Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Thursday, September 24, 2009
We can do better
Once upon a time, being a liberal was a sign of courage. It symbolized strength of character, independence of spirit and respect for democracy.
Unfortunately, it seems things have changed. In 2009, being a member of the federal Liberal Party in Québec means knowing one's place, never asking questions and – most of all – never challenging the status quo.
As members of the Liberal Party of Canada, and especially as ardent defenders of liberal thought, we feel the need to speak out publicly on recent troubling events. By addressing ourselves to the media, our goal is not to embarrass the party, but rather to strengthen it. Indeed, up to now, the party apparatus does not seem to have taken our message seriously. Preferring a “don't rock the boat” strategy instead of real debate and discussion, many would demand that we remain silent. But for the sake of our Party and its underlying democratic principles, we cannot remain silent. Here are our concerns.
We find it very disturbing that certain individuals would attempt, undemocratically, to expand their authority within the party. At a time when Canadians demand openness and transparency from their elected officials, the Liberal Party of Canada should be leading the way. Lines of accountability must be clear and decisions must taken fairly, openly and honestly.
As other leaders have done, you have chosen to appoint a “Québec lieutenant” to assist you on organizational matters. We unequivocally recognize your right to do so. But we must ask ourselves, with due respect, who is ultimately in charge in Québec. While we do not by any means question the quality of your leadership, we are troubled that others would act as though they, alone, sheer this great Liberal ship. They do not have a mandate from the membership to lead. You do.
After being told in the spring of 2009 that all ridings in Québec – including those with incumbent Liberal MPs – would be subject to nomination races, some have chosen to play petty games in an apparent attempt to nurture their own ambitions. By imposing candidates in ridings across the province, they have encroached on the sacred, democratic right of local party members to nominate their own representatives.
We submit that it is not very liberal to bypass the nomination process on a systematic basis. It is not very liberal to reject qualified nomination contestants without justification. And it is not very liberal to put one's own personal interests ahead of the right of party members to have their say. Let us never forget that the Party is always bigger than the person.
We realize that by writing this public letter, we risk alienating ourselves from powerful members of the party machine. But it is a risk we are willing to take, because we love our party too much to keep quiet. Regretfully, others fear reprisal and have chosen not to speak up, even though they agree with our opinion. This speaks volumes about the state of democracy in the “Liberal” Party.
We have confidence, Mr. Ignatieff, in your judgement, and trust that you will take our concerns seriously and make appropriate changes to the way things work in the party. After all, “we can do better” must be more than a campaign slogan – change must begin at home.
Yours in Liberalism,
John Lennard and Jonathan Pedneault
Monday, September 21, 2009
Let the people decide!
Five months later, we still see the remnants of our party's less-than-democratic past. In the Québec riding of Outremont - once a Liberal bastion, now trending NDP under Thomas Mulcair - the “party brass" has decided to forego a democratic nomination process in favour of appointing a "star" candidate. They seek to disenfranchise local Liberals by muscling out three fantastic candidates:
● Dr. Comlan Amouzou, a community organizer and Chair of the party's multiculturalism committee in Québec;
● Sébastien Dhavernas, a highly-regarded leader in Québec's artistic community and 2008 Liberal candidate in Outremont; and
● The Hon. Martin Cauchon, Canada's former Justice Minister, who led the Chrétien government's efforts to legalize same-sex marriage;
Any one of these individuals would make a fine Liberal candidate. And quite frankly, the voices of local Liberals deserve to be heard in determining who that nominee will be!
So what are we waiting for? Liberals (and especially Young Liberals) have an obligation to push for democracy within our Party. We have to be clear and unambiguous in saying to the party bigwigs: Enough is enough! Let the riding choose! Let the democratic process play itself out! And when all is said and done, let's get behind a legitimate candidate who has the confidence and support of the community they wish to serve.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
A failing grade on "change" and "renewal"
“Change and renewal.” Laudable goals, indeed. Let's ignore the fact that we completed a similar exercise just two years ago with the Red Ribbon Task Force. Let's set aside the fact that many prominent Liberals have already written extensively about the topic time and time again. Let's forget the overlap, the redundancy, the lack of any real time-lines or deliverables. Let's just be glad the Party is – or at least seems to be – committed to the broad notions of “change” and “renewal”, and is willing to set up a process to achieve them. It's a good first step... Right?
Wrong. There are nine members of the Special Renewal Committee and three members of the Change Commission. That's twelve Liberals, representing most of the country (with the exception of BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, PEI, the territories, aboriginal communities and most of rural Canada). Most stunning to me, however, is that we're talking about twelve Liberals... And not a single Young Liberal!
