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Saturday, April 11, 2009 

Why Are Some Liberals Setting Their Youth Wing Up As The 'Fall Guys' ?

When the Liberal Party of Canada meets in Vancouver for their biennial convention they will be debating a constitutional amendment that may allow them to institute a convoluted ‘one member one vote’ mechanism for selecting their future party leader. The amendment will require the approval of a 2/3rds majority of convention delegates to pass.

‘One member, one vote’ is old hat to New Democrats. As a New Democrat, I will be casting a vote for the next leader of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party at the June leadership convention. My rank and file membership will allow me to cast a vote for my favorite candidate. I did the same in 2000 when the Saskatchewan NDP leadership was last contested. I also had the benefit of voting for the federal leader of the New Democrats back in 2003.

‘One member, one vote’ is supposedly a very contentious issue within Liberal Party ranks. Those who advocate it are working hard to push the amendment over the top.

However there is a very disturbing scenario playing itself out in Liberal circles over the constitutional amendment. The Young Liberal wing of the party has submitted their own amendment to the constitutional amendment. The Young Libs have decided to broaden the internal debate and are asking the convention to consider increasing the voice of the youth wing in the affairs of the party. Not an unrealistic request by any means. Every political party should welcome and embrace an active and vocal voice from youth in the affairs of the party.

But what is this! There seems to be a very organized move within some Liberal circles to defeat the proposed Youth amendment! These anti-youth activists have created a group on Facebook called, I am Opposed to the YLC One Member One Vote Amendment. The anti-youth group states the rationale for their opposition to the youth motion:
“There is already a long journey ahead for the supporters of One Member One Vote to obtain a 66% majority at the convention. Now we're going to complicate the matter more by sticking in an amendment that could be debated for hours on end.

Huh? .... the youth amendment “could be debated for hours” and that is the reason it should be defeated? What a scary scenario! A political party may have to have a ‘debate’!

I have no hesitancy in labeling the Liberal Party of Canada as merely a quasi-democratic political party. The fact that ‘one member, one vote’ is contentious within Liberal ranks should be sufficient to prove my point. The fact that most Liberals want to cling to a 19th century style ‘delegate’ leadership convention proves that these folks merely want political expediency to rule the day ... democracy be damned!

What disturbs me the most about what is happening with this attack on the Liberal Youth should be evident. The Youth are being set up as the ‘fall guys’ should the constitutional amendment fail to receive the 2/3rds vote it needs to pass. Rather than go after those in the party who resist a true ‘one member, one vote’, this group of Liberal activists will blame the YLC amendment as the reason for their own failure. Shame!

Any party that resists democratic debate should not call itself ‘democratic’! Any party that sets its Youth Wing up as the reason for democratic failure, does not deserve to have the support of youth!

Shame on those Liberals who are actively setting up the Youth wing as the reason for the failures of the main party itself!

I still can't believe why the voted against OMOV back in December 2006. Nothing makes more sense for a supposedly democratic institution than giving every single member of the party an equal voting right.

That the Liberals have to even think about and discuss it is reason enough to doubt their ability to lead at this point.

If there ever was backroom 'old boy' control of a political party it is the bloody Liberals! The Establishment lives in fear of anything resembling 'democracy' that may influence the party. Unfortunately their youth wing is finding out all about how the Libs function.

I agree with you. They had an opportunity in 2006 and blew it.

Could there be a worry that the youth vote could outnumber the regular adult vote and hijack the platform?

The same thing happens in the corporate world where those in control have votes that count for more than those of Mr & Mrs Canada--the people who hold most of the shares.

Some people think they are worth more than the rest of the pack and so the "others" have to be kept down.

It happens in boardrooms. Just ask the Aspers.

With respect, I submit you're mis-stating the debate happening within the LPC.

There is quite broad momentum behind OMOV within the LPC going into this convention. Both from the grassroots, and from the leadership.

The youth amendment seeks to reserve 25% of the votes under OMOV for youth, regardless of their membership levels. The youth say they need this to preserve their influence within the party.

