Thursday, October 13, 2011

Liberals, let's make Steve Janke eat his words

National Post's Steve Janke thinks we are doomed. He thinks we will shrivel up and die:

I have to wonder, therefore, if there is a cure for what ails the Liberal Party. The same dynamic that pushed the NDP up and up is driving the Liberals down and down. Each report of Liberal troubles just reinforces the downward pressure, feeding into the next report, which increases the pressure further. All that blather about Liberal values and such? It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Nothing can stop the downward trajectory until the Liberals hit whatever floor of support exists for them.

What happens then? The downward pressure could dissipate, especially if fading Liberal relevance gives the party a respite from negative reports in the media. At that point the party will have to have banked resources to sustain themselves and hope to drive upward.

I doubt that will be the case. Hand-in-hand with the lowered support will be a decrease in donation levels, and of course, the public subsidy shrinking year after year. In other words, as the support disappears, so does the money. Without money, the Liberal Party might very well shrivel up and die once it drops below some critical mass.
It's clear that Janke is keen to write the obituary of our party, but The Cat has news for him: the only obituary list he will find our name on is this one.

These things we know:

Let's take Janke and all the other doomsayers on. We know that the party is not dead. We know that the party took a helluva beating in the past few elections. We know that our number of MPs is way down. We know that our source of funding is disappearing. We know that the Harper Tories have a slim majority in the House.We know that the NDP achieved a near-miracle in Quebec with its Orange Crush rush. We know that our party's organization is outmoded compared to the best features of the other parties. We know that we face a dangerous challenge from either Topp or more likely Mulcair once the Dippers select their new leader.

We know all this.

But these things they do not know:

But we also know some things that the doomsayers do not know.

We know that since our beating on May 2, there has been a steady trickle of people into the offices of many of our riding associations. We know that membership is increasing. We know that people are walking in and asking what they can do to save Canada from the rightwing Tories. We know that people have come through the door with sleeves rolled up, ready to work. We know that we have to cut our expenses drastically, and reorganize the flow of funds to make sure most funds get into the ridings, where the battles are fought, street by street by street. We know that our method of designing and launching our election platforms do not work – the recent elections have shown that. We know that our method of electing our leader was outmoded, and that the new method of one member one vote is a better one.

Above all, we know that our country needs a party such as ours, with members such as ours, and with values such as ours.

And we know that we are rebuilding.

We are targeting a doubling of our members. We are targeting funding a leader defence fund to stop the character definition and assassination that is Harper's major contribution to Canadian public life. We know that the Conservatives are suffering from  a steadily increasing rise in hubris – their latest gold plated business cards is just a symptom of the plague that will bring them into disfavour within a year or two. We know that economic times are unsettled, and slow growth more probable than rapid growth, throwing many more out of work.

And we know that the NDP has not even scratched the surface of the scrutiny that it will be subjected to during the next four years. Unless a new leader drags the NDP into mainstream social democracy within a year or two, that party's leftish warts will soon be examined by the media and voters like never before, and the Orange Crush will dissipate when people realize how wacky so many NDP basic policies and values are.

So let's ignore the Jankes of the world, and put our heads together to rebuild this party, and forge a magnificent fighting machine.

A slimmer, flatter, cheaper & more responsive head office:

For starters, we need to uproot the party's organizational structure and replace it – soon –with a lean, mean fighting machine, responsive to members and voters, and with a two-way communication rather than a top-down one we have suffered under for so long. We have the tools to do that; all we need is the awareness that it is necessary, and the will to do it.

A game-changing objective for the party and the country:

We need to come up with two or three game-changing political aims which make Canadians sit and think and go Wow! Now that's a great idea -it means a lot to me and to my family and friends. Something to rally around for us, and to differentiate our party from Harper's mean spirited one. Something like a commitment to increase the democratic rights of Canadians at all three levels of government, as I have posted about before.

More members, many more members:

We also need to dramatically increase our signed up membership. Any obstacle in the way of increasing our total membership by a factor of 3 or 4 within 3 years should be eliminated. That goes for our nonsensical yearly memberships (why not allow members to have automatic renewals with a right to terminate when they wish?); our membership fee (scrap it entirely, is my advice); and our membership rolls (make them the best in the country).

And we need to raise enormous sums of money to match and beat the Tories at their own game.

A best-practives section on our website:

To help us do that, we need a "best practices" section in our party website, open to all members, where we can pool the best ideas to increase membership, raise and share funds, and kickstart a two-way dialogue with our members.

We ain't dead yet, Mr Janke. Not by a long shot.


  1. Why are people reacting to Inspector Cluelesso? I think I read him last in 2009. Yawn.

  2. Not a comment, but a question: How many members DOES the LPC have at this moment? I have tried in vain to find out.

  3. In September 2009 the LPC had signed up its 100,00th member after starting 2009 with 30,000. I don't know the number now but assume it is lower than that.

