Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Let every man look before he leaps."

At today's Extraordinary Convention, I will support a "2013 option".  

On May 3, after Michael Ignatieff informed us that he would be resigning, I thought: well at least we know the path we are on for once: we'll have a Leadership vote in 6 months.  Boy was I wrong.  I am still of the view that would have been the best path for the Party, a swift and surgical Leadership race (al la BC Liberal Party) combined and followed with a collaborative rebuilding effort. But once set on the path to this Extraordinary Convention, with some of the twists and turns it has taken along the way, I no longer feel that is a viable option, so one way or the other, I will be supporting the Board's Resolution to move the Leadership Vote to late 2012/early 2013.

However, I do have some opinions on the "one way or the other" now that we have proposals (sub-amendments) that would alter the timelines proposed by the Board. As I read them, the sub-amendment proposed by Guptill/Cameron (PEI/Yukon) would keep the earliest option for a Leadership Vote in the Fall of 2012 and move the latest to June 30, 2013; the Jedras/Klunder (Ontario/Ontario) option would ensure the Vote was held in the Fall of 2012, between September 1 and November 30; and the Noormohamed (BC/Quebec*) option would see the Leadership Vote held in 2013 only - between March and the end of June.

I am impressed by the rationale and planning for rebuilding proposed by Gregg Guptill and Kirk Cameron.  They clearly describe how the Party would benefit from a longer collaborative building process, while leaving two-and-a-half years (or more) with a new Leader before Election 42 in 2015.  I hope all delegates have an opportunity to read it before this afternoon's vote.

Conversely, I am concerned that Jeff's proposal, which by limiting the flexibility in timing to 2012 and moving up the first possible date for a convention would ensure that we would be plunged into a Leadership race right now.  Today.  I get that in some measure it's "on" now anyway, but the further the practical race is from now, the greater discipline the Party will be able to exercise on true rebuilding freer of the usual Leadership shenanigans.

In this morning's in box I found a memo prepared by Taleeb, which I gather he had hoped to send to all delegates, but doesn't know who they are!  I thought he was going to post it on his website, but it is still kind of early in BC, so I've decided to reproduce it here.  I do so because it very succinctly explains my concerns with the 2012-only option - and I think we need as much information and discussion as possible.

TO: Delegates to the Extraordinary Convention of the Liberal Party of Canada

RE:  Important Convention Update

DATE: Friday, June 17, 2011

Dear Liberal Friend,

While the rationale for my own sub-amendment is available here, I think it appropriate for me to explain why I decided to propose it.  As a long-time member and recent candidate, I thought that the best thing for the Party would be a lengthy period of calm and rebuilding before we satisfied ourselves that we had a developed into the type of movement worth offering to potential Leaders and the Canadian public.  The resolution offered by the National Board just met my parameters on timing. When the full process was revealed earlier this week I became aware of the general content of a sub-amendment since submitted to Party Headquarters that would force an early leadership vote and significantly restrict the Interim Leader's time in which to make progress with the task of rebuilding.

As a Liberal committed to the rebuilding of our party, I want you to know that I and others strongly oppose this sub-amendment and would urge you to vote against it during tomorrow's teleconference (which begins at 3:00 pm ET).

This sub-amendment, from Mr. Jedras (Scarborough Centre) was undoubtedly submitted with the best of intentions but unfortunately, in our view, has the worst of consequences.

The sub-amendment would require that a leadership vote be held as early as September 1, 2012 and no later than November 30, 2012. Because the notice required before the vote is at least five months, which could mean that a formal leadership campaign would be underway as early as April 1, 2012 (less than ten months from now). 

The picture worsens when you look at this sub-amendment’s impact on informal leadership activities, especially on membership drives. Because the Liberal Party’s National Membership Rules provide that a membership sold any time after September 1 remains current all through the following calendar year, the sub-amendment would be an incentive for leadership hopefuls to start selling memberships on September 1 this year (a bare ten weeks from now).

None of the other amendments or sub-amendments, including my own, create this problem, because they all contemplate the possibility of a leadership vote taking place in 2013, in which case there is no incentive for leadership organizers to start selling memberships now, only to have to renew them later (while there are multi-year membership options available, they are at least twice as expensive and therefore a tougher sell for the big membership drives that leadership involves, especially when you are talking about multiple members in any one family).

If there is one thing the recent federal election made clear, it's that we have a lot of work to do in terms of rebuilding our party and reconnecting with Canadians right across the country.  This means we should be focused on rebuilding and not allow ourselves to become consumed by leadership politics. Nor do any of us want to see various leadership organizers running campaign-related membership drives in our ridings within a few weeks time.

On the other hand, if you share THE belief that we need to take eighteen to twenty four months to focus on rebuilding our party, I urge you to join in voting down the sub-amendment in question and supporting the main amendment (even as amended by my proposal or that of members from PEI/Yukon) providing for a leadership vote no earlier than November 2012 and ideally in 2013.

Please make your voice heard on tomorrow's call!

It's too bad that we've got such a brief period to really chew all of this over, but we'll just have to make the best of it. And do look before you leap!

Friday, June 17, 2011

" He has an oar in every man's boat, and a finger in every pie. "

Allrighty then.  We're off to the races! 

I've been having a fun time over the last week or so chatting mostly with new Liberal friends I've met through Tilting at Windmills, Twitter, Facebook and most importantly the recent election campaign - as well as of course all of the old dogs I know and enjoy kibitzing with whether we agree or disagree (we all seem to agree on a value set, so...).

