Sunday, June 19, 2011

Root and branch rebuilding: One tool we can use

Liberals have just had a successful teleconferencing convention that 2,700 members of the party subscribed to, and 2,100 members voted to extend the date a permanent leader is to be chosen.

In commenting on the task facing us, Bob Rae had this to say:

Liberals, he said, have to fight back by rebuilding the party, root and branch, and that will take time. While he did not express a preference for any precise date, Mr. Rae urged delegates to defer a leadership vote and give the party time pull itself up off the mat.

“We need to take the time to make the right choices and to make those important strides on fundraising, organization and policy.”

Mr. Rae added that rebuilding “is not just a name for doing whatever we normally do between elections.

“Something different happened on May 2. This has put us in a different place, we need to do things differently this time.”

Rae is right: we need to do things differently this time.

One huge problem the party had was the distance that had grown between the leaders (I include all MPs in this group, as well as all members of the Executive) and ordinary members. We saw this happen when task forces were struck to examine ways to better organize the party, and their results simply ignored and not acted upon.

The party has to rebuild by involving ordinary members  in a very direct and consequential way in all major decisions.

Usually, this is done at periodic conventions, which are time-consuming and costly.

However, the successful teleconference we have just had (apparently the biggest such teleconference ever held in north America) shows us a way for ordinary members  to provide input and guidance to our leadership levels.

One way to do that is to circulate via email to all members position papers on important issues, and then to seek the majority vote for the solutions most members prefer. This could be done in exactly the same way that we handled the latest convention, except that we should avoid adding a price tag to attendance. Even a $20 price tag is too high, because it adds yet another unncecessary step to the process, and could dissuade members who are short of cash in these troubled economic times.

I can see us using such telephone conferences to vote on many issues over the next four years,  and would suggest that we have one AT LEAST every 3 months.

One item I would like to see put to members is the ability for members to choose how funds should be allocated. For example, I would like to see an amount of total central party funding raised equal to at least 15% dedicated to initiatives chosen by ordinary members.

The executive could call for submissions as to how this allocated amount is to be spent, with a preliminary vetting taking place to narrow the list down to say 5 options each quarter. Then we could email papers explaining each option (what it is, why it is important, who will benefit, how it will increase the number of members of the party and our fundraising efforts, who will administer it etc). A telephone conference could then decide by majority vote which 2 of the 5 (say) to apply the next quarter's 15% of funds gathered, to.

The attraction of this proposal is that ordinary members can propose initiatives and vote on the most popular ones, and do so on a frequent basis.

We could also use the same procedure to settle on policy issues.


  1. I like the essence of this post. I like the increased use of this teleconference tool, but I would still include a price and perhaps keep it at $20. Prices are a gauge, albeit imperfect but better than nothing, of how much someone cares about an issue and effort they will put into it. Having a low bar of $20 will add some measure that those who participate in the call will have read the policies and aren't going to waste any time.

    I also see it that for the Leader, executive and MPs to take policies approved by general membership more seriously greater rates of approval must be met. We just can't say to the Leader or to the Party that they must allow more of our policies into the platform, we have to show them why. Having minimums in support would be a forceful way to do that. For example if we want a policy in the platform it must be passed by membership wit 75% approval. If we only get 60% the Executive could reject it if they found major flaws. At 51% it's proposed to the Party but lacks the absolute force that would immediately put it into our platform.

  2. Perhaps the 50%+1 could put the best 3 alternatives on the list for later choosing at a higher rate - 60% or 75%?

    That way, ordinary members can at least table alternatives for consideration and perhaps adoption.

    For example, I would love to see 3 alternatives for electoral reform of the House tabled, including modified proportional representation.

  3. O/T. Some time ago here I was accused of being an historical revisionist over the worth of FDR. Now I'm not nursing a grudge or hurt feelings, that ain't me, but I am interested in putting the case for my views, albeit through a better writer and thinker than I am. So to get to the point, check out this article by Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP for South East England.
    Then check out his reasons for putting Thomas Jefferson in third place in his top ten list of US Presidents, it contains an e-mail from Myron Ebell lording second Pres John Adams as the true giant of the early US history. Fascinating stuff.

  4. Related, check out A note from Dr Larry Arn, President, Hillsdale College at Protein Wisdom.

    It contains the following from an underrated President:

    “It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.”

    - Calvin Coolidge
    July 5, 1926


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