Sunday, April 5, 2009

"It is the part of a wise man to keep himself to-day for to-morrow, and not to venture all his eggs in one basket. "

Quixotique is once again confused. Debate springing up over the weekend in the youth wing of the Party shows us that our youth are both amongst the most progressive and the most conservative elements in the Party at the same time. This weekend the YLC put forward an amendment to the proposed National Executive sponsored constitutional amendment to institute a riding-based-weighted one-member-one-vote system for leadership selection.

Many have already weighed in appropriately on this debate with well-reasoned arguments.
Youth in favour of the status quo?? Youth for youth? or Youth for a strong party?

While Quixotique favours the proposed OMOV process, she has consistently been concerned about the over-emphasis on this change as the key reform that the Party can make. This one change is not a panacea for all that ails the party, but a start based on and illustrating the democratic principles that should permeate all of our other processes and governance.

Now, what has been held out as seminal change runs the risk of being bastardized; debased, in the name of vested interest.

And not for the first time. The 2005 biennial is a case in point. What was striking as the Convention moved through its agenda of policy discussion through to matters of structure and process was just how absolutely the vested interests remained in control in the Party.

Early on, the Youth wing of the Party engineered a defeat of a policy resolution proposed by the Women's Caucus and the Women's commission to state, as a matter of party policy (there was no accompanying, binding Constitutional amendment), that the Party was committed to gender equality in all of its structures and that it would put in place an action plan to move towards at least 50% female candidates for the next Federal Election. As the preamble to the resolution stated, women represent 52% of the Canadian population. We were told that the Youth representation at the Convention was close to one-third of the registered delegates, yet Statistics Canada told us that the population of those in the age group eligible for membership in the YLC (14-25) stood at around 16% of the Canadian population. The motives of the Young Liberals in defeating this statement of principle could only be related to their desire to maintain an inordinate control over Party matters. To Quixotique, this most certainly represented a vested interest.

In 2006, while the youth were successful in whipping their (over-represented) delegation to obtain a similar amendment to the OMOV proposal at the time, they were somehow unable to whip enough votes to have the main proposal adopted. Was the amendment to the amendment a poison pill? Would OMOV be in place now had the youth not protected their own flank?

It would be a shame to yet again have OMOV fail at the convention while this concept was the most ardently debated at En Famille and in presentations to the Renewal Committee and while there appears to be such a wide consensus of support for the notion throughout the Party, but I think it even worse that it pass in the gerrymandered form that it would take should (some of) the youth be successful this time.


  1. change for change sake when it will take the party to the right and further disenfranchise young Canadians is not change I can support. I think you are brilliant and your knowledge of internal party matters is the best there is, but frankly, you are dangerously wrong!

  2. Anon,

    I am not (no where near) above being wrong from time-to-time, but dangerously so? Are you at liberty to explain?

  3. There is a huge problem with youth voter apathy. One of the reasons why the Liberal party has been so appealing to me is because the party and the party leadership have constantly championed issued that I as a young Canadian care about: Kyoto, Millenium scholarships, same sex marriage, against the weaponization of space to name a few.
    As young people vote in poor numbers, parties tend to ignore them and their issues. Senior citizens vote in high numbers which is why pensions, medicare and crime are all issues that get an inordinate amount of attention come election time. This further disenfranchises youth.
    The way the Liberal party is structured, leadership candidates must appeal to young Canadians and speak to their issues. This is a GOOD thing. This to me, is more important than a one member one vote. The Tories have a one member one vote and they are completely out of touch with young people. This progressive voice within the party is a good thing, not a dangerous "special interest" as Rocco Rossi and Jim Curran contend.
    I am impressed with Cory Pike and Samuelavoie, that they are standing up for young liberals and young Canadians and not allow a change to be made for the sake of change alone, when it will absolutely destroy this precious progressive voice in the party.

  4. You are obviously a very thoughtful young person, as are I might add, Corey and Sam and most other members of the YLC National Executive. I do not think I or others are questioning the very important role that the youth play in our Party, nor the "punching above their weight" contributions that they (you) make - particularly from a progressive policy perspective.

