Friday, January 06, 2012

The Policy Policy

Next weekend, Liberals from across the country will head to Ottawa for the party's Biennial convention. The full agenda has been posted on the party's website - among the highlights:

  • Michael Ignatieff says thank you to Liberals: A nice gesture, which will spare us from what would have been an uncomfortable tribute to Ignatieff.

  • Critics Corner: This was billed as "a chance to talk to Liberal critics" which had me expecting a panel with Chantal Hebert, John Baird, and the Sun Editorial Board. Sadly, by "Liberal critics" they mean you get to ask Mark Eyking questions about International Cooperation. Still, could be fun.

  • Former Statscan head Munir Sheikh speaks: He will also be posing for photographs and signing Stats 101 textbooks.

  • Workshop on Leveraging Social Media: This will be a valuable workshop, since news stories can explode on social media. Take for example the kerfuffle over the Liberals' decision to not accredit bloggers to this convention, which received gallons of virtual ink online. I look forward to learning from the Liberal Party how to avoid social media faux pas like that.

  • National Executive Elections: The races for executive positions are hotly contested, and I'll talk more about them next week. For now, feel free to browse my Q & A with Presidential candidates Sheila Copps, Mike Crawley, Ron Hartling, and Alexandra Mendes.

Of course, there will also be over thirty constitutional amendments to vote on. The flashiest of these is the suggestion to move to an open primary system - I'll be voting in favour of this for the reasons I lay out here and here.

However, there are less sexy resolutions which could significantly reshape of the party. Electing one of the campaign co-chairs is an intriguing idea - so is voting on party officials and policy resolutions using WOMOV. You can read the full list of proposals here and Jeff Jedras' take here. I won't weigh in on each and every resolution because I'm sure few are really interested in what I think about the appointment of a Chief Revenue Officer (my take: "Chief Revenue Officer if necessary but not necessarily Chief Revenue Officer").

However, I do want to take the time to speak out in favour of resolution 26, which would force the party to include at least three prioritized biennial policies in its platform. This is something I've advocated on behalf of for quite some time and I'm ecstatic to see this resolution up for debate.

To provide some context, a wide range of policies proposed by Liberal Party members will be debated at this convention. No doubt, many Liberals feel strongly about these issues and spent a lot of time writing resolutions and convincing others to support them. I remember drafting policies when I first joined the party and arguing on behalf of them at my campus club, at the Alberta convention, and then at the national convention. We even made up t-shirts and pamphlets in support of our resolution. One of the reasons I joined the party was the make a difference and I saw the policy process as a great way to do that.

Of course, it doesn't take long to realize that, much like the points on Whose Line is it Anyways or a Bloc Quebecois nomination meeting in Mount Royal, this really doesn't matter. After months of debate and voting, the top policies are prioritized at convention...and then placed in a binder for the Platform Committee to ignore. I'd wager most are never even glanced at.

What this amendment does is force the party to put at least 3 of the most popular policies in the platform. This would leave the Platform Committee some leeway if something politically toxic is passed (Legalize prostitution! Invade the Turks and Caicos!), but it would force them to take a close look at every prioritized policy. Policy workshops would be given meaning...under the current system, one's convention time is far better served at D'Arcy McGees than debating policy.

For anyone who gives a damn about the policy process, this resolution is long overdue. For those who don't, I'd urge you to recognize that policy is a great way to recruit and engage members. And engaged members are far more likely to volunteer their time and money to the cause than those disillusioned over a hollow policy process.

The fate of this resolution won't garner any media attention this weekend, but passing it would be a major step on the Liberal Party's road to renewal.



  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger PDO, at 9:23 a.m.  

  • I'm a bit confused by this:

    "Of coarse, there will also be over thirty constitutional amendments to vote on. The flashiest of these is the suggestion to move to an open primary system - I'll be voting in favour of this ...."

    There are two separate issues here: 1) opening up voter eligibility and 2) staggered regional voting days (aka primaries). Will you be voting in favour of both?

    I ask because most of the arguments in the posts you linked to are in favour of opening voter eligibility, not about staggered voting days.

    By Blogger PDO, at 9:52 a.m.  

  • As an observer, I might suggest that your goals in forcing at least 3 biennial policies into the platform might better be achieved by electing a Party executive (and Leader) who believes in the grassroots and shares their political viewpoint.

    If the exec doesn't share the popular viewpoint, they could still water down policy, and degenerate into semantic debates. Eg If there are two biennial conventions between elections, would three from each be required? What about adopting three items of "standing" policy into the platform (why does it have to be changed policies?)

    Of course, Darcy's is always a fine place to while away the hours when you're in Ottawa, regardless of the nature of the discussions across the way.

