Revisiting Staggered Primaries
The argument goes that the party didn't need a constitutional amendment to hold a staggered primary since the National Board has the right to "set the date" of the vote, and in past leadership contests this has given them the flexibility to select multiple dates over the same weekend. And heck, 58% of Liberals voted for staggered primaries, so members have effectively endorsed the concept.
Now, this isn't the Parti Quebecois. I believe a clear majority is needed to enact major change and I don't believe we should keep voting until my side gets its way. The amendments discussed at convention failed, and should be tossed aside until at least the next leadership race.
That said, questions remain about the supporter system, such as the exclusion of 14-17 year olds and the membership cutoff period. Logistics might also make a single day of voting impossible. The party may choose to go to its membership on these issues via extraordinary convention, as was the case when they delayed the leadership vote in June 2011.
And if they do, I don't think it would be at all inappropriate to suggest an alternative primary mechanism - one that addresses some of the real concerns about fairness and abuse raised at this weekend's convention. Here's one idea I floated during the edge-of-seat thrill-a-minute WOMOV debate of 2009:
My System of Choice
As mentioned above, WOMOV lacks some of the excitement you get from conventions. So, to remedy this, I'd propose the following version of WOMOV (copied somewhat from the primary system):
1. Carve the country up into, say, 30 regions of around 10 ridings each - so, for example, Edmonton would be a region, BC Interior would be a region and so on...it doesn't really matter how you divide them up.
2. Randomly divide up the voting schedule so that it takes place over 4 weeks. I'd set it up where you had 2 regions voting the first week, 4 the second week, and then 12 each of the last two.
3. On the final weekend, you could also hold a series of provincial or regional "mini-conventions" that anyone would be free to attend, to watch the results come in - this would include the reading of the second choice votes if candidates fail to reach the necessary majority on the first ballot.
This would give you the New Hampshire/Iowa/Super Tuesday excitement of the US primary system condensed over a month and, since the order would be drawn at random, it wouldn't favour any one particular region. You'd get Canadians more excited in the entire process, compensating for the loss of convention pizazz.
Obviously enough, you could carve the country up into however many regions you like, and schedule them as you see fit. For those unwiling to put their faith in the hands of the random number generator, we could add a disclaimer that Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, and BC must each get at least one primary over the first two weeks.
So how might this play out?
Perhaps the fates will select Winnipeg and Quebec City the opening weekend. The candidates would descend on these cities, the local media would cover them and, hopefully, Liberal voters there would decide to be a part of it. From there, the race might shift to the BC Interior, Ottawa, Northern Ontario, and Nova Scotia for week two. This would be followed with the rest of the country over the final two weeks.
By selecting the regions at random, you'd be taking the possibility of shenanigans out of the hands of the national executive and you'd avoid the "New Hampshire effect" where one region always gets to go first. The regional focus would still mean heaps of local media coverage, and the month-long timeline would generate buzz and help vet the candidates.
Now that the Liberal Party has embraced the supporter system, I'd suggest we go all in, and select the leadership selection process which is most likely to encourage supporters to sign up. Staggering randomized regional primaries would be fair and it would be damn exciting.