  4. Pathetic that the LPC website does not show total members, members per province and members per riding, along with total voters in each riding and province. What a lack of transparency! Its a bit like a listed company not publishing its sales revenues but asking you to consider buying its shares anyway!

    Old numbers I found:

    Consider the following Globe story from July 15, 2006:

    Membership fever

    The federal Liberal leadership race has doubled the party's membership, and candidates are starting to look for people who will elect delegates to support them at the party's convention in December.

    Membership has jumped to about 184,000, the party reported yesterday, up from about 80,000 at the campaign's kickoff in April.

    The numbers are far lower than those of the campaign that elected Paul Martin leader and prime minister. At that time, the party had about 500,000 members, although about half of those were so-called lifetime members from New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. A more accurate number would have been about 250,000, or about 70,000 more than the current number.

    The province with the largest membership is Ontario at 76,900, up from about 34,000. Quebec's numbers come in at 37,570, up from about 15,000 in January.

    Candidates have made claims and counterclaims about their sales, with some officials saying Toronto MP Joe Volpe sold the largest number of new memberships. Mr. Volpe's campaign recently said it recruited 35,000 new members, which would constitute more than a third.

    Party sources said yesterday that Michael Ignatieff is the front-runner, while no candidate appears to have clear second-place status. Yesterday, British Columbia Liberal Party of Canada president Jamie Elmhirst said candidate Bob Rae signed up about 3,000 of the province's 11,000 new members.

  5. A June 2010 so source has this to say (sad numbers):

    Traditionally, only a very small portion of Canadians are members of political parties. Estimates suggests only between 1 percent and 2 percent belong to parties on an ongoing basis, placing Canadian party membership near the bottom of a list vis-à-vis many other western democracies (Carty & Cross, 2010). That said, party members can be divided into two sorts of groups (Cross, 2005). There are committed activists, party stalwarts who continually renew their membership and often participate in a broad range of party business. The second group is comprised of temporary members, who join the party on a short-term basis, participating in a particular leadership or nomination contest, or election, and then allow their membership to lapse.

  6. UK party membership is around 1% of total population.
    One source in 2011 put the UK's party membership as low and declining:

    But at just over 1% of the population - low by European standards - party membership is fast becoming a minority pursuit.
    There are more members of the Caravan Club, or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, than of all Britain's political parties put together.
    There are many theories as to why this has happened.
    The public have grown cynical and disillusioned with politicians.
    • 1951 Conservative 2.9m - Labour 876,000
    • 1971 Conservative 1.3m - Labour 700,000
    • 1981 Conservative 1.2m - Labour 277,000
    • 1991 Conservative 1m to 0.5m - Labour 261,000 - Lib Dem 91,000
    • 2001 Conservative 311,000 - Labour 272,000 - Lib Dem 73,000
    • 2011 Conservative 177,000 - Labour 190,000 - Lib Dem - 66,000 (Source: Estimates based on party reports and House of Commons Library)

  7. My later source comes from this blog
    This estimate is at August 2011:
    I have tried to find party membership numbers for the main federal parties in Canada (Conservatives, New Democratic Party, and the Liberals), but these figures seem to be protected by the national secrets act. (Update: a recent article in the Globe and Mail states that the NDP has 85,000 members across the country.) The best I’ve come up with is a reference that “between 1 percent and 2 percent belong to parties on an ongoing basis”, which is from a book published in 2010 (but I don’t know how old the actual statistics are). A report on parliamentary reform from 2008 claims the same thing:
    Of the eight to ten per cent of Canadians who were engaged more robustly in election campaigns, only about 1-2% per cent were consistently active members of a party, placing Canada at the bottom of the list of Western democracies.
    One and half percent of Canadians would be roughly 500,000 people being actual party members, and that number would be spread over how many parties? There is no way to know if whoever came up with that figure looked at only the main federal parties or if they also included membership in smaller fringe parties as well. It is unfortunate that parties in Canada are not more forthcoming with information concerning their membership numbers.

    Note that the LPC claimed 500,000 members in Martin's time ...

  8. I think he's right, and good riddance to the Lawyer Party, the oldest party in the federation and the ONLY one which somehow has never gotten around to having a female leader.

    Yes, Pearson and Trudeau and Laurier had shining moments of genius and excellence. Is the above statistic weird for the "progressive party that held power and claims to speak for women"? Ummmm, hello...

    Mostly, just turned off by Liberals who think they own the system and just can't get over their arrogance. A clear majority of Liberals still believe this "natural governing party" hogwash and it's sickening. Yes, I've voted Team Red in the past, and would again for the right candidate -- doesn't mean the party isn't rife with greed and arrogance.


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