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

  • I guess I missed the controversy over not accrediting bloggers. And I'll bet you everyone else missed it too. Perhaps the LPC organizers actually get that the Convention is about MEMBERS, not about media, or people who think that because they have an opinion, they should share it. If so, good for them. I never noticed that there were any substantial (or insubstantial, for that matter) benefits to PC Alberta when they let bloggers in in 2010.

    By Anonymous Jim Campbell, at 12:12 p.m.  

  • Peter - True, it's an important distinction.

    I'll definitely vote in favour of opening up leadership and nomination votes to supporters.

    As for staggering the dates, I'll have to think it over. I don't like leaving this in the hands of the National Executive, since that could mean shenanigans - currently, I lean towards the YLC proposal which lays out a schedule.

    My personal preference would be to create 20 regions (by sub-dividing the larger provinces) and then draw the order at random. So, maybe the first weekend it turns out to be Saskatchewan and Quebec City. Then you have Calgary, the Territories, Ottawa, Northern Ontario and New Brunswick the next weekend. And so on.

    Either way, I don't think the support system will get enough votes to happen, so the staggered resolutions will likely become moot.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:49 p.m.  

  • Anon - You certainly need an executive who respects the grassroots policy process but EVERY candidate always says they do. I think you need some kind of rule to force them into it - at the very least it makes them look at the resolutions with some real scrutiny instead of ignoring them.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:50 p.m.  

  • Jim - Of all the mistakes the LPC has made over the years, not accrediting bloggers is fairly low down the list. Which is why I didn't even give it a blog post of its own when the controversy broke.

    But I do think it's something they should have done. I don't particularly care too much one way or the other, since I'm going as a paid delegate, but it costs the LPC little to accredit bloggers so why turn down free coverage when you're the third party?

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:52 p.m.  

  • Dan
    I think 20 regions is waaay to much. It nees to be 5 weekends in a row. start in the Maritimes (plus Newfoundland)have a convention with a debate on Saturday. The vote occurs on sunday. It can be online (telephone as well)so people do not have to be there to vote. have the debate on line as well. If we are lucky it is on CPAC and maybe even newsworld and newsnet (maybe even SUN!)
    Then the next weekend BC, then say the praries then Quebec and then Ontario. Include the Yukon in BC and NWT, Nun in Praries. It builds up over each weekend, the voters see ideas and test the charachter of the candidates. They reveal what they know of each area.
    The media would love it it gives them a horserace, the members lvoe it cause they get direct input that matters. The public love it cause they get to listen to leaders really debate because if you flub up the vote is the next day. It means you take chances, it means you have to be good and a great performance could yeild surprises.
    The open member idea/supporter, maybe it worked in AB maybe it didn't. I think it would be of waaaay less value then the primaries, then again I think media is important.Maybe I am wrong.
    The policy thing better freaking pass!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:48 p.m.  

  • @Anon 10:48 Just because there are 20 regions doesn't mean every region needs to vote on a different day: each region could choose its own date over the course of, say, three or four weeks. And its own rules for voting: all day or evening only; secret ballot or online and on the phone; etc.

    Some regions may want to vote early to get more attention; some regions may want to go on a "super tuesday" sort of schedule for better turnout.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:17 a.m.  

  • Speaking of being disillusioned, I am.

    I've really tried to become 'aware' in the last 6 years, to be a more responsible citizen and elector.  

    It's all an illusion. It was all a waste of time.

    And I've realized, I guess, just how unlikely any sort of actual meaningful interaction with government really is.  We don't even get to vote for prime minister, who's one of the most powered executives in the West, for crying out loud.

    The parties control everything (including PMO and Senate), and it's all a charade.  The political system in Canada (as in other places) is about the parties.  And since parties are a charade (look at this very post to see just how little say party members have), and won't accept active memberships from people who don't want to engage in (pointless, futile) internecine warfare, and, since no party has remotely near the moral worth and virtue that they each claim to have, it all seems pointless to watch or follow.

    I'll still vote; but I'll pay most attention at election time.  Since I don't aim for a tidy party appointed position one day in the future, it's a total waste of time to try and follow, let alone engage.  

    Political parties are like great white sharks; streamlined by evolution to do only one thing, but do it greatly - seek and hold power.  Political people wildly cheer on their shark as the whole school of them swim around and leave a bloody trail of guts behind them… and while it doesn't need to be this way, virtually all political people will simple-mindedly nod and say, "Well, yeah, it's a bloodsport and that's the way it is," like equally simple-minded hockey fans who can't imagine a match of hockey being worthwhile without a few broken ribs and a concussion. 

    It's pretty disillusioning.  

    With such an inherently destructive and naturally corrupt system (most powerful executive in the West means "corruption"), I don't know how or why we ended up with such a comfortable, cushy lifestyle here - we're really pretty fucking lucky.

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 4:44 p.m.  

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