Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Federal Liberal Party adopts a new constitution at convention

In his speech Saturday afternoon at the federal Liberal convention in Winnipeg party leader, Justin Trudeau emphasized the new open and accessible movement that the amended constitution would provide for the Liberal Party.

The new constitution does away with any fees for joining the party. Under the new constitution there is no charge for registering as a Liberal. Concerns had been raised that the new constitution would concentrate power around the party's leadership. Party officials amended some parts of the constitution in response to concerns of critics. The final vote adopted the constitution with 1,988 in favour and 68 opposed. There were still a few complaints about how the constitution was drafted as it was done without consultation with local officials or members.
Trudeau not only concentrated on the constitution in his speech but moved it when it came to the convention floor. He directly addressed the issue of concentrating power: “If I believed for a second that the new constitution was about taking power away from the grassroots, I would be right there with you, shoulder to shoulder, speaking out against it. But it isn’t, and it doesn’t.”What looked to be a divisive battle within the party turned out to be an overwhelming victory for Trudeau. The new constitution is the first major federal party with no fee for membership. As the National Post claims: " It also streamlines the party’s bureaucracy, which promises to make it into a leaner, more efficient machine able to perpetuate a new trend in Canadian politics: the permanent campaign." The draft un-amended version of the constitution can be found here.
Opponents of the new constitution had complained about the way the new constitution was unveiled, alleging there had been no consultation and that the party was trying to strong-arm delegates into voting for it. An attempt to have a secret ballot on the issue was defeated. The critics said that the party was not living up to the ideals of openness, transparency , and consultation that Trudeau had campaigned on. Trudeau promised there would be no repurcussions against anyone who voted against the constitution. He said: “It takes courage to speak out against something your party leadership believes in, and I want you to know that I admire and thank you for doing it.”
Some delegates still objected to the constitution. Liane Doucet, president of the Liberal riding association in Toronto-Danforth was still going to vote against the constitution because she felt manipulated by the lack of communication and the attempts of the party to force support. However, Tom Addison, president of the Liberal Association for Kingston and the Islands — who was one of the main organizers of a movement to oppose the constitution and also said he was still upset "by how opposing voices were treated" — said:“However, my first duty is to my members. I feel the changes that the party has offered its members in the past 24 hours address the issues that my members expressed, and therefore I will be voting yes.”
As an article Rabble notes the new constitution gives PM Justin Trudeau unilateral power to appoint a new national election campaign committee, and additional powers in other areas as well. Rabble reports:The document, obtained by The Hill Times, also shows that Mr. Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and his top backroom advisers, party brass and legal advisers are proposing a potentially controversial change that would discontinue the historic tradition of developing party policy positions for election campaigns through national convention debate and votes on resolutions from grassroots party members across the country.
Instead platforms would be developed through policy consultations that are not defined, and continual contact and discussion with members. This may include online surveys. Trudeau's team used such techniques in developing the platform for last year's federal election. The rules for becoming a Registered Liberal will be developed by the Liberal National Board after the convention.

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