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The Liberals National Director Rocco Rossi chats with Scott’s Diatribes.

As everyone knows, the Liberal Convention is fast approaching.   Everyone also knows that in lieu of an actual leadership race, policy and constitutional amendments are going to probably take a bigger focus then they normally might.  Rocco Rossi, the recently appointed National Director of the Liberal Party, agreed to have a little question-and-answer session with me about his thoughts on  the upcoming Liberal Convention.  He also wasn’t afraid to express his views on the One Member, One Vote constitutional proposal that has garnered quite a bit of attention of late.

It’s not quite as visually exciting as the well done Liberal Minute videoblog sessions/interviews Jason Lamarche does over on his site, but nonetheless, I was pleased that Mr. Rossi took the time to answer these and on the record. I thank him for participating in the “interview” (or as I prefer to call it, the Q & A session).

Below is the transcript of questions I asked Mr. Rossi, and his answers:

Scott: We’ve heard you speak a lot about being a lot more open and a lot more responsive to the grassroots. How do you propose to do that? What do you define as the Liberal grassroots? How do we increase the grassroots influence?

Rocco: At the end of the day, the grassroots are the Liberal members and the main, day-to-day arena they play in, which is their Riding Associations, and which should be the centre of Liberal activity;  not just at election time, but year in and year out. I don’t want the ability to afford to go to a Convention to be the price of participation in choosing a Leader or selecting policies. I think the $10 membership should allow everyone in the door because modern technology allows us to do that. We have lots to improve upon, but I was personally proud of the fact that members have been able to debate and vote on resolutions online well before the Convention online. That is one of the ways we can increase the influence of, and be more responsive to, the grassroots.

Scott: The Liberal Convention is coming up in a couple of weeks, and there have been concerns there won’t be much to discuss or debate. Do you agree with this perception? Are you at all concerned this will at all detract from a successful Liberal Convention?

Rocco: Again, I am very proud of the fact that we have had more policy consultation with Party members leading up to the Convention than at any other time in our history. I am still not satisfied that it is enough, that we communicated and encouraged enough, but it is a step in the right direction.  I think this Convention will important and successful on several fronts, but, perhaps the most important element is that it is the first convention in a long time when we will go into it united and come out of it united. Thanks to the grace of Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc, we have a unity convention to celebrate and I for one will be toasting it with a glass of heart-healthy red wine. In addition, we will be launching our new voter software which will help us close on and then leapfrog the Conservatives. Every delegate will get a first-hand view of the platform and be provided with a training session to begin the roll-out.

And, I believe that the debate over weighted One Member One Vote will be one of the most important constitutional debates we have ever had. The delegates will have the power to truly empower every member by voting for one member one vote. It will be an act of courage and and act of selflessness because they will be voting not for themselves and their own special interest, but for every member across the country who have a right to a voice in the running and leading of our Party. For all those reasons, this will be an historic Convention.

Scott: As you just mentioned, one of the issues that is being vigorously debated is the weighted One Member One Vote constitutional amendment proposal. You’ve been on the record quite publicly since you became National that you support OMOV. Its unusual for me to hear a member of the Liberal executive to come out and publicly support a policy proposal like this. Why are you coming out so prominently in support of this measure?

Rocco: I am a staff member who will work under whatever system the Party decides upon, but I have been a member since I was 11 years old and I was not always able to afford to go to conventions. I don’t want that to happen to any future member of the Party. I want this to be the last Convention that minimizes the power of the grassroots both for philosophical and practical reasons. The philosophical is about rights and being heard. The practical is that if we are truly going to be successful in fundraising under the new limits then we need to have an energized base. Successful fundraising is not about asking people for money–it is about providing people with an opportunity to participate in something bigger than themselves, to be part of a politics that matters. OMOV is one of the most tangible and effective steps towards that future.

Scott: Some delegates are confused about how OMOV would work. Can you explain the differences between what is being voted on and the OMOV proposal that was voted down at the 2006 Convention?

Rocco: The key to the current proposal is that it is a “weighted” system. One of the big fears in the last go round was that urban ridings would overwhelm rural ones. That held ridings with sitting members would have a huge leg up on everyone else. The current proposal grants 100 points to every riding regardless of size and held status. Those 100 points will be apportioned exactly by the votes of the individual members in each of the 308 ridings.

