Maybe the Liberals need a grassroots tea party goading them. Ignatieff needs some sort of hearing aid so that he can listen to the base rather than go off on a weekend thinker's conference that as Travers claims is full of experts trying to figure out what would be the best way to create some new props to attract votes. The parties are to raise funds and do all the grunt work on campaigns. A few hacks may get some payback but mostly the grass roots are meant to stay underground and just feed the tops. This has nothing to do with a green shift by the way! This is from the Star.
Travers: Liberal fest will be lost weekend
By James Travers
National Affairs Columnist
Drape the long-suffering political party in mourning. Another nail is being driven into the coffin of grassroots democracy by a weekend Liberal conference dominated by professionals, not the eager amateurs whose energy and ideas once propelled parties forward.
For the second time in a little over a year, Liberals are about to sacrifice accountability to expediency and a show. Last winter the party elite scuttled a leadership campaign to crown Michael Ignatieff with scant regard for his values, campaign readiness or rank-and-file opinion. Now those same insiders are posing him, like Auguste Rodin's celebrated sculpture, as thinking hard about where to take party and country.
To keep it sound-bite simple and silence dissent, the caucus is being advised to stay away. Counterintuitive and embarrassing, that's only one superficial symptom of a deeper, wider malaise.
Beyond raising cash and providing campaign workers, political parties don't matter much any more. They have little control over the leaders they choose and even less influence over defining policies or election platforms.
As Conservatives learned to their surprise just weeks after the 2008 federal election, card-carrying loyalists are merely one among multiple groups of "stakeholders." No matter how profoundly felt or long held, the ideology that attracted them to the Reform party and now binds them in the Conservative coalition carries about the same weight with the leader and now Prime Minister as nagging advice.
That evolving reality is on a sliding scale. On one end is an NDP that talks often and earnestly about divisive issues and expects its leaders to be sensitive when adjusting convention resolutions to changing circumstances. On the other are Liberals who became the Western world's most successful political organization largely by resisting the temptation to let principle get in the way of the pragmatic pursuit of power.
It's that pragmatism that took Liberals to nearby Aylmer in 1991 to distance themselves from John Turner's lost battle against free trade. It's that pragmatism that's taking them back to Montreal, where they hope to regain past glories by persuading voters that Ignatieff – impressions of uncertainty notwithstanding – has a compelling plan.
Far from the worst of recent ideas, the weekend conference accepts that more than a decade in office made Liberals dependent on bureaucrats for ideas. Loose and begging top-down manipulation, that process also recognizes the urgent need to put something fresh in the window for the coming election.
But there's a crucial distinction between safely parading experts across a stage and the risky process of asking Liberals to decide what's now important about being Liberals. That difference separates being in the crowd from being a player and, among other things, helps explain why less than 5 per cent of Canadians now bother to join political parties.
It's true, as Conservatives were reminded by Stephen Harper's cameo appearance when they last gathered on a blustery Winnipeg weekend, meeting the party in public sometimes leads to awkward moments we-the-media gratefully exploit. Questions better left unanswered are asked by those ignorant to the fluid twist and turns demanded of leaders determined to win and hold power.
Still, democracy is messy and fragile. Its component parts are connected by the chain of accountability that stretches to the snapping point when elites take their parties for granted.
That, too, is something Liberals should think about this weekend.