Monday, May 9, 2011

"Truth may be stretched, but cannot be broken, and always gets above falsehood, as oil does above water."

So, we are being told by the apparatchiks that run the "party" that we need to have an "extraordinary" convention, but not necessarily what those extraordinary circumstances are. 

We have a party president telling us that we are exorcised by the circumstances under which we find ourselves: election loss and leaderless, while those are exactly the circumstances that the party Constitution already contemplates and addresses in Chapters 14 and 16, amongst others.  In fact all of the circumstances anticipaed by the Constitution with respect to leadership are in play without any "extraordinary circumctances".

Over the years, in trying to make it is thus and so, the membership (thought it had) put in place procedures for a swift succession process for every situation including all sorts of electoral emergencies outside of war. I'm not sure the opinion of a largely unelected elite cuts it as an "extraordinary" reason. All of a sudden, we find ourselves in a situation that doesn't suit the powers that be and so yet again, there's an attempt to find a way around what the membership, the people have decided.

The documents leaked to the public explaining the "reasoning' behind the purported neccessity to call an extraordinary convention mention the section of the constitution to be used but not the reason for the "extraordinary" nature of the circumstances: Chapter 16:  article 61, paragraph 3:

61 Types of conventions
(1) Subject to this Constitution, the convention of the Party is the highest authority of the
(2) Except if rescheduled in accordance with Subsection 65(4), the Party must hold a
biennial convention of the Party at least once in every two calendar years and not
more than 30 months after the previous biennial convention of the Party.
(3) At any time except within six months of a biennial convention of the Party, the Party
may hold an extraordinary convention to deal with any issues of extraordinary
importance. ...

The Constitution doesn't talk about what that extraordinary importance is, but I would venture a strong guess that that a petition of members in certain numbers might do it under available jurisprudence.  The Party doesn't publish membership numbers, let alone claim to correspond with them, and as I and others have screamed for, cannot provide empirical evidence of party "sentiment" regardless of what it claims.  It's all anecdotal.

I dare the Board and the secretariat to produce such evidence. Otherwise, hearsay just doesn't cut it. The only other reason could be timing and/or availability of a suitable venue. While the constitutional provisions provide for conventions to be held within 2 calendar years of the last (May 2009), and there are several sources indicating he convention originally scheduled for June would be held in early December because of the availability of the new Ottawa Convention Centre, one has to wonder if the proposed commensurate move of date to January 2012, by the NB  (tonight's) motion isn't somehow tangled up in all of these machinations. (They'll say it has to do with donation time periods but, yet again, it's all rather convenient, no?) This leads one to believe that the use of the "extraordinary Convention clause" is a crafted ruse.

It's late. I'm tired, just like everyone else.  But there are decisions being made tonight on our behalf in and in our name - and purportedly at our request - that just don't wash.

I don't know why, if the NB can't explain them to us, that we need to accept them.


  1. Well, so far, there seem to be two camps, the first being, lets take a break, regroup, rebuild, and have a leadership vote later into this majority conservative mandate; and another, which is pretty much, well, the constitution says we have to have the leadership vote in 5 months, so thats it, thats all.

    The funny thing is, neither of these groups really trust the executive of the party anymore, at all. There seems to be a common consensus that these guys are the ones that drove the bus off the road, and the grass roots are going to pull it out of the ravine. But the latter group, which seem to be much much smaller, are assuming that the move of the executive to heed the wishes to hold off on the leadership are doing it for some nefarious motive.

    I'm not sure. I think the majority of the membership, is actually pushing to hold off. There may be some good reasons to have a vote now, but most want to focus on other things. ANd as for the convention itself; I know that a lot of people won't be able to go, because they already donated a lot of money for the election campaign, and can't afford it; or will max out their contribution...holding off one month isn't a major issue, if the party can respect the constitution on this.

