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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Liberal Party hopes to build grassroots support at Vancouver convention

Ignatieff speaks to reportersThe Liberal Party of Canada kicked off its policy convention today in Vancouver, hoping to build grassroots support for the party.

The convention began this afternoon with a speech from former Prime Minister John Turner, who talked about the need to increase the level of democracy within the party by allowing party members and riding associations to vote on policy.

"This party will not be built from the top-down, this party will be rebuilt again from the bottom-up," said Turner, who also called for candidates and riding executives to be democratically elected, instead of appointed by the leader.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff agreed that most candidates should be elected through nominations, but refused to give up his power to appoint candidates in key ridings.

"I want open nominations in every riding in the country. I want to rebuild this party from the grassroots-up, but I cannot abandon the prerogative of our leader to make those appointments that I deem necessary," said Ignatieff. "I want to use the power of appointment as rarely as I possibly can because I respect the grassroots of this party and I know I can't rebuild this party unless it's from the bottom-up."

Despite all the talk of giving more control to party members, the structure of the convention leaves much to be desired.

Ignatieff will be confirmed as party leader without needing to go through a leadership race, as his rivals dropped out of the race shortly after Stephane Dion stepped down as leader after a failed attempt to form a coalition and overthrow the government in December.

Tom Chervinsky is running for the position of VP External in the Young Liberals of Canada and does not see a contradiction with trying to build grassroots support for the party while denying its members the right to democratically elect a leader.

"It's not a lack of a leadership race, we've got a great leader whose brought a lot," said Chervinsky. "Of course it's democratic, people are welcome to run. We made a choice as a community that we weren't going to play into the hand that Stephen Harper tried to deal us of fighting amongst ourselves."

Delegates will have the opportunity to vote for their new leader, but Ignatieff will be the only name on the ballot. Conference organizers say they are allowing members to vote in order to give them a voice, but admit the process is largely symbolic.

View Delegates are also limited in the number of policy proposals they can discuss and vote on. The party held a number of online workshops last month and chose approximately 30 policy proposals to be debated at the convention. The resolutions range from expanding the size and scope of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to creating a carbon tax or cap and trade system to meet Canada's obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.

The resolutions, however, are not binding on the party, which has created concerns that there is little point to the convention and that it is structured in a way that undermines the party's grassroots, despite what the party elite have been saying.

The Liberal convention runs from April 30 to May 2 at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver. Organizers say they are expecting between 1,500 and 2,000 people to attend the convention throughout the weekend.

Posted by Jesse Kline on April 30, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


Excellent report, Jesse. Thanks.

Here's what I took away:

Ignatieff is committed to the grassroots process, except when it comes to important decisions, which is reserves for himself.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-04-30 7:25:22 PM

The corporate elites of Toronto hardly qualify as grassroots.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-04-30 10:20:04 PM

What kind of a voice do people have if there is only one person to vote for? Something sounds fishy!!

Posted by: Kati Droucker | 2009-04-30 11:51:54 PM

These people seem so foreign, it's weird to see them on our side of the mountains. Weirder still is their decision to hold a convention here during an election. We have fixed elections in BC, it's not like they couldn't see the overlap.

Do they really expect politically active British Columbians to take a break 10 days before election day to fete their new federal leader?

Jesse, if you're at the convention - are there any actual British Columbians present, or is it all easterners?

I've looked at the Liberal Twitter feed, it's so condescending, it's like they're visiting a foreign country.

Posted by: Robert Jago | 2009-05-01 12:23:17 AM

Hah. I got my first serious introduction to politics through the Reform party, Robert, so listening to these guys talk about building a grassroots party, with all the qualifiers, seems foreign to me as well.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-05-01 1:11:47 AM

Liberals stole $40 million dollars from working Canadians and still haven't paid it back, will they be discussing what they're going to steal next in order to pay back what they stole previously?

If my friends and I stole $40 million dollars, would none of us be charged criminally either?

Do Liberals have to steal $50 million before it becomes illegal? The police should at least publish guidelines regarding how much Liberal theft is legal, so the voters have full disclosure before the election.

Posted by: Philanthropist | 2009-05-01 3:39:39 AM

You guys are just sore cuz you know Iggy is going to destroy Mr Sweatervest in the next election. I will be sooooo happy to see Harper booted out of the PM's office.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-05-01 8:19:40 AM

Thinking that Dr Pot and Iggy have anything at all in common makes me laugh!

Posted by: epsilon | 2009-05-01 8:50:37 AM

Holding a grassroots convention in Hongcouver is a good plan.

Maybe they could have a huge portrait of that famous Liberal PM, W.L. McKenzie King. Widely known as a great lover of the Chinese people and Chinese immigrants in particular he was known to visit Hongcouver just to see them. Then they could wrap it all up with Hedy Fry leading a bucket brigade to put out a burning cross in Stanley Park.


Posted by: Speller | 2009-05-01 12:00:32 PM

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