Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why the Liberal Party rules for choosing a new leader favour David Merner

David Merner has a long history with the Liberal Party; was president of one of the few hot spots of political life and ferment in the Party; is a fighter by training by virtue of being a litigating lawyer, and by intrinsic genetic disposition.

And now he plans to run for leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and has started off the bat supporting pre-election electoral ceasefire between the NDP, LPC and Greens in the next election.

With two major tweaks to his announced platform, Merner could cobble together a winning platform, as I suggested in an earlier post (see especially the comments on that post).

With a little bit of help from his friends, and the tale of 'Wasted Votes'

And, as Far and Wide pointed out, Merner could benefit from the support of tens of thousands of new Supporters, if social groups that have sprung up to work for
meaningful electoral change throw their weight into the mix by encouraging progressives to join the LPC and support candidates who favour pre-election electoral cooperation and post-election proportional representation.

So far, so good.

Merner is guaranteed a mighty boost in publicity once new polls show that his proposals are striking a chord with Canadians who are dismayed by Stephen Harper's Tories  barely concealed disgust with the workings of our Parliament and our democratic ways of conducting politics.

How the rules of engagement work: The Equal Ridings Rule

But David Merner has far more going for him than just the above.

The rules of engagement that dictate how the next Liberal leader will be chosen mean that Merner could have a significant – and perhaps an unbeatable – advantage over all other candidates (except Justin Trudeau).

This is because  the recent convention decided that in the election of the new leader, EVERY ONE OF THE 308 RIDINGS shall have an equal number of votes for the leader.


And those votes are split between the candidates based on their percentage of support from members and Supporters voting in each and every such riding. 

So if Merton gets 50% of the votes in, say, fifty of the 308 ridings, and the other 50% is spread amongst the other candidates, then he could easily build up a sizeable advantage in votes and win this campaign.

And mark this, too: This 'equality votes' ruling means that candidates who run with established support in existing ridings where Liberal support is strong, have been stripped of any advantage that would normally give them. Each such riding only earns their share of the 100 points available.

What this means is that many popular candidates might end up with 'wasted votes' if their strength is concentrated in a region or several ridings.

The Merner Advantage:

So this Equality of Ridings Rule dicates that every candidate has to work to gain support in every one of the 308 ridings, as each such riding will count equally when the votes are tallied.

Winning with 30,000 votes in one area (such as parts of Quebec or BC) counts for as much as winning with 5,000 votes in a riding that has no LPC MP nor any functioning Liberal riding association – and there are more than 90 (almost one-third of the total) of these.

Now consider the ability of organizations such as Leadnow to reach voters in each and every of the 308 ridings, at minimal costs, and with greater frequency, than most candidates will be able to do.

And factor in that David Merner's views accord with the mission statement of Leadnow: pre-election cooperation plus post-election proportional representation.The combination is as combustible as those kegs of gundpower good old Guy Fawkes stashed in the basement of Britain's Parliament so many years ago.


  1. How do you know that none of the other candidates will support cooperation?

  2. A few will.
    But most will offer tepid support because they lack the courage to fight for change, and/or really like the FPTP system because they hope for the glory days to suddenly arrive again and the LPC to win majorities in the House.

  3. So if a few will why would Merner get so much support?

    1. Well, he's off to a good start being first out of the gate. That doesn't guarantee anything, and it may be that another Cooperate candidate will be viewed as a better choice. Kind of hard to say without knowing who that might be. However, as CuriosityCat has pointed out, he's fluently bilingual, is well known to Liberals in at least one province and known by plenty in the others, young(ish. How young do you have to be to be young these days?) and daring. I haven't met him yet but will soon. But those are qualities I'm also looking for, in addition to Cooperation, so its a good sign to me.

  4. Jprdan & Jenn - the acid test for any candidate will be whether he or she pays lip service to electoral reform rather than clearly shows that they have considered the issue, have some good, solid, constructive, effective, doable concepts about how a modified proportional representation system (MPR) will work.

    If they simply say nice things like we really need electoral reform and we should appoint commissions and go through endless debates and discussions and then endless referenda to implement it, we can write that candidate off as being serious about a MPR system.

    I put Ms Coyne in that category, based on her generalities about electoral reform.

    At the very least we as supporters of the LPC can expect detailed, well-thought out and implementable concepts from the candidates.

    This is especially important given that Thomas (My way or the highway) Mulcair still believes he can become prime minister in a majority NDP government in 2015, and so has turned his back on pre-election cooperation and does not wish to touch post-election cooperation or electoral reform with a barge pole.

    Mulcair has joined with Harper - neither really wants to share power and both oppose changing the current system by remedying our appalling democratic deficit.

    So let's ask for a series (NOT JUST ONE) of debates specifically about cooperation, with plenty of time for each candidate to deal in detail with the issue of pre-election cooperation, post-election cooperation and the type of MPR system they each favour.

    And before the debates, let's have the candidates present papers to us which answer specific questions and detail their proposals.

    In particular, let each candidate explain how he or she will ensure the implementation of MPR within 6 months of the next election being held.

    Keep their feet to the fire.

    And let's hope that members of Leadnow and other reform groups attend every meeting of all candidates and ask a set of questions about these issues.

    Then maybe we can separate the wheat from the chaff and choosse the candidate who offers a high probability of real change in our elections, within a short time.

  5. Hi CC, long time but I often read your blog old friend - Mr. Mulcair is not the NDP party and the party has voted policy on electorial reform, and PP. So to suggest that Mulcair and the NDP would not rejig electoral reform, after the election is a misrepresentation of the NDP position.

    As for pre-cooperation, that too would be dictated by party policy, and we don't have party policy about that. But the last time that was a possibility, it was the liberals under Iggy who shut that possibility down. Anyway, of recent note in that last federal byelection, I noted that both the Libs and Greens ran candidates for the Toronto-Danforth riding (Jack's riding), and there was no "cooperation" shown there. Of course, it wasn't like a conservative was going to win and all, but of more recent note is the suggestion for nobody but a lib to contest the con in the possible Etobicoke election but "silence" is golden for Durham and Calgary Centre. I suppose that consistency and politics is still being played out in that "cooperation maybe" but really not if it doesn't work for the entitled. Which brings to mind, what happens if the "said progressive candidate" is not progressive at all and has a voting record of being anti choice, and pro corporate welfare? Would that mean that the progressives in a riding would have to support a right-wing non-progressive joint candidate because, geez, that would be such a non-starter.

  6. jftb - in politics you fare better if you priorize your goals. Figure out the highest value, then the next highest and so on. Then aim at getting as high up the value scale as you can.

    So, is the prospect of say 4 or 8 more years after 2015 with Harper Tories better or worse than cooperating and voting for an "anti choice pro corporate welfare" Liberal bum?

    If better, then don't hold you nose and consider pre-election cooperation. Just let the next election happen with a united right wing regressive party lead by Harper and a divided centre-left group of 3 parties beating the @#$%^&* out of each other.

    If it is not better, than actively organize for pre-election cooperation ala the Cullen Plan. Once Harper is ousted, let's pass laws to give Canadians a better democracy through some form of modified proportional representation, and then let's go at each other ...

    Doing nothing differently in the next election but expecting a different result fits the definition of delusional insanity.


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