Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Policy Watch

Although the focus of the upcoming LPC convention seems to be all about WOMOV (oh, and I guess picking a leader), it is still a policy convention.

As discussed before, policy debate took place online for the first time ever - a welcome change since it gave everyone the opportunity to participate. And it appears to have been a big success, with close to 1,000 Liberals participating, almost 25,000 votes cast, and some resolutions drawing 80 or 90 posts about them. Considering the number of people who skip policy workshops at a convention, that's not bad.

The problem, as also previously discussed, is that rather than using this vote to prioritize policies, the Council of Presidents were the ones entrusted with this most sacred of duties.

So it's probably fair to examine how the policies chosen differ from those voted in by members. Well, as you might expect, the results are mixed:

Policy Comparison

The four most popular online policies were all voted in by the Council of Presidents, although numbers 5 and 6 were not. Of the 13 winners from the online vote, 9 of them will be debated in Vancouver. The four "upsets" are:

In Agriculture - "Natural resources" (18.6% prioritized, third place) over "Supporting agricultural producers and expanding trade" (26.2%).

In Education - "Improving child care and parental leave for Canadians" (12.3%, third place) over "Creating a national system of early learning and childcare" (29.2%).

In Social Policy - "Reducing child poverty" (13.3%, third place) over "Poverty reduction & guaranteed annual income strategies" (32.4%).

In Health and Aging - "Aging with dignity" (9.5%, fourth place) over "Preserving high quality health care" (35.7%).

In Animal Rights - "A Ban on the Duck Hunt" (8th place) over "An End to Shark Hunting" (1st place). [sorry, sorry, but this policy stuff is just so dry otherwise...]

Now, just by looking at the titles, you can see that the general thrust of most of these is similar (big surprise - Liberals like child care and don't like poverty). The only really suspect choice would be "aging with dignity" but en famille users are probably a tad younger than riding presidents, so it's not too shocking.

More surprising are the four "bonus" policies that found their way to Vancouver. By my count, 17 policies that were debated in the 13 online workshops were prioritized...I'll plead ignorance as to the exact mechanism that led to this, but it did allow a few suspect policies to make it through, the most obvious examples being:

1. The "regional development" policy (general support for regional development), which gathered a whooping 0.8% of the prioritized votes in its workshop, and was only approved by 63% of all members who voted on it.

2. The "human rights commission" policy (it's a bit complicated, so read it for yourself if you're interested), which finished dead last in the Justice workshop, and was only approved by 51% of Liberals.

In Conclusion

Either way, it's probably not a huge deal since the policy process doesn't really lead anywhere in the end. But, because it's not a huge deal, you should be giving the grassroots a real say in it - especially when a thousand Liberals took the time to debate the policies and vote on an average of 25 policies each.

And, if you look at the results, fears that the online vote would prioritize a slew of "radical" policies like legalized marijuana or abolishing the monarchy proved to be unfounded.

There are a lot of changes that need to be made to the policy process for future conventions, and I would hope that giving the grassroots a larger say is one of them.

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  • Dan what's your view of the thoought that of the online vote likely only involved less than 10% of youth, and WELL UNDER 50% women and under 1% of Aboriginals?

    Do you think it was even remotely reasonably to use an online vote that was grossly unrepresentative of the party membership (1000 voters does not make it representative of the 65,000 members, especially since some provinces have virtually no En Famille members at all) as a basis for the riding Presidents vote?

    What do you think of the the fact that none of the YLC policies won in their categories on En Famille?

    Are you against giving youth, women, and Aborginals the proportionate votes they were supposed to be entitled to for this convention?

    What was the point of letting Commissions submit their own policies if they doomed from the start do their members not having the proportionate votes they thought they would have?

    Do you not think different policies would have made it to the floor if they were allowed to be considered in workshops? Legalizing marijuana for instance did only lose by 1% on the En Famille vote in it's category, surely it would have passed in the workshops (hell it's ALREADY legal in California, see a recent WashPost article about the now thriving pot industry there).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:31 a.m.  

