Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If Mr. Dion Were To Resign... New Rules For Leadership


Yes, I said "if".

A lot of people are calling for heads today. We may be a little upset, but we need to look at the positives... And there are some... Harper did NOT get a majority (huge positive). Many were predicting we would do much worse. We had a leader that was slapped around for 2 years, and seemed to grow during the last week of the election...

Still, we hear that this person should quit, or another should run for this, or that... The spin continues, while the machines start warming up...

If our leader - and he is still the leader until a leadership review loss or he resigns - decides to step down, we are faced with some questions. We know Harper's ambition is to "destroy the liberals". Like a "war on terror" it is really interesting how he would try to attack an ideology. Best not to pick fights with things you don't understand, Mr. Harper... He is hoping to weaken the party through a series of leadership battles, and election losses, resulting in a "broke" party, hoping that would cut the electors' ties to us.

What do WE do NOW to avert Harper's resolution to his quest? Here are a few ideas:

1) If Mr. Dion is going to step away, he needs to do it now. We have an election scheduled for this Fall, and we'll need time to "reload". Not every leader needs time to settle in. Many can lead bravely into an election. I would argue that sometimes it is best that we take the popularity imbued by the leadership contest and translate that directly into an election... Don't give the opposition time to "frame you". In the US, the conventions are a mere 3 MONTHS before the election. Why don't they worry about the readiness of their leaders? We change leaders, we should take the convention momentum and jump into an election at the first opportunity.

2) New rules for leadership: Kill the huge spending limits. We don't need leadership candidates to assemble huge debts, then waste time fund raising when they should be engaging the government. We wasted months fund-raising to make up for the expenditures during leadership. Harper's gambit is that we'll do that again. Our simple solution is to eliminate that. If we had set a limit of $1 million on a leadership bid, then let's shrink it down to $500,000, or less. Provide enough funds for the candidate to get around the country - with a limited entourage. I would suggest that "local surrogates" will serve the purpose of saving the campaign money, AND ensure that the local party and riding associations are more involved. If they are more involved, then the general populace will also get more involved.

Hold simultaneous leadership "conventions" in each "region" (one in Ontario, one in Quebec, one in the Atlantic, one in the Prairies, one in BC). It will make it easier to tap all the numbers, and if people want, we would have the ability to join the "main" convention, wherever it may be. Delegates should not be kept from being delegates, or voting, just because they can't afford the time, or cost, to attend a convention at the other end of the land. We would up our attendance numbers, link the conventions electronically - creating a "new wave" convention process. We would bring on new members (it's hard to convince someone to be a delegate in BC, if they have to spend up to $3000 of their own to fly out to Montreal or Toronto).

While I enjoy the camaraderie of our nation-wide meetings, let's reserve that for our Biennials. Leadership conventions should tap into the grass-roots of EVERY region, and bring forth individuals from all over. New faces. New blood. Imagine a leadership convention where every Liberal truly had a chance to voice their opinion.

The regionally dispersed, electronically linked convention would have the benefit of saving the party - and members from spending all their "political donation money" in one place. The party would also get by without having to spend to subsidize all those flights from across Canada. I'm an average middle-class guy, but honestly, I can't keep spending $3000 every year to attend conventions. I do it, but most don't. In doing this, we would also be perceived as being "greener". Hey, we're limiting flights across Canada, and we'll even promote car-pooling to the regionals...
Keeping leadership campaign spending low, will ensure that our future leaders aren't cash-strapped. Another measure has to be taken: limit the time-line. Whose idea was it to run a marathon campaign? It should be a sprint, then a quick transition to election. Look at the time-gap between the US Dem and Rep conventions and the election... mere months. No-one down there has ever said, give our leader time to get used to leading. They dive right into it. Giving candidates a year to fly across Canada meant our candidates SPENT THE YEAR flying across Canada. At what expense? The party's, in the long term. While these "broke-ass" "would-be leaders" then licked their wounds and fund-raised to avoid debts and embarrassment, the world passed us by, and the party suffered. Instead of public events to get ready for the campaign, we were busy with "private" party events to fund-raise.

