Monday, January 16, 2012

The Road to Renewal

Well, that was fun.

It’s hard not to come out of this weekend’s Liberal Renewalfest in Ottawa without feeling good about the future. Considering the collective punch to the gut the Liberal Party took on May 2nd, it was remarkable to see Liberals out at this convention in such high numbers and such high spirits. And it wasn’t the delusional “get a new leader and we’ll be back in power” kind of optimism I’ve seen at past conventions. Most Liberals I talked to this weekend got that there aren’t any quick fixes and there’s a ton of work to do.

Luckily, the party took a few concrete steps in that direction.

I’ve been a big proponent of shifting to an open supporter system for quite some time, but assumed the motion was heading for defeat this weekend. Surprisingly it passed, and the Liberals will open the party to Canadians when it comes time to select the next leader. I don’t want to overhype the impact of this change - we’re not going to have millions of people signing up as supporters tomorrow. But it opens the party to Canadians who are political but not partisan and will expand the Liberal tent.

Also drawing headlines was Mike Crawley’s 26-vote win over Sheila Copps for the presidency. It’s incredibly unfair to Sheila and her supporters to describe her as the status quo candidate, but that was the media spin and Crawley’s win will be seen as a vote for change. More substantively, the man has an incredible platform and if half of it becomes reality, Liberal members will be more engaged than they’ve ever been before.

I didn’t expect to be talking about policy resolutions in my convention recap. After all, the party hasn’t even bothered to pay lip service to policies which are prioritized at convention. So when the legalized marijuana resolution passed with over 75% support, I figured it would be good for a few Twitter jokes and little else. Then in the closing address of the convention, Bob Rae did all but endorse it, specifically mentioning the resolution and saying “the war on drugs has failed”. I’m sceptical this will be in the 2015 platform, but I remember Paul Martin bluntly saying “no way” without skipping a beat when asked about controversial policies which had passed at the 2005 policy convention. A meaningful policy process is one of the best ways to turn new supporters into active members, so this new attitude is very much welcome.

For me, that’s really the take home message from this weekend: The new Liberal attitude. Who knows if going to a supporter system or electing campaign co-chairs will really make much difference? The key to rebuilding is to create an attitude of openness, inclusiveness, and engagement throughout the party - then keeping this in mind when making decisions. My sense from this convention is that for the first time since I became a member a decade ago, Liberals truly want to create a party like that and are willing to change.

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13 Comments:

  • The most important question is will anyone succeed Bob Rae before the 2015 election?

    By Blogger Jordan, at 9:44 AM  

  • As someone who has voted for nearly all parties, I'll just say I am happy the Sheila Copps didn't win. For me, she represents the face of the Liberal Party that I didn't support, and I may just be one of those people who voted in the open system. Had she got in, I would be far less likely.

    By Blogger Martin, at 9:59 AM  

  • Jordan - That will be the question. Both David McGuinty and Marc Garneau have signalled they're considering running and, to them, you can add the usual rumours (LeBlanc, Trudeau, Brison, other McGuinty) and maybe a surprise candidate or two.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:00 AM  

  • I think Don Tapscott's presentation to the delegates on Saturday morning really helped tip the balance in favour of passing the motion on the open supporter system.

    By Anonymous Suzzanne J., at 11:31 AM  

  • Mark Holland, Gerard Kennedy and Martin Cauchon as well. Don't know how neither being elected in May would help them.

    Read after David McGuinty's announcement that he's not very serious but wanted to have a name out there to basically quiet down the Bob Rae coronation speculation.

    Sadly Rae seems to have a lot of support and I don't know if any of the candidates mentioned could beat him.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 1:10 PM  

  • One thing became very clear through the course of this weekend: those 26 delegates who put Mike over the top might be the only thing standing in the way of Rae becoming the permanent leader.

    Sheila had suggested that she'd allow Rae to run, and with non-Liberals able to vote for the leadership and with Rae endorsing the pot resolution, it's clear he is trying to court all the non-card-carrying NDP voters he possibly can to ensure his election. We won't speculate how long it would be before those NDP "Supporters" put their stamp on the Party, and absorbed it into the NDP.

    If Mike can prevent the rules from allowing Rae to give the Party to the NDP, then Liberals may have a hope of surviving as an independent Party.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:13 PM  

  • Count me among those who hope that the election of Mike as President will counterbalance the weight of the Leader's Office and keep the leadership from becoming a Rae coronation. I know he has wide support across the country, and if he steps down as interim leader when the race starts up, then I could learn to accept him as a candidate. I would still probably not vote for Rae as leader. Our last 2 leaders were attacked mercilessly from the moment they took the job, and the ads have been ready to run against Rae since the 2006 leadership.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:37 PM  

  • It would be very bad form, and bad for the party if Rae ran. The appearance would be that of a typical politician saying one thing to get power, then doing another to get more power. Many people are sick of the usual politics, and it'd be a breath of fresh air to have a politician actually do what he said he would, and step aside when the time comes.

    Rae would be bad for the party, not for his leadership qualities, but for the appearance of integrity, and would send the party back to where it was with the whole Ignatief thing.

    By Blogger Martin, at 9:11 PM  

  • Didn't Wrzesnewskyj also say he was interested in running months ago? It'd likely just be a way to boost his profile and help him return to parliament - much like Ashton in the NDP race - but still another candidate is another candidate.

    By Blogger BAJ Visser, at 10:39 PM  

  • Wrzesnewskyj is a class act. The Liberals woudl do well to have him back in parliament.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:27 AM  

  • Yes, Wrzesnewskyj has said he'd run, though he'd certainly be a long shot.

    It also wouldn't surprise me to see some of the names from the list Jordan mentioned toss their hat in - after all, Cauchon had a hospitality suite at the convention.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:30 AM  

  • Best case for the party might be for Rae not to run and for next leader not be an MP. If Rae could be the leader in the House of Commons while the leader travels the country engaging the grassroots. Something possibly like François Legault has done, and while I don't know Alberta politics well like I believe Danielle Smith has probably done.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 2:15 PM  

  • Jordan has it down correctly. Rae is a supreme asset within the House. He's a liability outside of it. Jordan's scenario is the best of both worlds.

    By Anonymous Marc from Soccer, at 2:55 PM  

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