  • What a loaded statement, at least as it pertains to the youth. There's nothing "proportionate" about giving a 25% quota to the youth when they comprise less then 10% of the Liberal membership. That's called "disproportinate" representation.

    On a related note, I'm surprised so many commenters when talking about Liberal policy have resorted to being "anonymous". Why so scared of having your real identity associated with a certain policy that you're advocating?

    By Blogger Oxford County Liberals, at 9:39 a.m.  

  • Oh Scott, why so curious who everybody is? Do you go to Woman at Mile 0, Impolitical and Hell Upside Down and other anonymous bloggers and post comments demanding to know who they are too?

    Just getting a blog handle doesn't even mean you ARE posting under your real name.

    Hell Dan Arnold here posted as "Bart Ramson" for what the first 3 years of THIS blog?

    Just because you see a full name doesn't mean it's actually theirs. If it's a common name (John Smith) there are probably ten of them in the Liberal Party so you wouldn't even know which one. Heck people can even impersonate others when you allow open comments like Dan does.

    So not sure why this concerns you so much.

    By Anonymous JohnDoe, at 10:19 a.m.  

  • En Famille is great and all, but Dan aren't there only like 5000 Liberals registered on it?

    I bet WELL OVER half the membership doesn't even know it exists.

    So why would we use that as basis for deciding policy? Why would it make us feel any better if the riding Presidents voted in line with a group of 1000 Liberals who happened to know they could even vote on En Famille.

    There could have been whole ridings where no votes were cast at all.

    A beter question is how many riding Presidents even voted in the vote that DID count? They apparently had to extend voting(it was supposed to be March 22-29 but was extended another week), so I'm guessing not all of them did, so entire ridings were silenced.

    So I'd say the entire process was suspect. As for Scott's comment about "disproportionate representation", the current OMOV proposal will give that to rural ridings who will count 10 times more than urban ones. I notice Scott ignored my point about women and Aboriginals though. I'm guessing only a handful of Aboriginals voted on En Famille, might have been nice to give them a louder voice on which policy made it through the Aboriginal workshop no?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:27 a.m.  

  • Anon - Anyone who thinks youth are under-represented on an online vote is seriously mistaken. They're probably under-represented on the CoP vote, but that's another reason that was a bad idea.

    1,000 members voting on en famille isn't a ton, but it's probably similar to the number you'd get at a convention - and it's likely as representative a sample. But this was the first time it was done and it wasn't hyped as much as it could be - I'm sure you'd get more next time around.

    As for the ideal situation, maybe you find a compromise. Give each PTA and the comissions 1 policy that gets fast tracking to the convention, along with the 10-15 winners from the online vote. Hell, give the commissions 2 each if you want. That ensures that everyone gets a say in the process and it still allows policies that are region-specific or commission-specific to come forward.

    (it may actually be like this currently...I'm not positive on the mechanism - maybe someone can clarify)

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:28 a.m.  

  • Anon - again, that's why they should promote the en famille vote more in the future.

    1000 Liberals voting on en famille isn't any less representative than 1000 Liberals voting in Vancouver...since that sample will skew west and richer.

    And, yes, I'm not sure how many riding presidents actually voted. If the ridings held their own policy meetings/votes and then voted based on that, it's not a bad way to go about it, but I suspect few did.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:32 a.m.  

  • Oh, and as for anon comments, I don't mind if they raise valid points, as the first anon in this thread did. If they're not bringing anything useful to discussion though, I'm going to have to start deleting them, because it's getting a bit ridiculous.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:33 a.m.  

  • If we're going to make the En Famille voting process binding then I think we do need to reconcile that with the fact the constitutional policy process does call for a delegated process with demographic quotas.

    But as to youth not passing their motions on the non-binding En Famille vote, that's not a failure of process: that's a failure of YLC to lobby within the new process for their policies. They didn't get their numbers out. Given that the % of youth online outweighs the older generation, I'm surprised the youth didn't swamp the process.

    I can only speculate the YLC didn't consider it a priority. Given that it was all a non-binding dog and pony show, I can understand that. But at the same time, to not make it a priority was their decision, so to lament youth turnout or the lack of support for youth motions after the fact rings hollow to me.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 10:54 a.m.  

