Saturday, November 23, 2013

Liberals, Policy, and Problems - LPC(O) Policy Event 2013

This weekened I've spent my time here in the wonderful City of Kingston, historical home of Canada's first Prime Minister and Parliament, as well as the wonderful Ted Hsu, the great Liberal MP representing the region. I also sit here intent on watching most of the Day of the Doctor, which promises to be awesome, but that is besides the point.

The reason I'm here is for the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario)'s Policy Prioritization Meeting, where delegates from across the province come to, well, prioritize policy for the upcoming Biennial Convention in Montreal. A total of 66 resolutions previously prioritized among the province's various regions (i.e., Golden Horseshoe Region, Toronto Region, etc.) as well as from the Ontario Young Liberals, policies which came from previous prioritiziation and debate among riding members, were put before what I gather is about 80-100 delegates, though given my ability to count I could be vastly overestimating that number. In a couple of hours-long sessions we "blended" and merged several of those policies, given the broad similarities between them, and have ended up with about 40-50, from which we need to prioritize ten, which will then go on to Montreal. Unfortunately, every single resolution passed the initial voting and debate sessions, and given how many of them were well-written and focused on important issues, its been pretty hard to whittle it down to just two. But, I managed.

I'm glad to see this kind of process in action, as while it may seem a bit boring to some, it ends up forming the basis for a lot of our platform policies. It also reflects what our base wants to our leadership to focus on. Not that this policy ends up being in the platform or having the leadership pay attention, but its important we go through this process nonetheless. It is inspiring in a way - to see so many engaged members putting forward important resolutions, ranging from something like one presented by my own riding of Burlington (along with several others we blended with) about creating a National Childcare Policy; to something that I doubt many people have thought of, like the installation of LED streetlights, a policy proposed by the Ontario Young Liberals which one councilor from Welland in attendence said saved his city $19-million. Big or small, we Liberals covered as much as possible, and I'm happy to have played a small part in this process.

Not everything has been rosy, however. Much more has gone on here outside of just policy, as a gathering like this of so many important people means that there must be meeting of said important people. The big one is Sunday, where riding executive members from across the province will gather to debate stuff, including one constitutional amendment, though its really just the presidents that get to make decisions on said stuff.

Other meetings were held after the policy resolution debate sessions ended, where delegates broke into their various regions to discuss matters, I assume ranging from the policies discussed to just what is going on in their ridings. I was in the Golden Horseshoe meeting, which is where I learned some of the more... depressing things that continue to plague the internal workings of the Liberal Party.

I don't want to step on anyone's toes, especially given that a lot of this is hearsay in some ways, but not everything is peachy. There are still a lot of issues with communication in the party, especially between levels - i.e., between ridings and their regions. Some of it is the people in charge, some of it is the fact that the entire structure is an issue. Some of it is still within the Leader's Office, as even though we have new leadership, the culture has not necessarily changed.

Speaking of culture within the party, another thing I've noticed is continued reluctance to embrace Supporters, or even continued loyalty to the idea of keeping the Liberals open to all who wish to participate. I understand for many riding presidents, the Supporters they have are essentially virtual paperweights - many don't have proper contact information, and those that do are not showing an interesting in local party affairs. It has been hard to get Supporters to turn into fully-paid members, and that is a problem.

My first inclination in this case is to lay the blame game - that it is those that chose to go half-assed on the Supporters category that ruined it. Without giving Supporters the ability to get involved in riding nominations, we limited them to leadership races only. Thus, why would you expect them to give two shakes about local matters when you told them they shouldn't!

Of course it isn't as simple as that. There is a larger point that despite the successes we've had over the last couple of years in renewing the party, we still have serious issues connecting. Policy is great, debates are better, but the vast majority of the population won't take notice until they're forced into an election season. Even those that express an interest in party affairs aren't watching too closely. We're on the right track I think, but there is still a long way to go.

But, hey, now is a great time to be a Liberal. Monday especially, as we prepare to (hopefully) win three by-elections, maybe four if we're really lucky. Issues aside, we're doing pretty good. Lets keep it up.

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