Scott: There has been some controversy with the OMOV amendment and the Young Liberals of Canada proposing a 25% quota of delegates reserved for them in any OMOV voting setup.  What is your opinion on the YLC proposed sub-amendment?

Rocco: We need equal rights for all and special privileges for none on this issue. If the YLC members want a 25% voice, or even a 50% voice then all they have to do is work for it and recruit more members into the Party. An expanded and re-energized membership base is what we need in any case and to create one we must make membership count for something. And to make membership count, we must count every member!

Scott: What would your personal reaction be if a specific group within the Liberal Party helped to derail the OMOV amendment?

Rocco: I would be disappointed and I think it will make fundraising and victory much more difficult, but, as I said above, I would work under whatever system the Party provides. But I am confident that we are a Party of inclusion and courage and that we will do the right thing for the vast majority of members who are currently marginalized and for the many, many more members who will be attracted by a party where every member counts because every member is counted.

————–
UPDATE – April 22, 2009 @ 2:30 pm: Rocco has clarified in comments his explanation of weighted OMOV as pertains to 2006, as some commenters were stating that 2006 and 2008’s OMOV proposals were both weighted:

Sorry for the confusion with respect to 2006. You are right, of course, that 2006’s proposed amendment was also weighted, but as I have been talking to members across the country, they really don’t realize that was and is the case. There is a fear in rural and unheld ridings that they will simply be marginalized and it makes some of them a bit anxious about OMOV. I simply wanted to stress the fact that it is a weighted system proposal that gives every riding 100 points.

27 comments to The Liberals National Director Rocco Rossi chats with Scott’s Diatribes.

  • By all means, let’s have the debate. That is the price and virtue of democracy.

  • Sorry for the confusion with respect to 2006. You are right, of course, that 2006’s proposed ammendment was also weighted, but as I have been talking to members across the country, they really don’t realize that was and is the case. There is a fear in rural and unheld ridings that they will simply be marginalized and it makes some of them a bit anxious about OMOV. I simply wanted to stress the fact that it is a weighted system proposal that gives every riding 100 points.

  • stooner

    Hi Scott
    It’s refreshing to read Rocco’s comments.
    Do you know how the candidates for the national executive positions feel about WOMOV and the YLC amendment?
    I think its important for this to made public.
    Thank you and best wishes!

  • heard at en famille

    Hi xxxxxx,

    “I can confirm that currently and historically, the percentage of youth members of the Liberal Party of Canada hovers just under 10%.

    Also, i can also confirm that aside from some minor tweaking of terminology that we did, this is the same amendment on OMOV that was defeated in Montreal. The amendment then had weighted ridings also.

    xxx.

    National Membership Secretary”

    There you have it folks. Same amendment. Interesting that 10% of the party wants to control 25% of the vote. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still an improvement over 76 people selecting the leader for 68,000 members.

  • “At the end of the day, the grassroots are the Liberal members and the main, day-to-day arena they play in, which is their Riding Associations, and which should be the centre of Liberal activity.”

    Ok – So when will the Party permit Liberals to vote in nomination meetings in their ridings? Why are we obsessing over Leadership selection methods? Why can’t we have “One Member One Vote” locally?

    • @Mark, Not sure what you mean here Mark. All members of a riding association can vote at a nomination contest in their home riding.

      • @James Curran, Not if there’s no nomination contest.

        • @Mark, WHAT???? I have no clue what you mean by that. EVERY member of a riding association gets to vote in a nomination contest as long as they were a member prior to the cutoff date.

        • @Mark, that’s a whole other kettle of fish there Mark, and an argument for a diferrent day and different convention. I don’t believe in appointments. Most don’t. It takes away from what the riding knows best…its people.

        • @Mark, Why is it another kettle of fish? All these platitutdes about making the party more democratic and nobody wants to address the elephant in the room.

    • @Mark, true Mark. Unfortunately we have to live to fight that next time around…and WE will fight that. I’m suggesting to you that this debate about OMOV is the proverbial “turning poing” to change. I will gladly forward your cause starting the day after the convention and make an effort to get it to the next convention along with any other undemocratic riding issues regarding members voting on issues.