Speaking of fund-raising, just how stupid is it to alienate your voters and future campaign volunteers by hosting $500/plate fund-raisers? I hope the days of those are long gone. While the corporate crowd needs to hear the message, they aren't the people that we need to reach out to early on, and during leadership races. I've long been the proponent of $5 and $10/head BBQs and pasta dinners. Take a lesson from Preston Manning of the tailgate stump speech and "$5 in a hat from every farmer" campaigning. I have worked with many different people during my campaigns, and the ones who we need most are often the ones who get turned away because they "can't afford us". I'm talking about the youth - who we need to engage - and are tireless volunteers. I'm talking about the seniors. Many seniors will spend hours engaged in managing our campaign offices and phone polls. Their support, opinions, and mentorship are indispensable, and we need to ensure that they can be a part of the process... Pricing events out of their fixed income range is NOT the way to do that.

If we can manage to have a change of leader and a leadership convention within a 4 to 6 month stretch, we can succeed. We need to change with the times. We need to adapt to a flexible campaign process, and a flexible and realistic fund-raising process. A million people giving $5/head is a lot better than $5000/head from 1000 people. It won't be the millionaire tycoon knocking doors or answering phones for us. Keep that in mind. People drive our business. People drive our party, along with the ideas they bring. Accessability is the key to bringing those people in. When you get the "little people" - people like us - then you will get the tycoons and industrialists, because they need to sell products to all us "little people". If 10000 people show up to a leadership event, the media will be there.

If Harper wants perpetual campaigns, let's be ready for it. Let's "tighten up" our party and our party's fund-raising efforts. Let's ensure we are always "ready to go". Short leadership campaigns, raise small amounts of funds from many people versus large amounts from few people.

Harper won't "kill" our party. Not even close - but, we'll need to adapt to the times.

13 comments:

SAII said...

I really agree with what you said here. I hope the liberal party would listen to grassroots though because times have really changed. Long gone are the corporate fund raising and conventions that cost thousands of dollars. Hey, I was one of the people who wanted to go to last time's convention. But since I'm a middle class student, I cant afford to fly from Toronto to Montreal and pay money to be a delegate.

Many people want to be engaged; but with a lot of hindrances like funding, etc. it's a hard thing to achieve. Technology is one media which has long been available that the Liberal Party has ignored. We need to change it! We got to establish the new Liberal party from the grassroots up, not the reverse.

WesternGrit said...

Thanks for the comment. Good points. We need to simplify it, or we'll lose more of our potential base. It's obvious that MOST Canadians are center or center-right. The right - even the "expanded/governing right" is a mere 1/3 of those who voted.

We need to ensure we tap into the vast resource of available voters, AND at the same time, maintain our "center" philosophy. We're not "desperate" as some would suggest, and we don't need to merge with anyone. I would venture that a merger would hurt us more, as it would scare many in the middle over to the Conservatives. Also, if we polarize politics, we will be cursed with a "revolving door" similar to the US, where it swings from Republican to Democrat every 4 to 8 years. That gives the Conservatives a chance to form the government more often than they have in the past. By being "THE party of the center" we've been able to benefit from the best of both worlds. Sound fiscals, and great social policy. I dread the day we get labeled a party "of the left"... shudder. We are not of either wing - we are of the middle.

Change the way we do things before any thought of a merger...

saii said...

I say NO to merging. We are the centre and that has defined the liberals from the beginning. I just noticed though that since we started moving from the centre to the centre-left, we keep on losing supporters left and right. The new leader, if in case Dion do resign, must take us back to the centre.

Liberals steered Canada away from deficits because of sound policies. We have a pool of talent in the party, but selling the liberal brand is a tough job right now. I just hope we don't make the same mistakes as before.

As much as I want us to have a new face to lead us, probably rushing to have one may actually help Harper more. It will give him a lot of time to demonize the new head.

Red Tory said...

I singled you out, but it wasn't meant to be offensive. Just wanted to make that clear, okay. I happen to think that a little time for pause and reflection is called for, that's all.

Olaf said...

Like a "war on terror" it is really interesting how he would try to attack an ideology.

The Liberals have an "ideology"? Which one, pray tell?

WesternGrit said...

I think it's quite obvious that Liberalism and liberal ideology (centrist and moderate) will always be there. Liberalism is THE form of government preferred by modern liberal democracies - hence the name.

Conservatism, on the other hand, has taken quite a hit. Conservatives need to look carefully at what has gone on down South. The ideology is dying. Lassez faire capitalism running amok is simply not the answer. The US system almost destroyed 90% of the world economies over the past few weeks... We still don't know what will transpire, but the answer about NeoCon ideology is quite clear.

