Monday, November 14, 2011

Liberal Roadmap for Victory – lipservice to real member and supporter involvement

Just spent some time reading through the accompany (non-official) document released with the Roadmap, and came across some really jarring notes.

They have really taken the gloss off the Roadmap for me, with a vengeance.

The cover letter and the Roadmap and the Background Paper talk in glowing terms about renewal, about a 'new' kind of party and a 'new' kind of politics, and about involvment of party members and supporters and Canadians generally.

And then it punts all discussion of policy until 2014, despite this statement about what a real 'new' party would do:

Note the hint that ordinary members might actually have some say in setting the party's policies!

And it repeats the problem the party has had for a long long time by reinforcing that there are two classes of citizens in the party: the MPs in their caucus, and the rest.

And it reserves for the MPs all serious matters, while relegating to the rest of us a role as protest group for all non-important matters.

Some deal.

Some renewal.

If this seriously reflects the thinking of the party brass and their buddies who drew  up the Roadmap and Background Paper, then the renewal process is dead on arrival.

Consider these two extracts from the Background Paper.

On the rights of party members and supporters to have input on election priorities and our platform:

 And on how our country is governed:

 Thank you kindly, but no.

This not true reform. That is simply the same party elite rejecting input from members and supporters.

We should seriously consider rejecting the Roadmap and Backgroun Paper when convention hails around.


  1. This argument goes to the question as to whether the lay party should have power over the democratically elected members of caucus in the conduct of their legislative business. I think not. The proposal to, for example, have the party able to dictate policy to the elected caucus or government seems to me unworkable, given the broader democratic legitimacy of the caucus to all their constituents. Interesting. Radical. How would you see it working.

    Alfred Apps

  2. If party members have such limited say over the formulation of policy, and if a leader and his caucus have unfettered right to depart from policy stances taken at conventions etc, then how on earth can we consider that the Liberal Party is a movement rather than simply as slighly touched up version of the old party?

    Movements coalesce around fiercely held core beliefs and policies. That is what fires a movement.

    The Roadmap and Background Paper give the impression that party members and supporters can fiddle around with other things (PR, anyone) but leave the real work to the professionals.

    The problem of the LPC was that it became a vehicle for brokerage politics; but what is the difference in these new proposals, if policy is to be designed by outside consultants plus the caucus, implemented by the caucus and very little input by members?

    It seems to me that far too little thought has been given to what a meaningful role could be played by party members in the formulation and implementation and monitoring of policies.

    It's as if party members are being brushed aside because only the professionals should have the major and final say on policies.

    A concrete example:
    Why should party members not have rights to place before all party members for decision via OMOV initiatives which enjoy a minimum qualifying threshold?

    If, say, party members could get 5% of all signed up party members to agree that party members may vote on a modified proportional representation system, with the LPC committed - if 50% plus 1 of the party members vote electronically in favour - to implementing it even if it is only a member of a coalition government (it becomes a 'given' for the LPC to work with the NDP in a coalition government)?

    I see no reason why this could not be done.

    Example 2: If the same process was followed,and 50% plus 1 voted in favour of the LPC discussing electoral ceasefire prior to the next election with the other opposition parties, why should the leader and caucus not be bound by this?

    Example 3: If party members voted for changes in the way that MPs could vote in Parliament, with much more freedom to vote as their constituents felt, except on narrowly defined and major issues, why should the leader and caucus not be bound to implement this if it joined a coalition government or became the majority government?

    The onus really lies on those who wish to perpetuate the second class citizenship of party members with the party elite (self defined as MPs) having such extraordinary power, to justify continuing with such a division.

  3. The use of the words "broader democratic legitimacy" reminded me of the Animal Farm slogan: All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

    Many would argue with Mr Apps statement about the ranking of democracy. Perhaps the party members also have rights worthy of being respected and implemented by the persons elected to represent the party as well as the riding's voters as MPs?

  4. While Liberal Party members should be able to recommend party policies, Liberal MPs do represent all of their constituents (in theory). In a majority of ridings, a majority of the voters will have voted for a losing candidate. The winning candidate needs to represent all of his/her constitutents--not just the Liberal voters or party members.

  5. SD, any reason why the caucus should not be bound to implement party policy once it has been constitutionally agreed upon? The winning Liberal MP was elected by a majority of voters in his or her riding who were or should have been aware of Liberal policy, so implementing it if the Liberals are in or form the government is very democratic.

    One beef many have is that LPC conventions pass policies which are simply shelved and never heeded. Making policies mandatory for the caucus would ensure that policies are more carefully thought through and would place an even higher premium on party members being involved in the origination, passage and monitoring of party policy.

    If the constitution is changed so that sitting MPs have to run for nomination each election, you can bet LPC MPs will pay more attention to the party policy because if they ride roughshod over it this could trigger a challenge on nomination day.

    I am still not convinced that party members should not have direct involvement in binding policy design, passage and implementation. If we took your argument to extremes, why have party policies at all?


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