Saturday, April 11, 2009

Opening the Doors OR Circling the Wagons?

Who hasn't heard of One Member One Vote? Then there's the amendment put forward by the Young Liberal Commission.

Jim Curran has started a forum topic at En Famille to discuss this issue. He puts the wording for both right there up front.

I've been trying to think of a way forward. I'm in concert with the opinions expressed there favouring weighted OMOV without the Young Liberal amendment. In my opinion, the proposed amendment is worse than undemocratic, worse than taking two steps backward, it's more like circling the wagons and firing live rounds at voters saying we don't want you or your opinion.

But setting that aside for a do Liberals get where they want to go?

My first idea is to look at how we got where we are now. Why do we have commissions? I don't know for sure but I expect that the reason we have Commissions in the first place was to overcome perceived injustices or real injustices that were in the past. Or possibly to focus attention and to attract certain groups to our party and give them a seat at the table.

The question now is do those perceived injustices still exist in the minds of Liberal members? Can we overcome them using the vehicle of weighted OMOV?

It seems to me, the answer to both is YES. And the difference of opinion with the Young Liberals may be that they don't believe that the perceived injustice to youth will be or can be overcome by weighted OMOV. Others who may agree with that perception may vote for the amendment just to bring OMOV down.

How can we re-assure people that weighted OMOV really is the way to resolve perceived injustices? What weighted OMOV will do for the Liberal Party is to make it accountable to the grassroots in every single riding. It will make every single Liberal member a salesperson for our party, our core values and our policies. It will engage people in the ridings. Not just in urban areas but everywhere. If done correctly and possibly expanded beyond just leadership (sometime in the future) then I believe we can attract membership and donations in every riding.

Right now the general public sees no real benefit to belonging to a political party. This one amendment will allow the Liberal Party of Canada to be relevant in every nook and cranny of this vast country. People will sit up and take notice once they see that they CAN be involved in choosing the Prime Minister directly. All people - youth, women, men in the middle, aboriginals and seniors. With some extra effort by current members there is no reason why we can't have active and engaged riding associations with hundreds and even thousands of members.

New people will spread the work out, spread the task of fundraising and engage the voters of our country. In my opinion, we have no reason to fear these new people, Canadians share Liberal values and Liberals share Canadian values.

Part of the reason for a decrease in involvement at the polls is a lack of relevance to the daily lives of Canadians. I believe weighted OMOV is the one constitutional amendment we can make which can and will invigorate our party's renewal. It will handily overcome any perceived injustices by taking the responsibility for choosing a leader out of the hands of the old guard, the elite. Every commission member in the country ought to stand up and vote in favour of this because their power will now be back in their hands. It will be up to Youth to attract youth in every single riding. It will be up to Women to attract women in every single riding. etc.

We'll have something tangible to sell - a voice in choosing the Prime Minister.

Weighted OMOV is the way to overcome any perception of elitism or patriarchy that remains attached to a political party. Weighted OMOV is the way to build riding associations, election coffers and volunteer banks. Weighted OMOV will be the first step into the 21st century vision for our party. It's an open invitation to participate in the Liberal Party of Canada. We won't be perceived as a closed shop by the public. It is an open invitation to actively participate in our democracy.

If we vote down OMOV, we will resemble Associated Press this week trying to build a "firewall" around news content online. The internet raises people's expectations about being able to participate, to get their news where they want to get it, not where someone "allows" them to get it. The decision to build a firewall spells the end of AP, in my opinion.

If Liberal delegates do not choose OMOV, we're keeping the firewall around democratic participation.

Liberal party members need to focus attention on selling our future to Young Liberals - a future open to every Canadian who chooses to participate.

Otherwise the Liberal Party risks becoming increasingly irrelevant to every group.


penlan said...

Wow! Good to see you back, Deb! I missed you. Where have you been?

Deb Prothero said...

Hi penlan;

Nice to see another insomniac!

I've been consumed with dealing with personal stuff for awhile. I'm back now.

Anonymous said...

Deb -

As usual - your common sense and get to the heart of it approach hits the mark.
I would go one step further though. My ideal would be Option #3 absolute OMOV - because the weighted (Option #2) version has its own problems.
What I think most of us are missing is this - we are all loking inward - what impact either option will have on us - the existing Liberal membership.
what we appear to have totally forgotten is - the fundamental part of renewal is to attract MORE and NEW members (as well as attracting back the many we have lost over the last few years because of internal wrangling).
We HAVE to come up with an organizational / participatory model that attracts all of those on the outside - the people who think like us - but have thus far rejected active involvement in this party.
To my mind - OMOV Option #3 (along with a set of balanced and progressive policies) is that beacon!

Paul Darlaston

Deb Prothero said...

Thanks Paul;

I believe the weighted OMOV was a compromise to accommodate the fears of rural ridings being outvoted by more densely populated urban ridings. This is as far down the road of compromise that I'd like to go.

If you have another suggestion for overcoming the rura/urban concern that works more with your pure form of OMOV, I'd be happy to hear it.

I understand that the population in each riding is approximately the same (except PEI) however, some of the rural ridings are geographically extensive and its difficult to bring people together.