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.