Young Liberals should be surprised, disappointed and angry at the lack of youth representation in the Party's renewal process. We should be DOUBLY upset at the fact that part of the Special Renewal Committee's mandate is to review “the contributions of Commissions to achieving equitable representation in the party and the pursuit of our electoral objectives.” Put simply, the committee will be looking at the role of the YLC. What do we expect such a discussion to yield? Are we to believe that a committee without a single youth member will recommend a strengthened role for Young Liberals within the Party? More funding for our recruitment initiatives? Lower delegate fees for national conventions? A better appreciation for our policy ideas? Let's get serious!
People tell us we're the next generation of leaders in our Party. I beg to differ! I think we have the potential to be leaders today, to take the lead right now in making the changes our Party needs to grow and prosper. But to do so, we do need to get serious! As Young Liberals, we need to be more aggressive in asserting our role within the Party. We must not be shoved aside as an afterthought. Our role within the Party must be far bigger and far more substantial.
I'm running for President of the Young Liberals of Canada. Over the next few weeks and months, I look forward to sharing some of my ideas on what we need to do to build a stronger commission and a stronger Party. More importantly, I look forward to hearing some of yours. In the meantime, I urge you to let the Party know that Young Liberals want in on renewal!
Yours in Liberalism,
Please email the following people with your concerns!!:
Michael Ignatieff (Leader, Liberal Party of Canada): firstname.lastname@example.org
Doug Ferguson (President, Liberal Party of Canada): email@example.com
Cory Pike (President, Young Liberals of Canada): firstname.lastname@example.org
Carolyn Bennett (Co-Chair, “Change Commission”): email@example.com
Navdeep Bains (Co-Chair, “Special Renewal Committee): firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
A few questions
On the weekend, Rae accused Ignatieff, his former university roommate, of running a "peekaboo" campaign after the former Harvard academic refused to allow the media to attend a candidates' event in Toronto. Rae's team, which is calling for weekly televised debates, is hoping that frequent exposure will trip up Ignatieff and demonstrate Rae's superior debating and political skills.
However, Ignatieff is unlikely to take the bait. He said Tuesday that he sees the contest as an opportunity to listen to Liberals.
"This is a listening campaign," he told CBC Newsworld. "It's going to work best for me if I'm in small rooms listening to Liberals. So we're playing it very quiet."
During the 2006 contest, Ignatieff championed the idea of imposing a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Dion ran on the proposal during last month's election but both he and the plan proved to be unpopular.
Ignatieff said Tuesday that voters have told Liberals to "come back and think again about how to reconcile environmental sustainability and economic progress." He said that's a policy challenge that can only be solved by working with other Liberals.
A few questions to consider
1. As we look to rebuild our party, should we Liberals use this leadership race as an opportunity to listen to ourselves, or to reach out to Canadians?
2. As we look to reform our party, should we Liberals be terribly concerned about “what works best” for a particular leadership candidate?
3. As we look to reconnect with Canadians, should we Liberals, or our potential leaders, really be “playing it quiet”?
4. As we look to return to government, should we Liberals convince ourselves that the same crew that "championed" the carbon tax (not to mention other wonderful proposals such as extending our mission in Afghanistan) will come up with anything more appealing next time?
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Not yet overcome
In reaching important milestones, let us celebrate. But let us always remember that there is much, much more work to do.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Day 2 - On the campaign bus
So a funny thing happened on the way home from school last night...
I rode a Liberal campaign bus.
That's right. I'm walking home from school in the pouring rain, kicking myself for not thinking to bring an umbrella on a cloudy day (hey, no one said law students were smart!). I'm also a little pissed off. It's 5:45. I'm just leaving campus. The Quebec campaign kickoff rally in the leader's home riding starts at 6:30. There's no way I can get from downtown to north Montreal in less than an hour (public transportation in Montreal is decent, but exceedingly complicated).
All of a sudden, the rain slows to a drizzle. The clouds part, allowing the tender warmth of the sun to shine through. I look over to my right, and I see... A big read bus with Stephane Dion's face across the side.
A miracle! I start running after the bus, which happens to stop at a hotel right beside my apartment. "Wow," I think to myself, "this just keeps getting better and better." I look around the parking lot and spot an old friend of mine who works on the leader's tour. I go up to him and we shake hands. Trying to be subtle, I ask: "Hey, what's the easiest way to get to the rally tonight?" He laughs at me: "Trust me, there is no easy way." He pauses to think for a moment. "Come with me."
He takes me across the lot to where two other busses are parked. These ones are white, with the Liberal logo blazoned on either side. "Media busses," he explains.