  • Yeah, the online process is particularly well suited for the youth to exert their influence, given the large e-mail/facebook lists at their disposal.

    But, valid points were raised about aboriginal/female/etc representation...you could extend the quotas used at conventions to the en famille vote easily, since they have the demographics from all the registered users. These are all things worth considering in the future.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:59 p.m.  

  • Jeff: I believe the OYL and YLC execs both used their fb groups and listserves to both implore youth to both register on En Famille and vote and sent letters to all riding Presidents encouraging them to vote for YLC policies.

    I'm not sure how much more they could that wouldn't be considered completely invasive, it's always convenient to just blame the execs as not doing good enough "lobbying", but that's also kind of like blaming the underprivileged/underrepresented minority groups in society for "not being more powerful". The YLC don't have all that many resources behind them and many riding Presidents view them with disdain and refuse to even have an official youth rep on their boards (the Renewal Report wouldn't have called for such youth reps in EDA's if they were already in place in the large majority of ridings).

    So sometimes all the lobbying in the world won't get them to listen to youth groups and sometimes just seeing "sponsored by the Young Liberals of Canada" is enough to get some senior party members to vote against a policy.

    But back to En Famille, in the end I'm sure youth outside Ontario make up a smaller proportion of En Famille than they would have had at convention and as history has shown they are VERY effective at mobilizing at conventions so surely more YLC policies would have gone through to the floor. Saying just because it's online makes it "ideal for youth" isn't necessarily accurate there are far far more non-youth Liberal bloggers than youth bloggers. I would imagine En Famille is dominated primarily by those in their 30s-40s rather than youth who probably don't spend too much time having online political discussions that aren't on facebook.

    And I would argue that the En Famille process is less representative than the delegate process as I believe there are entire non-Ontario ridings that have like no En Famille members whatsoever and I don't think there are any ridings with no delegates at convention this time. And I wouldn't be surprised if Ontario makes up 75% of the En Famille membership right now which is not how it will be at convention. And since LPBC (not YLC) but marijuana legalization one of their top policies at their own convention, you could be damn sure at a convention in BC it would have made it out of the workshop to be voted on on the floor (and it's tragic really it only lost by 1% on En Famille and by who knows how much in the riding Presidents vote).

    On a riding by riding basis, En Famille is grossly unequitable. And of course women and Aboriginals are far below their numbers as well.

    For those that strongly support WOMOV (even just riding based WOMOV and not demographically based) you should find it unacceptable to use En Famille in a non-weighted fashion as a binding measure for policy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:07 p.m.  

  • Though on the issue of using En Famille for binding policy votes, front-runner for VP Policy (based on her backing for all the major Ignatieff organizers as well it seems every non-Ontario PTA executive member) Joan Bourassa says the following on her website

    "If the One Member One Vote constitutional amendment is passed at this convention, En Famille may be used for online voting on resolutions"

    "I propose:

    - a dynamic policy process using innovative methods for sharing new ideas, by expanding member participation in En Famille in order to encourage more member involvement in policy development
    - using En Famille as a consultation tool as well as a voting tool on various issues, ( if one member, one vote is passed at this convention)

    For those that thought that passing OMOV without quotas wouldn't be a stepping stone to for taking away the quotas for the entire policy process it would seems like that is exactly what Joan has in mind.

    There is no mention of quotas for women, Aboriginals or youth anywhere on her website and it looks like she's got she's well on pace to re-election with the endorsements she's lined up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:15 p.m.  

  • I'll never understand your view on this stuff. En Famille had 1000 voting members out of over 60,000 members. No one policy had much more than around 300 votes. With delegates, you have a reasonably fair representation from every riding, age and sex. In contrast, en famille was completely unrepresentative.

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 10:54 p.m.  

  • That HRC resolution is one of the worst pieces of public policy I've ever seen.

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 12:22 a.m.  

  • Fun fact: The Human Rights Commission policy passed because all the Council of Presidents from Quebec slated together and voted for it. Talk about not listening to their members...

    I would actually bet to venture to say the Human Rights Commission policy is even more controversial than legalization.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:51 a.m.  

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