    That is certainly why we continue to support reduced fees for youth for conventions and events, and why we continue to support a minimum representation for youth at policy conventions.

    Your statement that "leadership candidates must appeal to young Canadians and speak to their issues. This is a GOOD thing." is correct, but would you then suggest that while the youth are not a "special interest" to be appealed to and need a leg up in Leaderships to make up for their reduced numbers in the population that the women are neither? Because as they most certainly represent more than 50% of the population, at current membership levels, they will not reach their demographic weight in a OMOV system. But any leadership candidate worth their salt would be remiss in not "appealing" to issues of concern to (progressive) women voters. One assumes that is how they attract more members to the fold, to their cause and to the Party's cause.

    If you are a detailed reader of this blog (and I know that is not an easy task, Quixotique is terribly long-winded) you will know that my view on OMOV is almost agnostic unless we make other equally as democratic changes in other areas. It is not a panacea for what ails the Party, nor should it be seen as the ultimate manner in which to influence.

    Surely, as you seem to understand, in a perfect Liberal Party world, it would be our Leaders who continuously must appeal to us - the members, and yes delegates in between Leaderships.

    The greatest influence, in my view, is the one you've got. At the table. At all the tables. OMOV won't diminish your influence. It should, ultimately enhance it.

  5. I'm sorry but I strongly disagree with you. The whole purpose behind the commissions is to give a voice to under represented groups in society. Youth, Aboriginal and Women. (The Senior's commission I honestly do not get - We have a senior's commission.. its called the Senate of Canada! But that is another topic for another day) The point of giving these groups a guarunteed say in deciding the leadership of our party and the policy of our party is to enfranchise groups that have been traditionally disenfranchised by the political process. This has made the party stronger!

    Carolyn Bennett recently said that in addition to having a one member one vote process for leadership, she invisions this for policy as well. This is a slippery slope. I do not think good progressive policy can come of this!

    I was quite dismayed that there are no policy workshops at this convention. Rossi and Joan Bourassa should be ashamed of this! This En Famille sight was confusing, and only the council of presidents were able to vote the resolutions which meant youth voices are being muzzled.

    I am also concerned that some rural more conservative ridings will have an inordinate amount of say in a weighted one member one vote system. A vote in Crowfoot, Alberta will have more than 10 times as must weight as a vote in Brampton or Toronto Centre. This will push the party to the right, and unless the youth have a guarteed strength to overcome this, this is push the party away from its base and be a very bad thing in my opinion.

  6. I know full well where you are coming from, and I certainly respect your point of view, but as do you with me, I strongly disagree.

    The delegated system for leadership selection is très elitist and ripe with abuse. Recent history has shown it to effectively disenfranchise long-standing and committed Liberals as opposed to enfranchising "new" ones. I've blathered on about that so much, I won't continue here.

    I'm not sure that I agree that the purpose of the commissions is to "give voice" to the under-represented if I take you literally, but more correctly to encourage equitable voice. And the primary role of ALL the institutions of the Party should be to recruit more to the cause (ultimately through votes) and ensure the election of a Liberal government, point finale.

    I do agree that the policy process leading up to Convention was less than perfect and likely has diminished the voice of some of the institutions we would like to give more voice to. However the premise of primary participation at the riding level mirrors our electoral system, and if riding presidents had actually been charged with and in fact had held consultations with their "constituents" (members, - all of them including young people) and if the Party encouraged the true concept of delegation that the youth do seem to understand, we may have had a more satisfying result.

    Yes, change for change sake is not a good thing, but considered change that improves a democratic institution is.

  7. How will the one member one vote enfranchise long time members? It will allow new members to simply go and vote, which means that all the abuse you talked about in the delegated system will be insensified. There is no need to go to a convention, which shows that the voter has a substantial committment to the party

  8. Okay bud, let's talk turkey. A Convention shows that the voter has a substantial commitment to the Party? A 'voter' "signed up" or often not even realizing they are "signed up" who has the dough to go? who half the long-standing members don't even know because they "signed up" just before a deadline? People who'd like to go, but can't because of the costs or because they know that the "new" members will simply out vote them, and people who do and can go because they - or someone else has found them the funds to go. That's how it goes in the senior world and that's what you and your compadrés have been born into.

