Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Seeing Red

I had a pair of Liberals e-mail me today asking for my take on the Red Ribbon Report amendments so I figured this would be a good time to post my thoughts on the proposed constitutional changes (as the sound of hundreds of readers who could care less about the Liberal Party constitution leaving this site sounds in the background). I had the chance to chat with Steve McKinnon about this last week and I must say I'm very supportive of the changes which are being proposed so I'm going to waste some virtual space talking about why I think passing this report at the convention is essential - even though I know most readers would rather read a few Volpe jokes instead.


The authors of the Red Ribbon Report (which I'm just going to refer to as the RRR for the rest of this post to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome) clearly understand the biggest obstacles facing this party. The party has a bloated executive after years of appeasing every special interest group by giving them a seat at the table (coming soon "Southern Alberta blogging representatives"... one for each of the youth, seniors, women's, and aboriginal commissions). And, to put matters bluntly, the Tories are kicking our ass when it comes to fundraising. Say what you will about their tactics, but their "keep the gays from marrying - donate 50$ today" letters have been remarkably successful. They say the first step to a cure is admitting you have a problem, and the Red Ribbon Committee was willing to do that. In fact, the report is brutally honest about everything from the facade of a policy process to PTAs "perverse" abuse of membership rules to help leadership candidates. For that, the authors of this report, deserve to be congratulated - they could have sugar coated things but recognized that the only way to solve the problem would be with a complete and honest examination of the party.

National Membership

I've been saying for eons that it's an absolute joke that this party doesn't have a national membership form. 1$ memberships, 20$ memberships, family memberships, out of riding memberships, lifetime memberships...having fifty million different house rules may be fine when it comes to playing Crazy Eights, but it just doesn't work for a national party.

The recommendations on National Membership are probably the RRR's most crucial. The report calls for a single national membership with a central office handling the administrative aspects of it. There will be one national fee and one set of national rules. This will save money and allow the central party to communicate directly to it's members.

PTAs (Provincial and Territorial Associations AKA Acronyms 'R' Us: LPCA, LPCO, PLCQ, SLA...)

The RRR resisted the urge to get rid of the provincial associations but by offloading many of their administrative responsibilities to the national party, this should hopefully let the PTAs devote their limited resources to election readiness, membership recruitment, and policy development.

Governance Structure (So long to the Albino Maritime Fiddlers Commission)

The Red Ribbon committee was quick recognize that it's not simply a case of trimming fat on the National Executive; liposuction is required. As a result, the bloated 60 member executive has been cut in half and a nine person management committee will be established. This will save money and, more importantly, actually allow decisions to be made. I've never been to a National Executive meeting but I can only imagine how difficult it is to get anything done when 80 people are sitting around a table.

There's also a proposal for a Council of Presidents (sounds like something in a futuristic sci-fi movie) which I have mixed feelings on. If one of the beefs with the old National Executive is that flying 60 people to Ottawa once a year was too expensive, I'm not sure flying 308 people to Ottawa once a year is going to help fix this problem. I know the idea is to try and revitalize the riding associations but I'd much rather see the council be run over the Internet and maybe have information sessions in person for the riding Presidents when the provincial associations have their own conventions. It's my understanding that the membership rules and fees will be decided upon by the Council which will be a good thing since it will diffuse some of the power away from the smaller National Executive.


The RRR proposes to establish a standing committee on policy and platform development and there seems to be a general thrust towards more policy development. The real mystery here is how it will translate from theory into practice and, unlike the other proposed changes, that's hard to predict. The leader will still be able to veto policy but he (or she!) will be forced to give a reason for his (or her!) decision ("guys, we can't run on a pro pot and hookers platform if we want to win"). I think the future of the policy process will depend on the individuals who are elected to sit on this new policy committee.


The RRR proposes a few changes to conventions. Firstly, the number of delegates eligible to go from each riding will increase to 20 (6 youth, 2 aboriginal, 2 senior, half female) which I don't have a major problem with since it lets more people go to conventions. Interestingly there will only be a leadership review vote after the party loses an election, clearly an implicit condemnation of the Martin tactics of the past decade.


The vote on a new leadership selection process will be separate and, therefore, it deserves a separate post.


  • Southern Alberta bloggers deserve a rep though! I mean, if we don't get a specific spot on all the major committees, what has this party come to?

    By Blogger Unknown, at 1:04 a.m.  

  • If I don't get a title, how will we keep people in the party?

    By Blogger Liberal Pebbles, at 2:01 a.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 5:12 a.m.  

  • Thank you CG for the concise summary.

    A great service to party members.

    Based on what you have presented, the Red Ribbon recommendations do make sense for our party.

    I agree with your comments in the governance section. We need clarity on how the 308 Presidents will participate.

    Thank you for your work on this.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 5:21 a.m.  

  • Fair assessment CG. I am 100$ in agreement with the proposed membership changes. The fact that my membership to the Liberal Party of Canada (bought in British Columbia) but is meaningless in Manitoba, makes about as much sense as Harper getting votes in Quebec.


    By Blogger Skip, at 10:06 a.m.  