    Right now, what I haven't heard, is a debate really countering the sentiment I've seen, and feel myself, to hold off. Perhaps thats the good thing of this, lets have the extraordinary convention, and the membership then will decide whether to push it off or hold the leadership within 5months. Whats so wrong with that?

  2. My goodness, man, how do you do that so quickly? Do you NEVER rest?

    I say, so far, the membership has already decided

  3. LOL just caught me at a good time. Not sure what you meant by last comment; and I think its very dependent on who one talks to. I just know what I've seen on Twitter basically; and its that the consensus is to hold off.
    In the debate on following the rules, though, some valid points on holding the leadership sooner, rather than later, are coming out. Time will tell.

  4. "The funny thing is, neither of these groups really trust the executive of the party anymore, at all. There seems to be a common consensus that these guys are the ones that drove the bus off the road, and the grass roots are going to pull it out of the ravine. But the latter group, which seem to be much much smaller, are assuming that the move of the executive to heed the wishes to hold off on the leadership are doing it for some nefarious motive."

    This is really it in large measure Fiddler. The Party is really sick of getting yanked around. There is no trust. The points of view of the two "camps" as you put it are both valid, but there is immediate wariness of wherever the "establishment" nets out because of history. Of the tendency to do what's in their interests first.

    I'm certainly guilty of using that wariness to take a contrarian view. There is an adage, I'm thinking of. It has something to do with leopards and spots.

  5. Well lets just be clear - the camps should be, have the leadership now, or have it later. They aren't necessarily tied to one candidate, and they shouldn't be. Right after the election - in the campaign room I was in, on twitter, on blogs - the vast consensus was, that we need to take a breather. And there are a lot of good financial and organizational reasons for that. Imagine the current time frame of October for the leadership - we're leading into barbeque season, the ridings are disorganized, troops want a break. And yet, now, because the executive is pretty much following the wind on this one, a whole faction is taking up arms against it on principle; even if it seems the membership is on side.

    We need to clean this up, and fast. Clear out the old guard, in January. Debate, without the machinations of leadership politics in full swing. The June/December/January Biennial could even be used by candidates to showcase themselves.

    A good question for you, and you have a unique perspective on this,given your position at the time - in 1988, we didn't rush to a leadership, it was nearly 2 years later; and we followed that up with a strong policy convention and platform and a winning campaign. The timing proposed now, is little different. What happened then, that was so dysfunctional, that you want to avoid it now by having a quick leadership?

  6. Well, I am certainly in my camp - do it now - not because of a candidate, but frankly to clean it up and get on with it. I've written that here on this blog - before all of this blew up - and in the Citizen yesterday.

    In very large measure my position is exactly related to my experiences in 1989/90. I have also written about that here and elsewhere.

    Frankly, that experience is one of the principle reasons why the process is as it is in the constitution now - and why I say, leave it alone for once, respect it.

    Mr Turner indicated he wanted to resign in May of 1989. The Party already had a convention scheduled for that October (three years after the last one held in 1986 - already in contravention of the constitutional requirement to hold one every two years) and his expectation was that it would become a leadership convention. The short of it is, one potential candidate felt they needed more time, and they also controlled the National Executive (a huge unwieldy body at the time). The Party had also scheduled a special constitutional convention.

    Both of these were put off and the Executive chose to hold the Leadership in June of 1990 (four years after the last one) together with a biennial and a constitutional convention. The length of that race and its unfortunate coincidental timing (which was known at the time) with the Meech Lake accord deadline lead to the horrible divisions in the party over leadership and policy that exist to this day. It was also at that convention that the Party amended its constitution "retroactively" to increase the delegation (see yesterday's post) with various delegates who would favour one candidate or another. Some of these positions had been removed from the "delegate table" as a reaction to the perception of undue elite influence at the PREVIOUS leadership in 1984.

    Get the drift?

  7. The drift I'm getting is this sort of nuttiness has been plaguing us since 1986. And its understandable, then, that the gut reaction of many is to hold up the constitution and say "just get 'er done".

