Monday, May 9, 2011

"Here is the devil-and-all to pay. "

Okay, Liberal Party.  The time has come.  Rise Up!

Negative-option accountability in the Liberal Party has just got to go.

We do not have a problem with leadership from our Leaders.  We have a problem with leadership period.  Over the years, the vast majority if positions of authority in the Party, from riding presidents, to candidates, to incumbency protected MPs, to Provincial and National Board members to the Revenue Committee, Election Readiness and Campaign Committees and senior officials  - even delegates to most conventions (Big donor? You’re in!), have been acclaimed or appointed to their positions – basically they’ve been installed.

Rather than some great big open air tent, the Party is a bolted-door club house where you have to know both the secret password and the secret handshake to receive entry.  And once inside (if you are smart enough to gain entry) you discover just what a formidable fortress it is: the walls are super thick.  So thick In fact, they’re sound proof.

The only consultation that occurs in the club is “talk amongst yourselves”.

Every now and then, when uprisings amongst the proletariat rear, little bones of reform get thrown their way.  More often than not, however they are snatched away even before their implementation; think Lucy, Charlie Brown and football.  

Over the years in a variety of media and pieces I’ve described how the Liberal Party has tended to honour its constitution in the breach.  When that hasn’t worked, it’s issued odd interpretations, or changed interpretations.  And when that hasn’t worked, it’s changed the Party’s constitution.  Once it even did so retroactively. Yup, retroactively. 

The Great Reform Convention of 1985 removed Senators and members of the appointed Revenue Committee (and other non-elected officials) from the list of ex-officio (automatic) delegates to party conventions.  At the 1990 Conventions (three-in one – a constitutional convention, a biennial convention and a Leadership convention), these positions (in addition to a significant contingent of delegates representing the newly created Aboriginal Commission – a whole other but related story) were added back to the delegation the day before the vote by way of retroactive constitutional amendment.  They registered at the Convention as contingent delegates and left as full voting delegates having exercised that vote to boot.

And then there is the 2008/09 “Leadership process”... don’t get me started (although you can read about it here and here).

The Party’s been through enough.  It has been repeatedly reported and rumoured over the past week,  the Party Board is proposing another similar process without a proactive consultation of the full membership.  For me a feeling of "sentiment" is not consultation and is not accountability. Is someone is going to finally be called up to pay up?


  1. I see this in a couple of ways.
    First, on the impositions of requirements for interim leader, total bullshit; while I agree with some of them, they don't have the right to impose it, especially after they did it last time (and I"m actually sympathetic to the point, that the circumstances are different. They are. And it doesn't make a difference). Still, my preference, is to have an interim leader thats not running for permanent leader. But thats for caucus to decide, at this point.

    Second, on the conventions - right now there is a requirement to hold the bienniel in 2011 - but that means any donations/fees will be complicated if someone already donated to the party - worse, from a cash flow perspective, that person may be tapped out or unable to contribute in 2012. Putting off the bienniel one month - to January - makes a big difference in terms of cash flow. Similarly, once we do that, it makes a leadership in 2013 make a lot more sense, for the same reasons, and as well, gives leadership candidates 3 years - 2011, 2012, and 2013, to solicit donations. And I've heard a lot of people say we should wait, including myself. So, coming up with a way to make that work constitutionally, makes a lot of sense to me.

    On the other hand, perhaps a short, quick leadership race, may be better; the public may get tired of what I'm already hearing is a "Hamlet" routine; we used to do these things in 3 months...I just think that the executive have a lot of good reasons for the convention delays, whatever their other failings; and yes, I'd stilllike them replaces as soon as possible

  2. On your last point, I've argued that extensively on this blog here:, and in an op-ed in the Citizen today here: Bottom line, the Party should just stick with the last expressed will of the Party membership and get on with it.

    With resepct to your first two comments, I'm hoping to respond in a new post!

    One way or the other we need to have this discussion.

  3. My concern with an immediate leadership race is twofold. First, I am not sure there is enough time, especially with current fundraising restrictions, for many to mount a decent campaign. And second, I think that for years, decades in fact, the party's structures have been subservient to the leader, from the national executive on down. Some riding associations are closed shops. And I fear rushing to a leadership vote, will focus the party and membership on that as the issue, and fail to address the rotting structure underneath. The answer isn't necessarily leadership, its the structures that have marginalize members in favour of cliques. I'd rather have the convention in December (well January, for the financial reasons I cited - a small deviation, I hope you'll agree); where we can hammer these out and elect an executive devoid of leadership chicanery.

    And there are other reasons for delay; not giving the Conservatives a target for a few years, maximizing any post-leadership bump into another election, allowing a longer period for fundraising, and - most importantly - seeing what candidates walk the walk on rebuilding the party, getting out there and revitalizing the riding associations.

    Bottom line, the constitution assumes healthy, vibrant riding associations - and that just isn't the case. Lets start at the bottom, and then have something we can build on, rather than go forward and elect a leader, and hope he works it all out. Because thats clearly not working.