Those opposed to the youth amendment say it's undemocratic to give the youth 25% when their percentage of the membership is around 10%, and their percentage of the Canadian population is significantly less than 25%.

That's the debate we're having. While we accepted quotas under a delegated system because of the barriers to entry (the cost of attending convention), there's a difference of opinion as to whether or not quotas are necessary under a OMOV system where all one needs to do to vote is take out a $10 membership.

Those opposed to the youth amendment absolutely support OMOV, we just question the need for a quota for youth, or anyone, under OMOV.

You mention other parties have already adopted OMOV, such as the NDP. I'm not aware of the NDP or the Conservatives adopting a quota for youth, or other demographic groups.

1) "Those opposed to the youth amendment absolutely support OMOV, we just question the need for a quota for youth, or anyone, under OMOV."

Fair ball, the point is clearly worthy of debate, is it not? You have also not addressed my major concern over opposition to the YLC amendment, that being that the success or failure of the main OMOV proposal has been linked to the youth's proposed amendment.
Hence failure of OMOV is hung on the YLC.

2) "You mention other parties have already adopted OMOV, such as the NDP. I'm not aware of the NDP or the Conservatives adopting a quota for youth, or other demographic groups."
Because the New Demcoratic Party has a TRUE One Member One Vote mechanism, quotas are not necessary (unlike the proposed weighted idea of the Liberasls). Each and every card carrying member of the NDP has a DIRECT vote for leader. This is truly democratic and not quasi-democratic).

that being that the success or failure of the main OMOV proposal has been linked to the youth's proposed amendment.

It would be unfair to hang OMOV's failure entirely on the YLC, that is true. But an argument we've been hearing consistently from the YLC is that if we want to pass OMOV we need youth, so we should pass their amendment if we want OMOV to pass. Otherwise, youth are unlikely to support it.

So, if the youth are saying we can't pass OMOV without them, are they in fact setting themselves up for a degree of responsibility should their amendment be defeated and then OMOV fail?

Because the New Demcoratic Party has a TRUE One Member One Vote mechanism, quotas are not necessary

If I understand you then, you're saying the NDP system allows for no regional weighting, ie. equality of ridings?

That's interesting. The reason why the LPC decided for regional equality is a whole other debate. I'd argue, however, that the YLC would be arguing for a youth quota even under a true OMOV system, as their argument that they'd be losing the guaranteed vote they have under a delegated system would hold just as true.

The New Democrats have a true OMOV mechanism. In June, when the Saskatchewan NDP elect a new leader, EVERY single Member has a vote - regardless of which constituency they live in. The entire membership has a vote. That is truly democratic. It prevents backroom manipulations. It prevents local Riding poo-bahs from trying to manipulate for a particular candidate.

I think it is simplistic to just assume that one member one vote is always the most straight-forwardly democratic process. One of the fundamental issues in my mind about being an NDP supporter is that there are barriers to participation in any organization, institution, or society in general. These barriers mean that certain people may have less ability to participate or their voice may be marginalized. One person one vote does not necessarily mitigate the 'undemocratic' pressures. Democracy is never as simple as majority rule or one person one vote. Rather, the struggle for democracy is an always ongoing project, a 'working toward' greater levels of meaningful participation. The ongoing struggle to have more women involved in politics is a perfect example of this problem. I have been involved in NDP conventions and watched issues be tightly controlled at the committee level with no regard for the general will of the members. We could all learn to be more 'democratic' including us in the NDP.

Kirby, the Liberals have traditionally been a 'top down' party. You certainly cannot call them a 'grass roots' party.

They are much more interested in Regional divisions than Ridings. Back room power is the key to what they do.

You can be critical of the NDP and their convention format, but you would be hard pressed to find a more democratic process anywhere in Canada.

I have been a delegate at many federal and provincial conventions of the New Democratic Party, including leadership contests.

The kiss of death for ANY motion, policy or leader, is for there to be even the appearance of 'back room' dealings or shenanigans. New Democrats are very 'contrary' to centralized ploys in the party.

The Liberals, on the other hand, know nothing but!!!

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