    But...we have a fixed election date, of October 19, 2011. We have nearly 4 1/2 years. We have a financing system which only allows a donation of $1000/year per candidate. We have a serious, serious problem of "poteau" ridings, to borrow a popular phrase. We have a national executive that, in a 20+ year long tradition, is beholden to a candidate (and in other measures, actively picking sides regarding the interim leader).

    So we choose to hold up the constitution, and defeat these amendments (assuming the vast majority of those I've heard, don't make up the true will of the membership). We start a leadership campaign at the beginning of the summer, so little gets done. We go into the membership cutoff period, with barely any time to sign up new members. As for donations, its a different bucket of $1,000; but some gave to the party, and to our candidate, and are a bit tapped. And those that do, that money is diverted to leadership campaigns, instead of party coffers.
    So we head into the vote, where we haven't scored lots of new members, or money. Candidates probably limited to Rae, Trudeau, Leblanc. If its Rae, definatley the Conservatives will crank out the attack ads; and we won't have the money to fight back. If its Trudeau, they may, or they may adopt the strategy of ignoring us. Anyone else, we're ignored. That may be a blessing. The Bienniel is then required in December, requires another financial hit to members, which either they can't go because they hit the limit, or they have better things to do with their money (and time) in December. So the one big event, we have to get together, across the country, to meet and plot out the future - doesn't break attendance records. As for new executive elections - with a new leader firmly in place, I'm sure he'll have some idea who those people should be.

    And we get the same top down organization, we've always had. The media may look at the potentially poor fundraising and low attendance at the convention, and go to town during the year end reviews.

    And we want wish this upon ourselves because, a) its in the constitution, and b) we want to prove, to the National Executive, that we really run the party, not them?

    OK, having said all that, I see the appeal in getting it down, quickly, effectively and moving on. In hindsight this disaster would have been much better off in October, convention behind us, have the leadership in March, awesome. Of course we choose the timing of the election, oops.

    So thhe alternative, aside from the distasteful necessity of siding with the National Executive, is to have the Bienniel in January. After a summer break, we start rebuilding the riding associations and getting memberships up, to hold DSM's. We use these meetings to debate rebuilding, not leadership. Certainly leadership camps would be welcome in the process, signing up members, etc. We focus the January convention on democratizing the party, and electing an executive that focus on that, not the leaders office. Since its in 2012, all the donation buckets are reset. And we lay the groundwork for a proper leadership race. Bonus, the year end reviews, instead of looking back at Black Monday, will be talking about the upcoming convention. And maybe this process will allow some more candidates, from outside the caucus, to come forward. It will certainly give them time to build up membership and fundraising, and organization.
    And I should write my own blog, huh lol

  8. Craig ChamberlainMay 11, 2011 at 4:57 AM

    I have my preferences for an interim and new leader -- but I don't think the constitution should be changed to thwart a candidate i.e. Bob Rae, which appears to be the case here. Rae is very capable but I'm not sure he's my guy for either job -- but I don't agree with tinkering with the constitution to block him.

    I think we are taking ourselves too seriously. There are good arguments for delaying the process and I could be further swayed that way, but the bottom line is the longer we drag this out the longer we have divisive leadership dances. Get on with it, and choose the interim leader. As I said, we get into our dysfunction because we take ourselves too seriously. Reminds me of the image of animals fighting over access to a shrinking water hole. In the fighting what's left of the water gets horded or lost and well... at least the scavengers do well after that.

  9. Craig ChamberlainMay 11, 2011 at 5:03 AM

    And get on with following the party's consitution. I am troubled by the divisiveness this issue is becoming. Constitutions are intended to provide guidance and direction to avoid division and are especially important during times of "crisis". Once more, let's not take ourselves too seriously. The party has had a set back. Or ten. But that's the life cycle of any organization, which can be a good thing. We get into trouble when we get into crisis mode and get people riled up over whether or not the rules apply or not. Keep it simple, show some humility.