Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Liberal Riding Presidents: Please table this amendment to the Roadmap with Alfred Apps on your Nov 30 conference call

What you can do to help:

The Roadmap is a positive step forward (with a few wrinkles), but is deficient in boldness in remedying the democratic deficit in our party.

Please ask your Riding President to table the following amendment to the Roadmap resolutions with President Alfred Apps during his November 30 telephone conference with all Riding Presidents. 

The time for tabling amendments is very short, and there is no means for ordinary Liberal Party members to table amendments, so your help in drawing this post to the attention of your own Liberal Riding President would be much appreciated.

With a little bit of luck the amendment might actually survive the attention of the central party brass and be tabled with the January Convention for convention attendees to vote on it.

What does the amendment to the Constitution do?

My proposal is an amendment to the Constitution of the Liberal Party to be voted on by those attending the January Convention to discuss the Roadmap to Renewal.

The proposal, which I have named the Liberal Member Initiative or LMI, is a new instrument to give Liberals a stronger voice through the power to influence what is debated at conventions or other conferences, and to change the Party Constitution.

The LMI is a further step towards widening the participation of Canadians in the Party, as the primary election system is. It is a way for our Party to respond  to the new participatory demands of Liberal supporters.

Why is it needed?

The Background Paper to the Roadmap has a very good summary of the problems facing the Party given the changes in the political landscape over the past 15 years or so.  That Paper clearly sets out the case why the Party has to devise processes for bringing the people onto the political centre stage, and participating in the Party, in a way we have never done before.

The LMI incorporates the principle of participatory and direct democracy for members of the Liberal Party (and, if the Roadmap constitutional amendments pass in January, of Supporters).

The LMI is way for ordinary Liberal members and Supporters to actively participate in the decision-making process by being able to propose initiatives if backed up by certain minimum signatures.

What is the exact amendment proposed?

The proposed Liberal Members' Initiative (LMI) is an amendment of the Liberal Party Constitution which reads as follows:

Members and Supporters of the Liberal Party may take the initiative in requiring the discussion of matters, or amendment of the Constitution of the Party, provided that:

  1. The members proposing such discussion or amendment (the "Proposing Members") shall register their Liberal Members' Initiative (LMI) with the Party;
  1. The Proposing Members shall have the right to use, at no expense, the software provided by the Party, for the purpose of attracting support from Liberal Members and Supporters ("Party Voters") for the launching of the proposed LMI, and if support is obtained from more than 5,000 Party Voters, for the voting on the LMI;
  1. Voting thresholds –

    1. For any LMI to be placed on the agenda at the next Party convention for discussion, at least 20,000 Party Voters must have voted in support of that LMI;
    2. For any LMI which seeks to amend the Party Constitution to amend the Constitution, at least (i) 25% of all signed up Members of the Party must have voted in favour of the LMI, AND (ii) 50% plus 1 of the votes cast by all Party Voters must have supported that LMI.
  1. The Party Executive shall implement the provisions for the specific procedures and conditions required for such an initiative.

Note that there are three thresholds – the first one (5,000 votes) qualifies the LMI to be put to the vote; if the LMI is passed by 20,000 Party Voters it is placed on the agenda of the next Party Convention for discussion; and if the much higher threshold of support is obtained then the Constitution must be changed to reflect the approved LMI.

Discussion of the LMI:

It will lead to a more equal communication between Liberal members and Supporters and the party executive and caucus.

The Internet will be the platform for launching and conducting the LMI. The regulations to be passed to implement this LMI should provide for the simple registration of votes online, with signatures verified against the official Party list of Members and Supporters.

It will break down the walls between the caucus and executive and the members and supporters; the Background Paper identifies those walls.

There will be greater transparency of decisions about which policies and which topics are to be debated and perhaps adopted.

The LMI is part of a global trend towards greater direct citizens' participation in political and governance decisions.

Democratic Infrastructure:

The LMI is consistent with the call in the Roadmap to Renewal to be bold, as it will give a stronger voice to Liberal supporters by giving them the right to call directly on the Party to bring forward new policy initiatives.

It is a process of bringing the people onto the political centre stage. More democracy within the Party will not appear by itself; it takes a democractic infrastructure to allow it to develop. The LMI is part of the new democratic infrastructure that the Party has to build to remedy our internal democratic deficits.

The people who are best equipped to decide what the people who suppport the Party should debate, are Liberals themselves.  This proposal gives them a means to have their voice heard and responded to, without blockages by the party elite.

It will also strengthen the network between Liberal supporters throughout the country.

It is about moving past the idea that only top politicians and the inner circle of the Party Executive and caucus, should decide the agenda for discussion by Liberal supporters.  It will ensure that even more Liberal supporters attain genuine opportunities to engage in and devote themselves to the democratic life within the Party.

The Party is to make available on its website software that allows the proposals to be registered with the Party HQ, the LMI launched on the Internet, and votes counted.  The website must also provide a means for debate while the initiative is open for voting.

The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI):

The LMI takes a leaf from the latest moves in the European Union to strengthen democracy at the transnational level.  While  half a billion people elect representatives to the European Parliament, the new Eropean Citizens' Initiative (ECI) proposal will allow millions to have a direct say in what that Parliament has to consider.

The ECI is the first concrete tool of participatory democracy above the nation-state level which is not based on an invitation 'from above'. It enables more direct participation by citizens on important substantive issues. 

You can find more details on the ECI – the Europeans' Citizens Initiative – at this site. The Initiative for Europe Handbook 2008 has some interesting comments on the ECI's history and workings.

A Generational Bridge:

The LMI taps into the gravitation of people towards more issue-based campaigning, as described in the Background Paper which is part of the Roadmap to Renewal package. It is likely to appeal to younger Canadian voters, who will find in it a means to work with other younger voters to shape a political party that is more attentative to their needs and wishes.

The cardinal question in parties is: Who sets the agenda?  The agenda determines the dimensions of the political space.

Arguably, the loss of votes for the Liberal Party over the past 4 elections is the sound of many canaries not singing in the coal mine: the political space of the Liberal Party does not coincide with the political space of the bulk of the voters. There is a mismatch over this fundamental contour of politics.

Our party's space has not coincided with that of the 4 in 10 voters who did not vote. In the May 2 election it was a mismatch with some 8 in 10 of the voters.

The LMI is a means to prevent the narrowing of the political agenda which our current system in our Party leads to.
The LMI does not aim at supporting a certain ideology or partisan interest; it is aimed at extending internal Party democracy for all Party supporters.

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