He leads me onto the first one, and tells me to sit right up front, beside an RCMP officer. One thing I've learned in politics is that when an opportunity presents itself, you shut up and take it. So there I sat, in the front seat beside a security guard, for the ride up to the rally in Saint-Laurent. The bus is jovial. Cameramen joking with one another, quizzing each other on obscure Montreal trivia, complaining about the terrible roads in Quebec ("It's not construction work," I explain, "It's repair work.") I can see Roger Smith from CTV News sitting a few rows behind me, quietly working away on his laptop.
We arrive at the rally, and a Young Liberal friend of mine watches me step off the bus. He shakes his head. "How did you pull that off?," he asks. "Long story. Be glad I'm here."
It was a great event. Three hundred Liberals packed the room and cheered on as candidates from across the province joined the leader on stage. Stephane Dion was officially nominated as the Liberal candidate in Saint-Laurent-Cartierville. He gave a fantastic speech, urging us never to forget what the stakes are in this election.
He's right. We have to keep plugging away. And so I will.
Day 1 - The call (and three offices?)
Just watched Harper and Dion's respective news conferences. I don't have much to say. Pretty boring stuff.
What's more interesting, for me, is what goes on in the ridings, on the ground. Case in point: Nickel Belt, where I'll be offering as much assistance as I can to elect Louise Portelance as Member of Parliament. Granted, living in Montreal means that I'm eight hours away, but trust me: So much can be done remotely with a cell phone and an internet connection.
Over the past couple of weeks, our biggest challenge was finding a reasonably-affordable, highly-visible and readily-accessible campaign office. Until yesterday, it was looking pretty bleak, and we began to consider other options (A roving office? A trailer, perhaps?). Then last night, in a STUNNING turn of events (sorry, I grew up watching Larry King), I got the good news that we had secured not one, not two, but three campaign offices! For a riding as ginormous as Nickel Belt (you could fit a few European countries within our boundaries), having a few satellite offices makes sense. So take that, broken down Winnebago! We'll be living the high life after all, thank you very much!
So for anyone passing through Northern Ontario over the next few weeks, drop by and lend Louise a hand!
Valley East Office
(next to the Pizza Hut)
4544 Highway 69N, unit #3
Val Therese, Ontario, P3P 1P9
Rayside Balfour Office
4764-10A, R.R. 15
Chelmsford, Ontario, P0M 1L0
West Nipissing Office
173 King Street
Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, P2B 1R6
Monday, August 18, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
Silent "thank yous"?
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Bob Rae update
After attending Scott and Maxime's wedding over the weekend and playing in a charity golf tournament on Monday, Bob came down with a mild summer cold. As a result, his procedure has been delayed until later this month.
Bob says: "I hope you enjoy the remainder of your summer. Thanks, as always, for your interest and support."
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Bob Rae is doing just fine
I spoke with Bob briefly this morning on a conference call with key members of his campaign team. He sounded positive and optimistic. Looking forward to the upcoming federal election (or byelection, depending on the case), he said he looks forward to resuming his active campaign schedule within six weeks or so. Quite frankly, his confidence was infectious. All of us left the call in an upbeat mood.
Bob remains committed to the people of Toronto Centre and to Liberals across Canada. I can't wait to see him enter the House of Commons so that he can continue to fight for the progressive ideals Canadians want.
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Vote for MMP: Public information campaign launched
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Vote for MMP: Conceptualizing electoral reform
As I mentioned in my previous post, I have recently become a strong advocate for electoral reform. I came to this position after much reflection.
I started out by looking at where we stand. Right now, our legislative system is founded on the idea of local representation. The province of Ontario is divided into 103 (soon to be 107) specific geographic regions (or "ridings"), each of which is represented by an MPP. Among numerous candidates in each riding, these MPPs are elected by a plurality of voters: Whichever candidate gets the most votes, wins.
As envisaged by our current electoral framework, the predominant relationship is between the MPP and her riding. We, the citizens of a given riding, are electing a person to represent us at Queen's Park. It is expected that our MPP will fight for our interests and be responsive to our needs and the needs of our communities. At the provincial level, our MPPs are expected to meet and collectively discuss, debate and set public policy.
A fairly simple system, no doubt. But the simplicity of our process masks the overall complexity of our politics.
First of all, the relationship between the MPP and the voter is not as straightforward as it would seem. There are other factors at play, including (and especially) political parties. Not only is the MPP a representative of a riding, she also represents the policies, the platform and the philosophy of her party. Thus, the voter is not just electing a local representative: In selecting between candidates representing various political parties, he is also (implicitly) endorsing a political philosophy.
