Here's a line from an email of a friend who sits on a few Conservative boards, and is a very active politico:
"I'm glad you are opposing Belinda's one member, one vote issue. I've said all along that the liberals have it right in how they elect a leader. You take the drama out of it and it becomes one boring leadership race. Look at this nonsense in Alberta. Any Joschmo can walk up and buy a membership right before voting.........absolutely ridiculous. Democracy should always happen in the ridings where the TRUE members actually show up to a meeting, meet the delegates, and vote on who should be going."
He's right. I don't think we as a party realize the value of a delegated convention, as we prepare to leap into the currently "en vogue" idea of what we want to call "one member, one vote". Let's examine that statement for a second. Is it really one member, one vote? What do we do right now? We allow our grassroots across the country to vote for both a candidate AND a delegate to represent that candidate. We consider many things when selecting our delegates, including their dedication to our candidate of choice, their ability to make a wise decision, and the work they've done for the riding and the party. We send (typically) solid people who can represent us well. Democracy in action.
Now let's look at our proposed idea: We want to let everyone who has a membership vote - no matter how "instant" a Liberal they are, or how ill-informed they are of the issues. These people may not have had a chance to meet any or all of the candidates, or had any opportunity to consider anything more about the candidates than what they hear in the media. This is our idea of a "fair" system? With this new proposed system, the focus of all candidates will quickly go from one of meeting party members and trying to convince them of the merits of their candidacy, to a focus on busing in hundreds of "instant Liberals" to stuff ballot boxes across the country.
So the logistics of the new proposal could get pretty ugly - no matter how much the strongly democratic words "one member, one vote" try to make it seem better. What about the grand spectacle of a delegated convention that we'd all miss out on? Many of us younger Liberals cut our teeth in the world of politics attending delegated leadership conventions. We recall watching in awe as Trudeau was victorious in 68, or a young upstart from Bae Comeau won the Tory leadership in the 80s. We were riveted to our TV sets as Cretien defeated Martin in 90, then swept to power months later. Regardless of political party we have always noticed an upswing in public interest during and shortly after a delegated convention. A party selecting a new leader in a strongly contested delegated convention has often swept into power - often with the momentum of the convention spurring everything. The weeks and months of free publicity leading up to a delegated convention - not to mention the HUGE media and public interest on the convention weekend is not something that can be bought - especially in this day of low cost campaigns (thanks to new campaign finance laws).
I can't say that I always could afford to go as a delegate to all conventions, but I was always able to find senior party members who helped with sponsoring my trip. The campaigns were always quite particular about working hard to ensure they got their people to the vote. This was important, as it really showed an ability to organize - something that is very important to a party thinking about going through a tough election fight requiring a well-organized campaign machine. What I did end up paying "out of pocket" (or out of parent's pocket) was something I felt happy about spending, as it was paid to the Party I love, and for a cause I was passionate about.
To be like everyone else, we could just go "one member, one vote" (in words alone), to make everyone imagine we're being more "grassroots" - just to watch our members suffer as "instant Liberals" run off with the votes to get their candidate out in front. Just talk to Alberta PCers to see what kind of mess they are involved in. Years from now we will lament the destruction of our very sound leadership process if we choose to go this route.
This weekend, please choose to support the existing leadership process.