    The influence of money in our current system(s) is a problem "of which we shall not speak". We have rules that alternately favour or dis-favour certain individuals or "teams".

    Fact of the matter is a delegated system is supposed to be just that. A system where a group (usually a riding association) "delegates" it's wishes to an individual or individuals about policy, and other matters related to the Party. Whatever influx of 'new" people there are in a system like that they can, through shear numbers, disenfranchise (and effectively intimidate) others from their usual participation.

    One wonders why unheld ridings are often in moribund circumstances these days. It's because no one gives a fig about them...other than at times of leadership (and other similar processes) because they have "guaranteed" pools of voters. It's just NOT democratic and it's just NOT about those who care about the Party and what it stands for. It's why the membership has atrophied. People - average people - want to be involved in real movements, organizations about their ideals, not simply about power and influence. I wish that your altruistic statements about linking youth involvement in the (a) party would translate into a decrease in youth voter apathy, but in 30+ years, I ain't seen it yet.

    Give me a new member any day who has of their own volition paid their dues, signed up and get's their own ass to a meeting from time-to-time to, gee, what? discuss policy with other members from their community? and yeah maybe vote for a candidate or a leadership candidate, or even an executive where there might have been some real debate and discussion with?

    Bus me in to a DSM? I'm enfranchised? Pay my way to a convention, I'm enfranchised? Rather that I have all of my own resources, unencumbered by anything but my own choice and my own free will to vote as I please, if I please. One member, one vote, my choice.

    Maybe it's because you young'ns haven't had enough (positive) experiences with voting, period, I don't know. But do not try to emulate the rest of us in the "senior' fold. Please.

  9. One Member One Vote is not very democratic either, in fact it is even more ripe for abuse as the current system because it is cheaper to cheat.
    The only way to end these abuses you refer to is to go to a US style primary system, but I don't see that happening any day soon.
    One member one vote is going to lose at the convention because no one, including you, have made a compelling case how this potentially dangerous proposition will benefit the party, when we know it will disenfranchise those the party seeks to empower

  10. I got to say, that even though I disagree with you, I appreciate that your tone has in this debate has been respectful. Jim Curran for example has been villianizing the youth for standing up for young Canadians. If we allow the Jim Curran's of the world to shape how the party views its youth, the Liberal Party loses big

  11. Ah! Anon, my new friend..."cheaper to cheat"...that's a sad commentary. I am repeating myself, but I don't think OMOV is the panacea, and I'm actually ticked that it's become the only show in town, so to speak, and it is not perfect, no system will be perfect until other changes are made (for example, we should have scrutinized mroe carefully the proposal contained to keep cut-off at 41 days).

    But is is most definitely more inherently democratic, cheaper or not. And my altruistic view is that more real people will participate of their own volition...there are many who do not join at leadership time purely because they do not wish to be involved in the leadership/nomination zoo aspect. I believe that a OMOV system will encourage mroe average Canadians to join and to participate from the comfort of their home. I also believe that if this change acts as a catalyst for a greater democratization of the party's other processes and of the party in general we'll be better off in the eyes of the public and that too will encourage more people to participate. Because they want to...not because they are coerced by power and influence.

    But I am not so sure it is OMOV in any form that you really oppose. I am suspicious that it, as I posit in this post that you disagree with so much, is more about vested interest. Many of the youth act as if the OMOV proposals were put forward as a mechanism to put the youth in their place. I think that is a bit cheeky. As I've said many times, I think the youth contribute greatly to the party, but I am not entirely sure that all care more about the Party itself than their influence in it.

    I have not seen compelling arguments from most of the youth that could lead me to other conclusions.

    Leaders are important, they are very important, but people should want to belong and contribute to the health of a party outside of leaderships, which as I have also said repeatedly should be few and far between, because that is the only way that they see to influence a party. My goodness it should be the other way around.

    To tell you the honest truth, I'm a bit bored with the OMOV discussion and "controversy". There are much more - or at least as - important things the Party should be discussing. And the youth? Well if this change passes as it should, with any luck you will have all aged out long before it impacts you, and it won't!