As discussed before, policy debate took place online for the first time ever - a welcome change since it gave everyone the opportunity to participate. And it appears to have been a big success, with close to 1,000 Liberals participating, almost 25,000 votes cast, and some resolutions drawing 80 or 90 posts about them. Considering the number of people who skip policy workshops at a convention, that's not bad.
The problem, as also previously discussed, is that rather than using this vote to prioritize policies, the Council of Presidents were the ones entrusted with this most sacred of duties.
So it's probably fair to examine how the policies chosen differ from those voted in by members. Well, as you might expect, the results are mixed:
The four most popular online policies were all voted in by the Council of Presidents, although numbers 5 and 6 were not. Of the 13 winners from the online vote, 9 of them will be debated in Vancouver. The four "upsets" are:
In Agriculture - "Natural resources" (18.6% prioritized, third place) over "Supporting agricultural producers and expanding trade" (26.2%).
In Education - "Improving child care and parental leave for Canadians" (12.3%, third place) over "Creating a national system of early learning and childcare" (29.2%).
In Social Policy - "Reducing child poverty" (13.3%, third place) over "Poverty reduction & guaranteed annual income strategies" (32.4%).
In Health and Aging - "Aging with dignity" (9.5%, fourth place) over "Preserving high quality health care" (35.7%).
In Animal Rights - "A Ban on the Duck Hunt" (8th place) over "An End to Shark Hunting" (1st place). [sorry, sorry, but this policy stuff is just so dry otherwise...]
Now, just by looking at the titles, you can see that the general thrust of most of these is similar (big surprise - Liberals like child care and don't like poverty). The only really suspect choice would be "aging with dignity" but en famille users are probably a tad younger than riding presidents, so it's not too shocking.
More surprising are the four "bonus" policies that found their way to Vancouver. By my count, 17 policies that were debated in the 13 online workshops were prioritized...I'll plead ignorance as to the exact mechanism that led to this, but it did allow a few suspect policies to make it through, the most obvious examples being:
1. The "regional development" policy (general support for regional development), which gathered a whooping 0.8% of the prioritized votes in its workshop, and was only approved by 63% of all members who voted on it.
2. The "human rights commission" policy (it's a bit complicated, so read it for yourself if you're interested), which finished dead last in the Justice workshop, and was only approved by 51% of Liberals.
Either way, it's probably not a huge deal since the policy process doesn't really lead anywhere in the end. But, because it's not a huge deal, you should be giving the grassroots a real say in it - especially when a thousand Liberals took the time to debate the policies and vote on an average of 25 policies each.
And, if you look at the results, fears that the online vote would prioritize a slew of "radical" policies like legalized marijuana or abolishing the monarchy proved to be unfounded.
There are a lot of changes that need to be made to the policy process for future conventions, and I would hope that giving the grassroots a larger say is one of them.