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!


  1. I have to disagree with Taleb's comments, respectfully of course.

    First of all, my motion isn't about "forcing" an earlier vote any more than his motion is about "forcing" a much later vote. That was an unfortunate word choice. Rather, both of our motions are about giving *choice* to the membership, so they can decide from a variety of options. Choice, I believe, is always a positive.

    I also disagree with his points on the informal leadership race. Indeed, many of the points would seem to argue against the extended time frame he proposes. The informal campaign is already underway, I think we all know that. No rules that we put in place can possibly constrain it. And online and multi-year memberships make the points on membership timing moot. If we all agree that a leadership race is informally happening already and is distracting from the work of renewal, why would we want to extend this distracting process until the summer of 2013, over two years since the last election? Only when we're past leadership can we finally come together, united, as one party. Let's not delay that 24 months.

    There seems to be a mistaken process that renewal is separate from leadership. I disagree. Leadership and renewal are intrinsically linked. Part of the renewal process needs to be a democratically elected leader with a mandate and moral authority from the wide membership of our party (through our new one member, one vote process) to participate in the rebuilding of our party with we, the members.

    This is but one piece of the renewal process. It's not the beginning or the end, and it's not the most important, but it is important and we need to get it right. Renewal doesn't begin or end with the leadership process. But we can't wait nearly two-and-a-half years to tick this box.

  2. Jeff I agree with much of this, you know that. But I do rather adamantly disagree with you and agree with Taleeb on the, shall we say, *intensity* of an informal leadership as you put it given the practicalities of "membership sales" (and you know I hate that concept). I really do think that if we put the selection of a Leader of to the point where the practicalities are put off, we are much mroe likely to have putative candidates working with the Party on the rebuilding exercise and focussing on their own more parochial (and necessary) organizational activities later. I think it gives everyone the most breathing room to change our culture.

    The Party's resolution as it stands is therefore preferable to me than the option you are proposing. I think that the 2013 "carrot" so to speak is a useful one to provide some discipline and calm.

    Keep in mind that one of the best innovations that the Board put into its main resolution is that when they do meet to set a date, it will be following consultation with the Caucus and with the Council of Presidents. That means in effect that it will be the Party at large signaling to the Board their belief that the Party is "ready".