  • Unfortunately special interests have still managed to put themselves before the entire Party or winning elections. There are still seats at the table for every commission. There are even more youth delegates, which is such a bad idea. HOnestly do seniors even need a commission, the strongest lobbying force in this country and the US? How often can the women's commission fail to meet its primary objective equal representation for women in all aspects of the party aka nominations and seats in the house, and still have a mandate and funding. When was this commission established? What is the change in percentage of women in the house for Liberals vs. other PArties and is it worth the time energy and money to just effectively ghettoize women's political participation. I can tell you if there were a men's ccommisssion meeting going on at the same time as a women's commission, I'd be hanging with the Big Boys not the Ladies Auxillary. Get rid of the women's and senior's commission and limit the young Liberals commission not give them more power. Let them focus on getting out the youth vote, give them a learning venue, but the power they have now is ridiculously imbalanced and very open to manipulation by the highest bidder.

    Aboriginal commission is fine. Since we still keep screwing aboriginals in Canada they should have as much political voice as possible within our Party. Efficacy of it, I'm not sure. Mesures for efficacy should certainly beintroduced into the commission structure.

    Presidents meeting will not be funded by the Party as clearly stated. Efficacy again???? HOw many votesneeded to pass membership fees etc???

    Centralized membership great but it still sounds like too many concessions were made to PTA's to control membership.

    SOmetimes I wish Liberals would just get some balls and stand up for what's right instead of pandering to everyone. I believe this is a very weakened version of what could have been a much more effective PArty structure but I will still be supporting it.

    PS. Running an election campaign on pro-pot, pro-sex trade workers platform would gain us a lot of respect with the canadian electorate. We would actually be putting our money where our mouth is instead of doing and saying nothing while sitting on the fence to win elections. Canadians like that the Conservatives stand for something and do it.

    This Party still needs a kick in the ass butits a start.

    By Blogger S.K., at 10:44 a.m.  

  • It's a start.

    By Blogger S.K., at 10:46 a.m.  

  • Heh, I meant to write 100% in agreement, but I used the wrong character. Oh well, I guess 100$ in agreement means the same thing... somewhere in the world.

    By Blogger Skip, at 12:29 p.m.  

  • Oh yeah obviously a 41 day cutoff instead of 90 days is an attempt tomake the next leadership process shorter. However it alos much more open to abuse by instant Liberal sign ups particulary in certain communities. Aren't we tired ofthis. Why don't we just have membership drives once a year and only allow members who were members before the leadership race was called to vote. YEah we need membership drives but we also need real Liberals to feel that they aren't being rail roaded all the time.

    By Blogger S.K., at 1:06 p.m.  

  • Dude, the pro pot and hooker platform is a sure fire winner.


    By Blogger Gavin Magrath, at 2:19 p.m.  

  • The way to address any deficiencies might be to present additional amendments.

    Does anyone know if the process will allow for that?

    Or does there have to be some sort of prior notification process?

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 3:06 p.m.  

  • s.b. : you raise some good points there.

    I sorta feel like Liberals are experts at saying all the right things, but they fail at implementing them every time. Which irritates me to no end...

    Makes me wonder, if the aboriginals have a quota to have a voice and get nothing out of it (their living conditions keep on getting worse and not better), then if we get a quota of minorities or women, will we suffer the same fate?

    By Blogger DivaRachel, at 3:10 p.m.  

  • Hey Calgary Grit, (Every time I call you "CG" now it makes me think of Contest Girl on CBC Radio One's "Go"?)


    What do you say to the argument that increasing the number of delegates - while expanding the options of larger ridings with stronger associations - only enhances the disparency of voting delegates from ridings close to the convention site, or from more prosperous riding associations which can afford to help 20 delegates make their way to convention?

    To simplify a confusing statement: Isn't there a problem with political parties already playing too strongly to their base already, policy-wise or geographically-wise? Doesn't increasing the number of strong areas further exaggerate the differences between those areas and the weaker ones?

    And when it comes to delegates for policy conventions or worst, leadership conventions, isn't that exaggeration a bad thing?

    By Blogger The Hack, at 3:25 p.m.  

  • Ammendments can be submitted up to November 22, but I think they have to come through PTA's or commisions at this point however, I'm not sure.

    By Blogger S.K., at 9:37 p.m.  

  • hack; I'd considered that argument but didn't really feel like going into a lengthy pros and cons breakdown. You do make a good point though. Rural ridings often have trouble sending 14 delegates and probably won't be able to send 20. If it's just for a policy convention, it's not a big deal, but for leadership it does become an issue.

    What the party really needs to get its act together on is the out of riding delegates. In Alberta, if you live in Edmonton Centre, you can't go as a delegate from Wetaskiwin. However, a lot of Quebec and BC rotten burroughs are being packed with out of riding people from the big cities. I'm not sure which is the fairer rule but the rule needs to be consistent.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:53 p.m.  

  • I'm concerned that you don't seem to have considered the wording of the document and the many smaller changes it makes. While I support many of the broad strokes, I think the devil is in the details. We should have been voting on five separate proposals to institute the five main recommendations. Instead, we are voting on one new constitution that makes millions of "small" changes that add up to a heck of a lot when put together. Those are what concern me.

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 8:53 a.m.  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:01 p.m.  

  • Having e-mail from liberal is pretty good,that are the content of the e-mail?

    By Anonymous tuxedo best, at 9:30 a.m.  

  • By Blogger Unknown, at 3:15 a.m.  

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