Curious thing about the newbies is that they are really adamant about helping to "rebuild" as has become the catch phrase, but they are extremely dismayed at the organizational state of the party.  

Dustin is one such new member who I correspond with on Twitter about all matters Liberal. He has told me that since he joined the Party in April (in a GTA riding just recently lost to the CPC - he comes from out west) no one has been in touch with him other than at his own instigation and that was only once. He has not been invited to any meetings, events or discussions since before the election, during or since. He is befuddled by a lot of the "process" he sees out there and fussing about this Extraordinary Convention. He is anxious to participate in the rebuilding and has just this week again contacted the party to offer his help in the riding in away he can.  We're very lucky that there are people out there like this. 

It's such a shame that these people need to get all of their information and discussion through remote sources like Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere and not through face-to-face meetings and discussions (although LPC just very recently added a decent and transparent discussion board on this weekend's resolutions to it website - people really should check it out if they're not aware of it).

On the other hand, thank goodness we at least have that.  A few weeks ago, among others, Liberal blogger Jeff Jedras, who blogs as A BCer in Toronto, wrote that he wasn't much enamoured with the impact of the Party's proposal on the timing of the Leadership Vote and he very much hoped that the Party would find appropriate mechanisms to allow a greater range of options or counter-proposals if you wish. Well on Tuesday (very late in the game, mais en tous cas!) Jeff (and many others) got his wish when the Party issued the rules for the weekend's tele-convention.  The process for the Extraordinary Convention allows for sub-amendments to be proposed with the support of 25 delegates submitted by Noon today. Jeff developed such a proposal (which would, if successful, shorten the period between now and a Leadership vote from the 18-22 months proposed by the Party) and began the process of finding supporting delegates via, what else? his blog, his Facebook page and Twitter.  Funnily enough, when you don't have a delegates list getting 25 supporting emails when you basically have 48 hours isn't as easy as one might think. 

Even though the Party discouraged actual DSMs, where some discussion c/should have taken place, the riding that I participate in, Ottawa West-Nepean, decided that it was important to bring together delegates and interested members of the general membership to discuss the Party's proposed resolutions and ensure everyone understood the impact of their adoption or defeat.  We did so Wednesday night - while the Stanley Cup final was on - with a near-full house. The consensus on the timing of the Leadership vote was a preference for an 18 to 24 month interim period - actually longer than that anticipated by the Party's resolution.  While there wasn't really a consensus on the timing of the Biennial a plurality also favoured putting the Biennial Convention off even further (I personally do not support that). We had already heard rumours that there may be proposals other than Jeff's coming forward, but wondered about scrambling to put some of our own together to ensure more options on the table.

In the end several of us were contacted throughout the day yesterday about other proposals and as of this time of writing it is confirmed that three sets of sub-amendments (including Jeff's) have indeed been accepted by the Party and will be posted shortly.  I have supported two of the proposals related to the leadership vote (one that would see the Leadership Vote held in 2013 and one that would see it be able to be held late in 2012 and later in 2013 than the Party proposal), even though they would compete with each other again, because I believe it is important to have more discussion - more healthy discussion, and more transparency.  I think too that whatever the final outcome, it will have more legitimacy because of the options and the debate.  It's too bad that the debate will come so late in the game, however; many delegates will not really be aware of the full options before them and while there are provisions for discussion on the teleconference itself - there won't be opportunity for a lot of it - certainly not that afforded by the hallway discussions that normally take place at face-to-face meetings and Conventions.

Former long-term MP Marlene Catterall put it very well in a communication to delegates earlier today urging support for these two sets of amendments getting to the table: 

I want to thank you all again for a thoughtful and passionate discussion at our meeting on Wednesday evening. Whatever our various opinions on the issues that will be discussed and voted on tomorrow, we obviously share an unfailing commitment to the Liberal Party and the values that have been its foundation and inspiration.
We also share a desire for free and open debate and do not want to feel we are being manipulated and not given choices on the issues before us.
I let you all know at the meeting that I support a later Biennial convention to allow the renewal process to be well underway and to allow for the fullest possible involvement of the members across the country in determining the direction of the Party and the choice of the people who would be responsible for carrying out what we the members determined.
I also support a later leadership selection vote to be held in 2013.
I have emailed the party to indicate my support for three amendments that have been submitted, two from PEI supported by the Yukon and interestingly one from BC: perhaps a cross-Canada consensus developing here?
The three resolutions are attached. The rationale is similar and I found the introduction to the one from Greg  in PEI especially worth reading.
If you feel either of these is consistent with your thinking, please consider sending an email of support to the party at These resolutions can only come forward for discussion tomorrow if at least 25 delegates indicate their support for them. This in no way binds you to vote for them if the discussion persuades you otherwise  but it does open up the discussion and give us options.
Tomorrow’s conference call convention should be interesting and maybe an exciting first step in the grass roots flourishing.
All of this is so much closer to democracy in action. With any luck some of the culture change many of us are seeking is beginning to peak through the fog.  

Oh - and for the record (I hope to be able to put up my own rationales in some sort of timely way, but in case I can't) - I favour both of the Party's proposed amendments, but would prefer resolution number 1 (Leadership Vote) be improved by the BC: Rebuild First sub-amendment and failing that the PEI/Yukon: Sub-amendment Three.

Happy deliberations, and ...