Sunday, November 06, 2011

Suggestions for a new Open Primary election of the next Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

Bob Rae has opened the dialogue about how we elect our party leader, with a suggestion that we consider an open primary system of electing out next leader in 2013.
Bob Rae and the LPC Primary System

To advance the dialogue, I would like to table a few suggestions about what kind of primary we might use. Some good information about types of primaries is found in Wikipedia, and there is a valuable summary of electoral systems generally at this site, with a downloadable 237 page pdf that will delight political fans! The two-round system has a good writeup in Wikipedia.

What are we trying to achieve?

This is the first step in our analysis of Rae's idea. As I see it (feel free to add to the list!), we have these objectives in adopting an election system to select our party leader:

  1. To select the leader who embodies Liberal Party values;
  2. To have good candidates compete for election as permanent leader of our party;
  3. To select a leader who appeals to voters generally, and not just members of our party (otherwise how will we gain power in order to implement policies reflecting our values?);
  4. To grow the party membership in the process (membership numbers jump with every party leader selection);
  5. To have a system which is easy to manage, and which is not too expensive to run;
  6. To generate as much interest among all voters in all parts of Canada as we can, so as to improve the visibility and image of the party.
What are we trying to avoid?

I see things things are ones we wish to avoid:

  1. A system which discourages members of the party from becoming candidates for leader;
  2. A system which can result in the choice of a leader who is not the one most voters would like to see as leader of the LPC;
  3. A system which can be worked by party insiders (through rules about who can run and how votes can take place);
  4. A system which can result in what is called raiding – when supporters of other parties participate in selecting the leader of one party with a view to selecting the weakest candidate.  We don't want tens of thousands of Tory or NDP supporters electing as our leader a candidate they see as the weakest ones. However, we do want voters generally to feel they have a stake in our party.
My suggested election system:

  1. We have a two-round system.
  2. In the first round, ONLY signed up members of the Liberal Party may vote for candidates.
  3. In Round One, voting will be done by preferential voting system (so that your second and third choices etc. are counted).
  4. Round One should result in three candidates being selected to run in the second round.
  5. Round Two will be an open primary, open to all voters in Canada who are registered as voters.
  6. Round Two will also have a preferenctial voting system so that the winner is the one who gets over 50% of the vote.
  7. To aid the party in enlarging its membership, any voter who wishes to participate in the Round Two open primary must provide an email to the LPC, along with an agreement to receive emails from the LPC for at least two years; they can take their names off our email lists thereafter if they wish. This will give us tens of thousands of potential members to send our information to, and to tap for donations.
  8. To aid our fund raising, any voter who wishes to vote in the Round Two open primary and who is not a member of the LPC, must pay a small amount to qualify for voting in the primary. These funds will help offset the costs of the system.
  9. Voting in both rounds will be done over the internet (and perhaps mail in for those without access to the internet).
Any comments?


  1. A pipe dream at best - Say goodnight and the last man out turn off the lights.

  2. I think I pushed Rae's idea beyond what he has said. Rae says those who show some kind of broad support for the Party should be able to vote in the primary even if they are not card carrying members.

    This implies some kind of loyalty or support declaration by non-member Candians who want to vote in the LPC leadership primary. There are cases of this in the USA - the Wikidpedia article has some examples.

    The concept is that such declarations of suppport will deter Tory and NDP mischief makers who wish to hijack the nominating process, because they have to agree that they support the LPC before being allowed to vote.

    It is some form of qualifying process, although it is not foolproof.

    I also support the concept of primaries for selection of candidates who want to run as Liberals for MPs.

    Does anyone know where I can get a copy of the speech Rae made? Apparently it was handed out that night.

  3. Can I get Jerry Boyle as a write-in?

    Just joking.

  4. Not sure if everything should be run on the basis of an open primary. Seems to me libs should either throw open all or many candidates but select the leader from caucus[ my choice] or throw the leadership open but limit the scope of open primaries or not have them for candidates[ no protected incumbents]. I like the idea of party members getting to put forward and get first crack at the nominees, but presumably any kind of primary for individual candidates would only be open to the public in the actual riding. We need creative thinking. Good stuff.


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