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How to potentially pick a new Liberal leader (and still keep Harper accountable in Parliament)

Since it’s rather en vogue today to talk about a new Liberal leadership race with rumours and reports that Dion might announce his resignation, I have a thought or two on how the Liberals can pick a new leader,  while at the  same time not allowing Harper and the Conservatives to run roughshod by threatening non-confidence votes on every piece of legislation they bring forward, such as what they did while Bill Graham was the interim leader between Martin’s resignation and the the Liberal leadership Convention in December 2006.

In that line of thinking,  I do agree with the suggestion from those famous “Liberal insiders” that if Dion does step down, he’ll stay on as leader until the new leader is picked. That means if something comes up in Parliament where the Conservatives are trying to forcefeed some of their odious rightwing agenda down Canadians throats by making it a motion of non confidence – particularly in the first 6 months of their new administration, in the hopes that the Liberals will fold once again at the fear of another election -  their bluff can be called (I note they’re already backing off from promises made not 24 hrs after they were re-elected, so who knows what else they’ll now claim they need to do which they didn’t mention or claimed otherwise during the past election campaign).

I do not believe the Governor-General will be so willing to send Canadians to yet another election so soon after this one, and I think there would be a strong possibility that she would ask other parties  if they can form a government and gain the confidence of the House before she sent Canadians back to the polls.  That of course could lead to the rather awkward scenario of a resigning Liberal leader suddenly becoming Prime Minister of the country, but I’m sure the Liberals could deal with that.

Now, on to my thoughts for picking a potential new Liberal leader.

I like James Bowie’s suggestion that the cut-off date for Liberal membership  should be this past election day. If you haven’t signed up as a Liberal by the time you’re supposed to vote, then you’re ineligible to pick the next Liberal leader – no more of these massive frenzied drives to sign up “instant Liberals”, or temporary ones just to get the candidate of your choice a boost.

I also will suggest  that if the Liberals want to save money – both for their leadership candidates and the Party- to do away with the Convention and delegate system, at least for this particular time.

I advocate doing what the Alberta provincial Conservatives did – which is give a vote to every Liberal member, and have them mail it in to be counted. Make the ballot a preferential ballot, so that you have 1st, 2nd, 3rd choices, and so on.  Keep the campaigning part of this much shorter as well; don’t drag it out until next May or June.  Some people might fear this, but there should be no need. The Liberals need to get more in touch with their grassroots members, and this is one way to do it. Furthermore, with the membership freeze mentioned earlier,  you will not have candidates supporters trying to skewer the vote by signing up all those instant Liberals. I realize that this last suggestion would require a change to the LPC’s Constitution, but again, that shouldn’t be a big deal, should it?

So, for what their worth, those are my suggestions. Pick a new leader in a way that doesnt impose more costly debt on the LPC or its leadership hopefuls, and do it in a way so that Harper cannot run the place like he has a majority – a la Joe Clark in 1979 after Trudeau stepped down.

6 comments to How to potentially pick a new Liberal leader (and still keep Harper accountable in Parliament)

  • KC

    Im going to have to echo Aurelia’s sentiments. Using a mail in, one member one vote system instead of a delegated convention would require a constitutional amendment which (I believe) would in turn require a delegated convention.

    Im still divided against myself on the merits of a one-member-one-vote thing. On the one hand delegated conventions are expensive, which is a barrier to participation regardless of claims to the contrary. On the other hand the LPC is already a little “Ontario-heavy” for my liking (I was shocked when I was watching a time-shifted hockey game and say the “Stand up for Ontario” ads in a federal election) and one-member-one-vote only exacerbates that.

  • @Aurelia

    I was not advocating removing Dion.. I was suggesting better quicker and cheaper methods to pick the next leader to avoid the costs and such if that were to be the case.

  • @Jason Hickman

    If that is the case, then that is a problem, yes. I’m a fairly new Liberal member, so I’m not up on all the in’s and out’s of the LPC Constitution. But if that’s required, then that idea of mine is obviously not feasible.. but I’ll also comment that that’s an incredible strait-jacket, and I think whoever put that in the Constitution that we need a Convention to change stuff like picking delegates was being very inflexible.

    I’d be looking myself for any loophole I could to get around that if possible.

  • Jason Hickman

    Scott, can the Liberals do the 1 member, 1 vote thing even if they wanted to?

    I’m no expert in the LPC’s constitution but wouldn’t you have to have a convention, with all the time/expense that entails, to change the constitution to permit 1M1V, rather than a delegated convention? And would the delegates at such a convention agree to a change? (I think it was rejected last time, no?)

  • Scott,

    One little problem with this is that we already picked a method of electing a new leader and we did it in Montreal at the last convention. It is not legally possible to change that unless we have another biennial convention first, which simply delays it all. There are some things we can alter, like spending limits, but otherwise, no.

    As for any discussion of needing a new leader?

    Please take this down. I don’t care if it’s the trend of the day. You are better than this. I expect this kind of gaping over the body from some bloggers, but there is a reason I read you and not them. (And yes, I’m emailing or commenting to other blogging Liberals I read.)

  • […] going to pick up a bit from my one post where I speculated “what the Liberals should do if Dion leaves as leader”, and say if […]

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