A conservative troll need not comment about "success" or not on this board, when your total votes were lower than they were in the last election - even though the Canadian population has grown significantly since then... You also (as stated on the 6pm news tonight) failed to gain a foothold in Newfoundland, Quebec, or the major urban centers AGAIN.

Red: I know you mean well. No worries. My leadership headline was just to get readers to focus in on my proposed changes to our system of leadership selection. What did you think of those?

WesternGrit said...

...Just to add, there is nothing keeping Harper from calling an election for the Fall, since it is the law of the land. I wouldn't put it past him to try.

We may well be in one this Fall... Another $400 Million down the chute...

Olaf said...

Am I the "conservative troll"? Because I don't think that fits, and I don't think I ever remember saying anything about "success" or the past election at all. Rather, I was just trying to get you to clarify what exactly you mean by a "liberal" ideology. "Centrist and moderate" isn't really an ideology, but rather a position between ideologies, as I see it. Just asking for clarification is all, no need to get defensive.

Red Tory said...

That would just be insane. Harper may be many things... but completely nuts, he's not.

Let's get serious here. Calm... but serious.

Werner Patels said...

Above all, the undemocratic delegated voting system must be scrapped -- this is the main reason why the party has had this albatross (Dion) around its neck. If the Liberals want to demonstrate their commitment to democratic principles and values, they will have to switch to a one-member-one-vote system.

And I would go further by adopting the rule in place in the UK: before anyone is put on the list of leadership candidates, he or she must collect a minimum number of endorsements by sitting MPs. This, too, would have prevented Dion from entering the race in the first place.

Frankly Canadian said...

I hope Mr. Dion stays on as leader, he has shown tremendous growth throughout the last two and a half years. Some of the points brought forth in these blogs confirm Steven Harpers continuous attacks on the Liberal leader Stephane Dion, however if you remember the leadership race the conservative attack ads were already portraying Mr. Ignatieff as being an absent Canadian, having lived outside Canada for a time. They also had the attacks ready for Mr. Rae as well, showing him as a failure in the provincial leadership of Ontario, I believe it did not matter who the leader of the Liberals was going to be, the conservatives had already formed their lines of attack towards poor leadership, they are very calculated that way. I have to agree with some of the bloggers that we Liberals have to be very cautious not to play into what Steven Harpers wants, the master chess player has this all figured out, we should not rush to act towards quick remedies, that may be his next line of attack, "policy on the fly". What is more than likely going to happen is that Canadians will finally be fed up with Harper with in the next two and half more years, and we will see a revolt to throw him out of office the way we Canadians threw out Brian Mulroney! I don't believe it matters at all who the Leader of the Liberals is in the next election is, when Canadians make up their minds about something that's, that and we don't need the polls telling us what we already know. Sadly to say however that a high profile name like Justin Trudeau could help fight for the odd seat back here and there, no offense to Justin, I love the way he has launched his political career and stewarded the truly important values of Canadian politics. As Steven Harper has shown, it is often salesmanship not statesmanship that wins elections, however, it is Statesmanship not salesmanship that wins Canadian hearts. Canada needs intelligent and diligent hard working politicians to win back our confidence in our electoral system, until this happens we have our country being ran by individuals who win with less than forty percent of the general support and voter turn out of less than sixty percent!

ij said...

Re. The expected demonization of the next Liberal leader, whoever he or she may be: I seriously think there should be systematic training of all condenders in how to successfully and effectively counter this phenomenon. There is plenty of training material available in the recordings of Question Period going back to the beginning of 2006, which could be interspersed with the odd real rabid attack dog with teeth bared and foaming at the mouth.

UWHabs said...

Regional meetings would be interesting, but the candidates themselves would have to all be at one location, and no way would a bunch of delegates not want to be at the head table.

Maybe have one general meeting, but if you don't want to make it out to Vancouver, hold regional ones that broadcast the main events. That way, those who don't have the energy/time to fly around to the main event don't have to, but will still have their say, whereas those who do can still go to the big event.

As for fundraising/campaign spending, how about instead of lowering the max, how about simply limiting how many loans candidates can take out? So, keep the 1M spending limit, but make sure each candidate cannot spend more than 100k or 200k more than they actually have cash in the bank. That way you at least have a limit as to how much debt could possibly come out of the whole thing.