Sunday, January 18, 2009

Renewal by Committee

I didn't have time to add my two cents yesterday to the news of a new Liberal renewal committee, so here goes.

As others have pointed out, the renewal committee is undeniably stacked with Ignatieff supporters - by my count, 7 of the 9 were part of his leadership campaign, while I believe Girard and Crawley were neutral. To ensure a greater debate of ideas, and to avoid the optics of Ignatieff imposing his position top down, it would have been nice to see someone like a Tom Axworthy or Gerard Kennedy involved.

Still, it's not a bad list of Liberals, and Navdeep Bains and Steve MacKinnon are certainly good choices as chairs. Bains is young and has been very vocal about the need for reform - you can read his thoughts on party renewal in this Globe & Mail round table. In it, he argues for a streamlined fundraising process, a weighted one member one vote system, and an empowering of riding association presidents. Steve MacKinnon is also a good choice, as he was key in pushing forward the constitutional changes that were passed at the last convention. He called me up a few years ago out of the blue to talk about the need for a national membership after I'd posted on that topic and, based on our conversation, it was clear he understood that the LPC must modernize itself, if it hopes to be succesful.

Further complicating things is the announcement today of the "change commission", chaired by Carolyn Bennett, party president Doug Ferguson, and Brigitte Garceau. I have also heard rumours that a new committee will be established, tasked with studying ways to reduce the number of redundant commissions in the LPC. Just kidding. Maybe.

Reading over their "job descriptions", it appears that the renewal committee will be focused on structural changes to the party constitution. I've heard a lot of rumours about a desire in some circles to abolish the PTAs in a bid to streamline the party, so I can only assume this committee will be the vehicle to propose those changes. I have some concerns about this, but I'll wait and see what their final recommendations are before passing judgement.

The change commission's mandate to focus on "long term changes to the Party’s engagement, communications, fundraising, policy, and election-readiness strategies" is far more important in my opinion. My advice for this commission would be to listen to Liberals - I've heard a lot of good ideas by Liberals outside of the party's power structure, so it will be important for this commission to take all suggestions to heart. It will also be important for them to look beyond our own party and our own borders, to see what other groups have done to successfully re-invigorate their membership and boost fundraising totals. The obvious case study in this is the Dean-Obama Democrats, but there are plenty of other movements we could learn a thing or two from.

Finally, the most important thing will be for the party to actual listen to them. The Red Ribbon Commission's renewal report was forgotten before it was even drafted and, living in the age of perpetual election readiness, it will be tempting to talk about change rather than actually enacting it.


  • So for the sake of punditry, what do you think the odds are we get a one-member-one-vote? And the odds we actually see some change?

    By Blogger, at 6:58 p.m.  

  • Haven't heard much from Member for sucking up to Ukrainians Borys Wrzesnewskyj since Iggy's taken over?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:10 a.m.  

  • I'm too. I wonder..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:20 a.m.  

  • Renewal by committee? Makes me think; a camel is a horse designed by committee....

    Kidding aside, I guess lessons learned Stateside don't transfer well up here. Or do they? The top-down "renewal committee" is all well and good; but there certainly needs to be more substantial infrastructure-building outside the parties in order to change the way our politics are going.

    Waiting for the traditional party structures to do these things isn't going to produce sustained change from the ground-up... even if they do manage to boot the Conservatives from power for an election cycle or two.

    Howard Dean's efforts, Stateside, are often referenced more than once with regards to Liberal Party "renewal" -- this post isn't the first. But, for all of Howard Dean's good work within the Democratic Party, there were guys like Benjamin Rahn, Markos Moulitsas and the rabble attending Netroots Nation who put in a lot of sweat equity for years, came up with new and innovative ways to foster and finance progressive candidates, and laid groundwork that Obama and Dean later were able to use to their advantage.

    All those people - and the structures they built and fostered - were self-starters and done without, not within, the Democratic Party's direction.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:27 a.m.  

  • You know what - no matter who MI picks for committees, people will whine and moan and groan.

    Tom Axworthy? Please. He's way too far left (once was a member of the NDP) and, face it, too old school.

    Kennedy (sorry folks) has shown poor judgement.

    Anne McLellan and Carolyne Bennett were Rae supporters, for example.

    80% supported MI - a little hard not to have supporters in committees.

    OMOV is apparently on the agenda - now, only delegates that were at the last convention can be blamed for voting this down - a resolution was drawn up by David McGuinty and others and Stronach presented to motion and it was shot down. In fact, it was disgusting to see that only a few delegates even bothered to show up for voting on resolutions (the KIDS were too hung over I guess) and just being there and partying was what it was all about for them.

    So, you can blame the delegates who want to keep the old system so that they feel they are important and only they have the say.

    Time to clean up this irresponsible attitude.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:09 a.m.  

  • I don't think we need to get rid of PTAs, we just need to limit their involvement in setting membership rules, etc. The sooner we move to one national membership list, centrally-administered, the better.
    But provincially elected PTA have a heck of a lot more legitimacy to make some sorts of decisions than aribtrarily appointed committees.
    The biggest probelm at the momemnt, for people who have concrete ideas for change, is that it's virtually impossible for a run-of-the-mill liberal member to actually get a constituional amendment to the floor of the convention.

    By Blogger Mark, at 9:35 a.m.  

  • I think there's a desire for the weighted one member one vote system in a lot of wouldn't surprise me to see it get majority support, although hitting 2/3 will be more challenging.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:43 a.m.  

  • A warning to all western liberals. We in Ontario have a liberal premier who just loves committees, making reannouncements of announcements and generally great at growing the bureaucracy. Has it help Ontario?
    I'm sure you know the answer to that.

    If the renewal of a party comes from the grassroots themselves, you don't need any committee because it's that support base which determines things....or should.

    If I were you I'd make sure whose hands will be puppeting those committee members.

    Got to start somewhere I realize that but you've wasted months.

    With Layton making nice noises of the coalition still in tact, if that stone is around your's going to make live harder for you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:17 p.m.  

  • Didn't I see something about Bob Rae being on MI's Welcome to Stornoway Committee :)

    At least Iggs seems to have the Art of Politics down pat: pretend to listen to a few folks in Halifax, then announce whatever he wanted to announce anyway. Or am I too cynical about the lad?

    After all, the Party Grassroots will get to choose the new Leader of the LPC during a convention in May. Who ever will they select?

    By Blogger Paul, at 9:04 p.m.  

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