With this in mind, I submit that there are two major relationships at play: Voter and representative, and voter and party. I further submit that our electoral system should reflect these overlapping, yet distinct, relationships. It doesn't. It ignores the relationship between voter and party, and that's the problem.
In many cases, local representatives are elected with far less than a majority of votes. If political parties weren't part of the equation, and if the singular relationship were between voter and representative, this may not be an issue. But of course, parties and philosophies are fundamental to our democracy.
As voters, we rightfully expect that our votes will help determine the philosophical direction our province takes. Most of the time, this is not the case. Most of the time, majority governments are formed by political parties which have received a plurality of votes in most ridings, but far less than a majority of votes overall. Most of the time, a majority of Ontarian are governed by a minority of Ontarians whose votes happened to be more efficiently spread throughout the ridings. Most of the time, most Ontarians have no real say in shaping our public policies.
And so, what's the solution? As I said earlier, our system needs to reflect the twin relationships the voter has with both the representative and the party. Local representation must remain a key feature of any new system. But party preferences need to be included as well. Just as every voter deserves a local representative to fight for local needs, every voter (insofar as practical) deserves a philosophical voice in the broader public policy debate.
The Mixed Member Proportional representation model proposed by the Citizens' Assembly achieves both goals. It maintains local representation while achieving proportionality, so that the percentage of votes each party receives is more accurately reflected in their numbers in the legislature.
I think this is a fair and effective solution to a very real problem facing our democracy. I hope readers will take the time to look into the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations and to otherwise inform themselves fully on this issue.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
On October 10th, we in Ontario will have the chance to voice our opinion on the way we elect our members of the provincial legislature. We will be asked to choose between our current "first-past-the-post" system, and the alternative "mixed member proportional" system proposed by the Citizens' Assembly.
I'm endorsing mixed member proportional. Why? Because it's the fair and right thing to do. And despite conventional wisdom, I think it will be good for the Liberal Party and the progressive cause in general.
Over the next days and weeks, I'll explain my position. I invite everyone to stay tuned.
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network
Saturday, June 16, 2007
And the award for pointing out the obvious goes to: John Gilbert Layton, Ph.D.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Legal opinions, please
Here's an idea for a new Tory slogan:
Canada's New Government: Getting things done for all of us, one ethical lapse at a time.
h/t Red Tory
Monday, March 26, 2007
1990 all over again?
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Aging out. It has happened or will happen to all of us -- even the best of us -- but it is still shameful nonetheless. You lose the energy required to get sloshed two nights in a row at political events. You don't get invited to OYL AGMs or Summer Flings anymore (unless, of course, you're an OYL Senator or your last name happens to be Cherniak). You're no longer "hip" enough to be the "life of the party"; in fact, if you're not careful, you might actually break your hip while at a party. No more youth discounts to conventions. No more backstage access to the politicians. No more policy parliaments, no more internships, no complimentary tickets to fundraisers. "What's Sexy"? Apparently, if you're 26 or over, not you. You're just another nameless, faceless not-so-young Liberal.
Then again, it ain't so bad...
When you're 26, party big-wigs actually start taking you seriously. They start hounding you for cash, even though you're not rich enough yet to donate anything of significance. Campaign worker? Nope...Make that Campaign MANAGER. Summer Intern? Forget about it! You're a Senior Advisor to the Minister now! Who wants to be a riding association youth rep when you can be a riding association president? And who knows? Maybe in a couple of years, with a bit more experience under your belt, you may be running for something yourself.
Yes, friends, being old has its advantages. But nothing beats being a Young Liberal. I think DR knows that. And while she is surely glad to be moving on from the proverbial "playground," deep down, she'll always look back fondly on her days in the sandbox.
Happy birthday, Danielle! We'll miss you!
PS: For those who were wondering where I've been these past few weeks, I've been working on a local nomination race. Without going into details, I will say that this is far more intense than anything I've ever worked on, including Leadership.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
A Message from Bob Rae
Wednesday, March 7, 2007 – “This morning at 11 a.m. I shall be filing my nomination papers at 10 St Mary Street at the Ontario headquarters of the Liberal Party of Canada. I am hoping to be the Liberal candidate in the riding of Toronto Centre and to join Stéphane Dion and my Liberal Party colleagues in Ottawa. I said during the leadership race that I would be standing for election in the next general election, and with Bill Graham's announcement of his retirement I am ready for the challenge of succeeding Bill, who has served the riding and Canada with distinction. Toronto Centre is a wonderfully diverse community at the heart of a city I have called home for a very long time, and it would be an honour to serve the people of Toronto Centre in the Parliament of Canada.”
For media inquiries: