff. Do they want us to loose the next election? I believe our Party needs Gerard Kennedy as the Leader.He can unite our party, bring new members into the fold, invigorate our fund raising efforts, bring new and relevant policy ideas to the fore, move us forward for the future for our party, for Canada,for all Canadians. From West to East, Right, Centre & Left Canadians will want to get engaged with us the Liberal Party under a Kennedy Leadership. We will get a smart, charismatic and dynamic thinker with vision talent and dedication to lead us forward with party renewal into the next election which we would have a solid chance of winning. We need someone who will not let the likes of Stephen Harper do to Canada what Mike Harris did to Ontario. Liberals & Canadians need Gerard to lead us for the future of Canada for all Canadians. Our party has a once in a generation chance to turn things around.Lets not mess it up!

    By Anonymous redtory27, at 8:41 AM  

  • Believe me, I'm mulling over the anonymous comment situation...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:46 AM  

  • Just to throw the cat amongst the pigeons...

    Why does a Liberal riding association in, say, Calgary Centre (which doesn't elect liberals!) get the same number of delegates as a Toronto riding that always elects Liberals?

    If the delegates are supposed to be representative, shouldn't the number of delegates be tied to the number of members in any particular riding? That would provide a fine incentive to increase membership, wouldn't it?

    By Blogger Party of One, at 1:35 PM  

  • redtory27 said: "We need someone who will not let the likes of Stephen Harper do to Canada what Mike Harris did to Ontario. Liberals & Canadians need Gerard to lead us for the future of Canada for all Canadians. Our party has a once in a generation chance to turn things around.Lets not mess it up!"

    I totally agree with you, but how long will it take for Gerard to establish himself as a "leader" worthy to head up the Canadian government? If Dion was labeled "NOT a Leader", then surely Gerard cannot just assume the mantle of leadership and automatically be accepted by dubious Canadians.

    After all it was Kennedy who gave us Dion, and that was no gift to the Liberal party. Unless you believe Harper will be so bruised by the recession that Canadians will flock to Gerard Kennedy .. Canada's 'Obama'.. in an election held soon after May'09.

    By Anonymous observant, at 4:09 PM  

  • Ok I am anonymous number 1, not the person criticizing or commending any candidate just talking about delegate rules.

    Thanks Ted. Interesting that the 1100 is per candidate per leadership race not per calendar year as I would have thought. But good to know that the victory fund would be considered under a completely different limit.

    And Ted the key words in your comment about fees are "above the table"

    Although if someone wants to give me a "gift", so I can go to a leadership convention as a delegate the i don't see what the goernment should have to say about it. I had several people give me gifts and donations so that I could go to the last leadership convention. I believe that is how it works. Also the temples, unions, individuals etc. can give the money to a campaign in someone's name for delegate fees of someone else quite legally, which is also how I went to the last convention.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:09 PM  

  • The process for selection a leader seems rather arbitrary and undemocratic. Backfilling delegates? Paying backfilled delegates fees? Delegates representing ridings that they are not from?

    If electability is the issue, wouldn't a two-stage primary (basically open to the public) like the Alberta Conservative Party runs be a better process? One could normalize the per riding votes to make every riding equal.

    Delegated conventions are a means for elite control.

    For what it is worth, I think it doesn't much matter. The fix seems to be in for Iggy. I may not even pay the $10 poll tax this time, because there won't be any protest candidates to vote for.

    By Blogger whyshouldIsellyourwheat, at 4:40 PM  

  • Ignatieff definately has support, but "the fix isn't in" I think it is worth paying the nominal membership fee and voting. However if Ignatieff has around or over 45% delegate support after the DSM, it certainly won't be worth paying to go to Vancouver. Best case scenario for the Party is that Ignatieff is under 40%, which is likely or Convention revenue will go down significantly adding to the Party's debt, and making fundraising difficult.

