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Guest Blog by Leanne Bourassa: 1st Year Reflections as Liberal Party Membership Secretary

leanneb(I had the pleasure of getting to meet and know Leanne at the Feb 2014 Liberal Convention in Montreal. We had been vaguely aware of each other before through blog interactions, so we weren’t total strangers, but it was a treat to meet her in person, and after getting to know her, I was pleased she was elected to National Membership Secretary. I thank Leanna for contributing this guest-blogpost to assess her first year on the “job”!. As usual, all guestblog posts/opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of me or this site. – Scott.) 

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Well, as the poet says “Time flies when you’re having fun”! It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since I had the pleasure of meeting so many of you from across the country, ultimately coming together for a truly exciting convention here in Montreal. Since that time, our Liberal numbers have swelled and we are well on the way to victory this year.

After being elected National Membership Secretary, I was eager to hit the ground running, but the reality of the job to be done got in the way of that plan. For the first few months after being elected I was doing double duty as President of the LPC(Q) Legal Commission and National Membership Secretary; with Quebec’s bi-ennial convention (that would see the election of a new board of directors who would be helping set us on track for the next elections) looming on the horizon, it was important I do the job right, right up until it was time to pass the baton. Relieved of my Quebec-centric duties, I was free to get into the meat of the membership job and the first task was to deal with some operational issues with respect to how we process membership requests.

A few years ago our National Board of Directors decided that in order to allow provincial offices to focus their time and money on field work and supporting the ridings on the ground, membership administration should become a national responsibility. However, in my discussions with PTA office staff, I discovered that too often they were still spending time and energy dealing with membership forms. In order to address this issue and to make it easier and more equitable for everyone to get membership forms, I made a recommendation at our August National Board meeting, that the National Membership By-law be changed to reflect the change the previous board had put in place, so that all processing of membership forms, from requests for forms to the entering of data from forms submitted and the sending out of renewal notices, be handled by the National Membership Office, which had already been created for that very purpose. My colleagues on the National Board agreed that this was the way to go.

Another change that needed to be made was to make sure that the Party had the information required to communicate with new members. It didn’t make sense that our membership forms did not include a requirement to provide any information other than a mailing address. To rectify this, our National Management Committee approved a change to the membership form to make the inclusion of either a phone number or email address obligatory. I’ve had some great feedback on that change and I’m hoping it will make it easier for ridings and candidates to reach out to members who want to be involved.

Following the August Board meeting, our LPC President Anna Gainey invited me to help deliver on one of her campaign initiatives, which was to create a membership survey to help interact with and understand our membership better. With the help of not only my local Café Politique group and the LPC Analytics team, but a lot of very helpful staff members, I’m happy to report that we came up with some questions that let members give feedback on a variety of topics from membership rewards and involvement to policy priorities and even open ended suggestions. Over 5000 members answered the survey and the feedback has already resulted in some changes to the monthly newsletter and certain party priorities. I’m hoping to give you a fuller report of the interesting results of this survey in another blog post soon.

With our leader’s commitment to open nominations and the importance of selling memberships during that time, making sure the membership rules are applied fairly has been a big part of my job as we build our team for victory in 2015. Membership challenges and investigations are a part of the process and sometimes the National Membership Secretary has the responsibility of interpreting the Membership rules and making decisions about potential violations. My point of reference has always been to ensure that the rights of members are the first priority.

Throughout this time, whenever possible I have lent a hand at nomination meetings here in Quebec. Not only do I think it’s important to volunteer wherever I can in this important process, but in working at the “Solutions table” I get to see firsthand what sort of glitches there can be in the membership lists and in many cases, resolve them on the spot. Often it’s just a case of a spelling mistake or names being reversed and with a few verifications we can make sure the member gets to vote. Hopefully, the experience of voting in these meetings is a good warm-up for members who may need to make sure their identification documents are up to date for the general election.

As we come to the end of the first year of the mandate, there are still many issues that I hope to address: Commission access to membership lists, help for ridings looking to build or support membership, the term of membership and creating a welcome kit for ridings, and I’m looking forward to getting to work on these challenges. Obviously, I can’t do it alone, so my short term goal is to set up a National Membership Working Group, to help think through ways of addressing issues such as delays in delivering membership forms from northern or rural ridings, how to facilitate membership for those who have trouble with paying the fee and how to more effectively manage the production and delivery of membership cards for those who want them. I would be happy to know what you, the members on the ground, are experiencing, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and let me know what’s on your mind!

 

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