The Liberal Party opens to ‘supporters’
January 16, 2012
My latest column.
The Liberal Party of Canada held its “renewal” convention this weekend in Ottawa.
This has been touted in the national media as the party’s big chance to renew and rebuild after their worst election results ever.
There is no doubt the Liberals need to rebuild and find a sense of purpose. In last May’s federal election the so-called “natural governing party” got less than 20% of the vote and only 34 seats.
But this weekend’s convention was more of the same old — watching it felt like a documentary on the politics of the 1990s.
Bob Rae was trying to persuade people that a 63-year-old failed former NDP premier of Ontario is the face of the future.
In another blast from the past, former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps was nearly elected to the presidency of the party. And the young Liberals were up to their same old antics, sponsoring radical policies like abolishing the monarchy and decriminalizing marijuana.
The most interesting thing that came out of the convention was the decision to open up the next leadership election not just to all party members, but to a new category called “supporters.”
The theory is there are millions of Canadian voters out there who want to participate in the Liberal party leadership, but are currently kept out by the barrier of a $10 membership fee.
The plan is these “supporters” will flock to vote in the leadership, to be held in 2013, allowing the Liberals to connect with many more Canadians and forming the base for victory in the 2015 election.
This whole plan smacks of the entitlement attitude, which has reduced the Liberals to third place. They assume that all they need to do is open the front door and people will come streaming in.
They might get a few curious tourists, but I don’t know anyone who thinks there is a large pent-up demand of people wanting to get involved in the Liberal Party of Canada. As any shop owner will tell you, an open door is not enough — you have to have products that will bring in customers.
The Liberals need policies, they need a direction, they need something more than opening their door to the country and simply saying, “Come on in, we’re somewhere between the Tories and the NDP, and we used to run the place.”