  • Nobody’s being misled Jason. The fact of the matter is that the National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada says the party must adopt a One Member One Vote for it to “grow up” so to speak. Is that misleading? ’cause I don’t think so.

    What’s misleading and somewhat disturbing is that you continue to harp on the past. 2006 is over. It’s a new party with a new direction and it’s 2.5 years later. No more Stephane. No more Green Shift. No more YLC amendment to One Member One Vote.

  • Scott, you really should add this correction within the post. A lot of people are being misled by reading the interview without such information.

    • @Jason Cherniak, The interview stands as it was said, Jason. If Rocco would like to correct himself, or feels the need to do so, he can do so by letting me know or by dropping by and leaving a comment on here.

      • @Scott Tribe, lol. You are a new media person who wrote a report. The report is factually inaccurate to the extent that it includes “One of the big fears in the last go round was that urban ridings would overwhelm rural ones. That held ridings with sitting members would have a huge leg up on everyone else.” If you don’t understand why it is your responsibility to correct the record, then I have to question your journalistic integrity. I trust that you will never complain again about misleading facts reported in any newspaper in the future.

        • @Jason Cherniak, LOL. He’s wrote a report? He’s a blogger! He wrote it as IT was spoken. Those ARE the facts.

          @ Jason: “The report is factually inaccurate to the extent that it includes “One of the big fears in the last go round was that urban ridings would overwhelm rural ones. That held ridings with sitting members would have a huge leg up on everyone else.”

          Actually, that IS factually correct. The debate from 2006 was focused on the urban/rural divide. Not that I want to relive 2006 the way you do Jason, because that was then and this is now.

          The reality is that the National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada feels we need and unamended WOMOV to succeed. Smoke screen it all you want. 2006 is over dude. That’s the reality, and the fact that you are centred on 2006 makes absolutely no sense. Maybe we can go back and debate NAFTA again while we’re at it. In other words, it’s a different war now, with different players and a different sense of urgency Jason. Not sure how you don’t get that. I know you’re no dummy.

        • @James Curran Why are you so obstinant about this? In 2006, the amendment WAS weighted. The National Membership secretary has just confirmed that on en famille. This is very relevent, because the false reason for failure last time was given as a reason for supporting it this time. Jim, sometimes I feel like you’re arguing with me just for the hell of it.

        • @Jason Cherniak, as I said Jason. It’s 2009 AND 2006 IS irrelevant. Completely irrelevant. New Party. New Leader…again. New proponents on board for OMOV. The only obstinant group living in the past right now is you and the YLC.

          And I already posted Rob’s answer on this sight. The fact is it’s a new day here at the Liberal Party and the days of the few talking for the many are coming to an end.

        • @Jason Cherniak, Wow. I’m a journalist now? Thanks for the upgrade 🙂

          I wasn’t going to put words into Rocco’s mouth. The appropriate action was to wait until he was informed of the complaint and wanted to clarify. Which he has done.

        • stooner

          @James Curran, “…the days of the few tallking for the many are coming to an end.” God bless you Mr Curran! Keep up the good work 🙂

  • Justin T

    Jason is right. OMOV was weighted in 2006.
    I’m surprised Rocco got that wrong.

  • One thing is for sure. It looks like the convention will be exciting after all.

  • I think there’s a couple of spelling errors there too Jason.

  • The OMOV proposal in 2006 was also weighted per riding. I’m not sure that part of the interview was accurate. Very interesting that you got him to be so forward in his personal opinions, though.

    • @Jason Cherniak,

      See my reply below Jason. I wasn’t trying to say 2006 wasn’t weighted, I was emphasizing that the ammendment is and was weighted but that many people, including some caucus members I have talked to, didn’t know that the proposal was weighted. Just trying to communicate the features so we know what we are voting on.

  • Mark Greenan

    I’ve got to say it, because it’s so unquestionably true.

    I have got to think that Canadian voters would be more impressed by the Liberal Party if, as a “Party of inclusion and courage”, they did the right thing for the vast majority of voters who are currently unrepresented (marginalized even) by our voting system. I think that would be a great way to get “many, many more members” who will be attracted by a party that believes every Canadian should have a vote that elects someone.

    Next time you talk to Mr. Rossi, you should ask him that one.

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