Talking to Sam Lavoie
Well, first of all, I’m the only candidate with executive experience so I have first hand experience dealing with the organization. But I think what people are really looking for in their YLC president is someone who has the right vision for the organization.
I see the YLC as a strong independent organization within the Liberal Party, which can push ideas and issues that matter to youth. If we do that, I think many young Canadians outside the Liberal bubble will look at us and see this is a good organization that represents their values, and they’ll want to get involved.
Also, management skills are important – it’s not very sexy, and it’s not something you put in your platform, but I believe I can get the best out of the next executive. I know I can get the executive to work together and set common goals.
And, finally, I think I’ve put forward a very detailed platform on my website on a range of issues. If I become president, that’s something I can be held accountable to.
Thinking about the role of the YLC. I was involved in the YLC and I think it’s a good organization, but the Conservatives have more youth candidates and MPs than us, the NDP and Greens get more youth votes than us, and it’s clear we haven’t had a bonanza of young Canadians join the Liberal Party. Do you think the YLC has done its job or does it need to seriously change course?
I think that’s a fair point. As a member of the executive, I can take some responsibility for this, but I think the party as a whole has been under-performing of late.
If we’re talking about the role of the YLC, I think we need to emphasize reaching out to non-Liberals...especially on campus clubs, since that’s the easiest place to get involved in the party. We need to really build ties with other groups - for example issue based groups and multicultural communities. The way I see it, we’ve taken a lot of these groups for granted in the past and we need to reach out now and build a relationship.
We need to run with the ball as an organization and advance youth issues, because then young people will see us as an organization they want to get involved with. We need to create a dynamic organization that young people will want to get involved with.
You talked about getting more people involved in the party. You’re from Quebec where the party’s hit a rough patch and I know you have a lot of supporters from Western Canada, where it seems we’re permanently in a rough patch. What do you think is the best way to get young people involved in these areas where we haven’t been as strong traditionally?
The issue in Quebec, and I think it’s the same in Alberta, is that we don’t have a Liberal backbone. One of my proposals is to strengthen our campus clubs, both financially and with resources. For example, there’s a club at Grant MacEwan [in Edmonton] where a lot of work has been done by the Liberals there, but they had to start with no resources at all.
So in my platform I said any YLC surpluses would be spent on campus clubs, since they’re on the ground and that’s where most of the needs are. So I think every campus club should get $250 to help them recruit members – we need to acknowledge the important role they pay in bringing in new members.
Also, we need to do a better job communicating with young Liberals. A lot of clubs never talk to the YLC – we need to give them the tools necessary to do their work. So we need to pressure our MPs to go out to campus clubs and speak there, to get people more interested in the party.
I’ve also proposed recognizing riding clubs, so that we reach youth who aren’t at campuses. But until that’s done, we’re a campus club centered organization.
So the last thing I want to talk about is the big controversial one member one vote proposal. You seconded the YLC amendment to put a 25% quota for youth into place. Do you not think that goes against the principle of giving all members an equal say in the leadership process?
First of all, I think we need to agree on the definition. This isn’t a one member one vote proposal, this is a weighted one member one vote proposal. People tell me, Sam, why would rural Canadians want to join a party where all the members are from Montreal and Toronto...so I agree we should have weighting by riding. But then, why would young Canadians want to join a party where all the decisions are made by people who are 40 years old and over? It’s the same principle.
It’s simple to me. There might be 10 Liberal members in Repentigny and they get 100 points. And maybe there are 200 members in Westmount Ville Marie and they get 100 points. So a Liberal in Repentigny is already worth 20 times more.
And you need to ask yourself, where is Concordia? In Westmount Ville Marie. Where is McGill? In Westmount Ville Marie. The problem is most of our youth are involved through campus clubs and most of our campus clubs are in urban areas where the Liberals are. So the youth vote would be under-represented under a weighted one member one vote system.
So why 25%? This is nothing new. We would have had 6 of 22 delegates under the current system. There’s been a consensus within the Liberal Party that young Liberals should be over represented because young Canadians are under represented in politics. This will force leadership candidates to recruit youth and pay attention to the YLC.
I think it’s a bit of a false debate. Other people say, why can’t we just sign up 25% of the membership. I say, why can’t we do both?
But do you think this is actually going to get more people involved in the party? How does making their vote worth 5 points instead 1 point going to make them more likely to join the party?
You need to go out and get people from other parties involved. In Quebec, the provincial Liberals give a big say to their youth, so if we want to get these people involved with the federal party, we need to be able to show them they’re respected here.
I’ve read some things...can people stop saying we’re being selfish. I’m 22 years old! We’re not going to have a leadership race until I’m way past my youth years, so what could I possibly have to benefit from this?
Fair point. So, I guess the last thing I’ll ask on this, is if you think there should also be quotas for females or aboriginals or any other groups?
Our motion is to make sure an under-represented group gets fair representation. If we’re successful, I think it will be easier for other groups to do this at the convention.
I think, in theory, I’d be fine with women having 50% representation. That’s not the issue right now since it’s not up for vote, but I’d be inclined to support that at another convention.