    If Igantieff is over 50% before convention, the Party's fundraising is in serious trouble. (i don't think he will be but) There won't be any point for candidates to fundraise and no point for delegates to go.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:44 PM  

  • For the Record "Kennedy did not give us Dion" Every delegate that went from Rae to Dion and Findey to Dion etc. to gave us Dion. Ray or Ignatieff did not go one to the other so one of them would win. So all teh Delegates that Voted for Dion gave us Dion. We need to move forward and I believe as many others do that Kennedy can do that for our arty and our country. You might want to revisit some of the speeches and interviews shown online and the convention speeches from last time. They are telling, Gerard is passionate, articulate intelegent and shows as dynamic and strong leader clearly Gerard stands out. Belive me "Gerard is not Obama nobody can be Obama but Obama" But Gerard shows well and is the right person for these times to lead our party and Canada forward.Kennedy was named in Toronto Life Magazine's list of fifty influential people in 1992, and was named newsmaker of the year by the Toronto Star in 1993. Kennedy was also given an honourable mention in the Financial Post Magazine's C.E.O. awards in 1995. There is a reason for these accolades, Gerard Leads. I believe that "Gerard is up for the Job".

    By Anonymous redtorty27, at 1:12 AM  

  • I think the naysayers on the convention (who are probably Conservatives - a party that also has a convention and NOT one member one vote, one of the terms of agreement in the merger) have been watching a few too many primaries.

    1. No, the leadership selection is not democratic. Why the hell should it be? The Liberal party is a private organization selecting the leader of itself as a private organization. Is CEO selection by Bombardier undemocratic? Yes. Why? Well maybe, just maybe, the most popular guy doesn't know jack about airplanes.

    2. Secondly, you guys are just as bad as the PR-hawks with their extremely narrow definition of "democracy". Canada, strictly speaking, is not one member one vote (and it has MP's that are not from the ridings they represent). Canada is a confederation, and a rather divided one at that. One member one vote would not only be bad for the party, by favouring leaders that sell where the party already does well, but also bad for the country.

    Canada is a moderate nation in part because we have not submitted to calls of the jackaninnny mobocracy to our south. Look at the US since 1972, when primaries took hold, and the polarization that has wrought. Democratic primaries picked McGovern, Mondale and Dukakis - all sure losers who were far to the left of the American mainstream. Republican primaries picked Reagan and Dubya (who won, but it is worth noting that McCain polled 25 points ahead of Gore in 2000).

    In 1976 30% of conservatives voted for Jimmy Carter, 26% of liberals for Ford. In 2008 10% of liberals voted for McCain, 20% of conservatives for Obama (in an election he won by a large margin).

    Or if you want Canadian examples one member one vote produced Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach, Mike Harris, Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper - only one moderate (and I am going to get killed here for suggesting he is one).

    So before you call for new institutions do strain that underutilized muscle upstairs, and consider the consequences of changing leadership selection processes instead of transmitting vapid burps of partisan pablum.

    Canada has a much narrower membership base for its political parties than the US, so party stalwarts are in control. That is absolutely a good thing because party stalwarts care primarily about winning. If democracy is to reflect the will of the people, it needs politicians that are driven to win elections, not to pursue personal moral crusades. A democracy can't do that if the leadership selection process picks leaders that are far apart, and rigid in their ideology.

    We have all been inculcated with the notion that "democracy is good". Unfortunately few people ask the important question: where and when is democracy good? In government? Was democracy good for the central bank? No, it instituted insidious inflationary motives to the central bank. Is democracy good for the military? Obviously not. Is democracy good for deciding about minority rights? No, you get tyranny of the majority.

    Secondly, why is democracy good? What is good government, exactly? One interpretation is utility maximization - if you summed the happiness of everybody within the system with a particular outcome (with extreme outcomes limited by the constitution) you get a decent metric. Elections are more likely to produce "least worst" governments than processes like coups, since popular support has something to do with winning elections, and much less to do than one's ability to stage successful coups (my own efforts in Botswana to date are an exemplary case of this).

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 4:09 AM  

  • Kennedy is apparently not going to run:

    By Blogger Ted, at 12:38 PM  

  • HosertoHooser: Brilliant write-up.

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 3:12 PM  

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