Monday, December 26, 2011

Liberal Party Policies: Problems with Proposed Amendments

The list of proposed amendments to the LPC Constitution has been released. There is a disconnect between the statements in the Roadmap to Renewal and the background paper regarding the need to remedy the democratic deficit in the LPC, and advocating boldness in doing so, and the proposed amendments. Hat tip to Paper Dynamite Online for the reference!

Two classes of citizens – Ordinary members and Caucus members:

There are some improvements proposed in how the party policy will be established, but the proposals still create a two-class citizenship.

Members of the party have limited rights to require that policies a majority of members agree upon, become part of the election platform.

The proposed amendments still give the first-class members (those who are elected as MPs or appointed as Senators) greater rights than the thousands of ordinary members.

The Caucus is still given the right to disregard the policies which the majority of members might have chosen to be the policies of the party. The Caucus is reserving the right to itself to junk those policies and run the election on policies of its own choosing.

So much for engaging Canadians in the political process!

The reservation of rights to the Caucus is found in clause 66 of the amendments, which reads as follows (my redlining and underlining):

(9) Any policies adopted during a plenary session at a biennial convention shall
become priority policies of the Party until the next biennial convention. The
National Policy Chair is responsible to advocate for the Caucus to support priority policies of the Party and advocate for the inclusion of priority policies of the Party in the platform of the Party.

Note the language – the National Policy Chair must "advocate" the inclusion of priority policies of the Party in the platform.

And if the Caucus decides to thumb its collective nose to these policies agreed upon and prioritized by the ordinary members, then they can do so without any explanation and as often as they wish!

Attempt to Empower ordinary Members frustrated:

The Liberal Party of Canada (BC) tried to remedy the democratic deficit in policy making for the elections by requiring that the Caucus be obliged to  include in the party election platform three of the prioritized policies voted on by party members.

However, the concept has been gutted in the proposed Amendment clause 26, which reads as follows:

26. Inclusion of priority policy resolutions in Party Platform
Proposed amendment: That the LPC amend its Constitution to provide that a minimum of three (3) Priority Resolutions of the most recent Convention be included in the next Election Platform of the LPC.

The BC proposal was to copy the Liberal Party of Alberta constitutional amendment by having at least 2 of the top 3 prioritized resolutions decided upon at the convention, be included in the party election platform. The Leader and Caucus could choose which two of the top three they wanted to include, and could reject ONE (and only one) of the Top Three.

How to Fix the Bust:

The BC proposal was meant to have at least three of the top five prioritized policies in the party election platform.

By not including this concept (3 of the top 5) in the wording of amendment 26, the Leader and Caucus will be free to disregard the prioritization of policies agreed upon at conventions under amendment 66. So if there is a list of 30 policies, all ranked in priority from Priority One to Priority Thirty by attendees at the Convention, the Caucus could choose the bottom 3 and meet the requirements.

This nonsense (if it is deliberate and not a mistake) must be changed – the requirement should be that at least three (3) of the top five (5) priority policies are to be included in the election platform. It would be up to the Caucus to choose which 3 of the top 5 to include; the Caucus could, of course, include all five.

4 comments :

  1. One thing about caucus, it has been elected by the widest base of voters, it's perspective on policies validated by the electorate. The way you posit these issues, it's as though these are backroom types. I'd also add, that many of these original renewal proposals that we first digested CAME from our caucus, they drove the discussion and pushed reform TO the party. I get the point, but caucus is a valid democratic expression, so let's not look at their judgements as some detached powerbase.

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  2. MPs represent the party first, their constituency second, and Canadians, mostly in that order except for emergencies. And MPs have a right and duty to participate in policy discussion, origination and selection. But MPs are not independent agents: why elect an MP for the Liberal Party if he or she simply opts - along with the rest of the Caucus - to act like a Conservative? Let him or her run for the Conservatives, and let us select an MP who represents Liberal values and policies as decided by Liberals.

    An uneasy balance of conflicting duties and loyalties. But to have, for example, a Green Shift policy foisted upon the party a few days before an election and to see the party spiral into defeat as a result, is not a good way of doing things.

    The balance is too skewed in favour of Caucus under our constitution, and we need to allow members to have a lot more say about what their party will stand for and run on in elections.

    Having an overrider provision which members can trigger is a rough and ready move towards greater internal democracy and is to be welcomed.

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  3. The proposed amendments won't matter if the party can't get it's fund raising house in order.

    Bankruptcy is a real concern heading into 2012.

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  4. One way to raise more funds is to make the party more responsive to supporters; one way to do that is to remedy the democratic deficits; one good way to do that is to empower the supporters; and an excellent way to do that is to allow supporters to a actually decide 3 or more main planks in the election platform. Not a revolutionary concept, and very sensible: let the supporters decide what the party should take to the electorate in an election. For example, if, as the polls say, over 40% of Liberal supporters want some form of proportional representation rather than the archaic first past the post system we have, then let LPC supporters pass policies in 2013 to put PR in the top 3 of the top 5 prioritized policies. This would mean that the next election would have the LPC tabling PR as its platform ...

    What a dramatic change that would be - instead of having the party brass and MPs simply disregarding electoral reform despite the clear desire of so many Liberals to have it!

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