Friday, October 24, 2008

Ideas to Fix the Liberal Party of Canada

Before I start, I encourage any Liberal who cares about the future of this party to read the Calgary Grit. I usually agree with Dan and today is no exception. Now, some ideas of my own to add to the list. Some of these are simple and no brainers, some of these are things that may not be perfectly thought out but I feel we need to be going in that general direction.

Get Volunteers to Sign Membership Forms: A lot of what's wrong with the Liberal Party is that we don't do the little things right. This is one of them. I know that there are hundreds or maybe thousands of people who helped out Liberal campaigns across the country this fall that are not members of the Liberal Party. Why? Well, in a lot of cases, nobody bothered to ask. This must change. These people are the people we need to expand our party membership and our fundraising base. Let's mandate that within six weeks of each election the riding association must hold an open meeting where it tries to sign up new members. Easy, cheap and a great way to make sure people who get involved during elections, stay involved in between elections.

Stop Asking for Money for No Apparent Reason: I don't know about you, but I've stopped opening the e-mails I get from central party. Why? I know what they say without opening them. Here's a synopsis of the e-mail: "Stephen Harper is evil. Look what he's doing now. The Liberal Party is the only party that can . Please go to to donate today." I like the idea of consistently going to the well for small amounts instead of going to the well for a large amount one time. However, if you make your pitch all the time, people are going to just tune you out.

Stop Trying to Con Your Members Into Giving Money: This admittedly only happened once but it offended me to no end. I get an e-mail (I bothered to open this one) saying that I had just committed on the phone to donate to the party and this is just an e-mail following up. Well, I had done no such thing. I know I did no such thing because this was in the middle of the election and I hadn't been home and awake for more than a couple of hours late at night for weeks because I was working on the campaign. Don't lie to your members. If you want money, give me a good reason to donate.

Find Our Howard Dean: If Barack Obama wins this election, a lot of the credit will belong to the chairman of the DNC, former Vermont Governor, Howard Dean. Dean is responsible for transforming the Democratic party from a regional, directionless, poor party into the national, focused, fundraising machine it is today. Dean was the first Democrat to fundraise effectively over the internet. When we elect a new leader of the Liberal Party, we will also be electing a new President of the Liberal Party. If we are to succeed, we need a President that will be able to bring the big red machine into the twenty-first century. My suggestion for the job? Paul Martin. Ok, stop laughing for a minute and think about it. The next President of the LPC will have two jobs: make us competitive in the fundraising department and rebuild moribund riding associations. I can't think of a better person for this job than Paul Martin. Martin is as good a fundraiser as this party is going to find. He knows everyone in the party and has the respect of most of them. I understand that he couldn't turn us into a grassroots, Dean/Obama style, fundraising machine during his tenure as leader. I also understand that if he was solely focused on that task, he might have more success. Martin also knows something about building riding associations. Martin was a master at building up riding associations when he was trying to become leader. He took over almost every riding association in the country. If he can take them over, he can build them up. We need someone with his gravitas to make this work. That's why Gov. Dean has been so successful. He has the name recognition and the respect of the people in the party. It doesn't have to be Martin. In fact, I doubt he'd want the job. But it should be someone with a big name, who understands grassroots politics.

Fight Everywhere: I am a firm believer in the Liberal 308 campaign that has begun. If we are to form government again, it will only be if we are competitive in every part of this country. We have conceded to many races to the Tories, NDP and Bloc. Hell, we even conceded a race to the Greens this time around. That is not acceptable. We have to build support for our party everywhere by engaging with our grassroots everywhere. It will not be an easy process, but it is doable.

We Are Not Just Another Left Wing Party: One of the things that really offends me is when Liberals make the argument that the majority of the country voted for progressive candidates. If we portray ourselves as fundamentally no different from the NDP, Greens or Bloc, why should Canadians see a difference on election day? We are not a left wing party. We are a centrist party. In fact, the only centrist party this country has. We get elected when we appeal to all Canadians, not just self-identified progressives. We are not like the NDP and Greens a party of ideology. We are simply not like the Bloc. We couldn't be less like the Bloc. We fundamentally disagree with all of these parties over core principles and ideas. Yes, we disagree with the Conservatives as well. Our disagreement with the Tories, however, should not be our defining characteristic. We are the party of small business as much as we are the party of the poor. We are the party of fiscal responsibility as much as we are the party of healthcare and childcare. It is this unification of ideals, free from restrictive ideology, that has made us so successful in the past. We must embrace that legacy if we are to succeed in the future.

We Are Not the Natural Governing Party: I want to start a swear jar for every time a Liberal claims we are the natural governing party. There is no such thing as a natural governing party. We are a centrist party. This means that a plurality of Canadians tend to agree with us philosophically. However, that does not mean we are entitled to a single vote. Everytime we tell Canadians that we are the natural governing party, we become less likely to ever govern again. We will not fix this party, unless we understand that we're never going to get elected by just hoping Canadians come back to us. We came back to power in 1993 because we had a clear and pragmatic vision for this country that Canadians could support not because it was inevitable.

I really hope that we can have a genuine discussion about renewal amid the intra-partisan bickering of a leadership race. We have a lot of work to do and we need to get started.


WesternGrit said...

Excellent, excellent post! Agree with you on every item. The fundraising aspect is critical. I've been involved since 1980 in some way or another. This election, no-one asked me for a membership. When I walked into a campaign and asked for a lawn sign, I was asked if I was "on our side". That was frustrating. Yes, people take signs and do stupid things with them, but you can't accuse people... Even after taking that line of questioning, I was not asked if I want to "renew my membership", or something like that...

It's the little things. You see, we tend to be a party of lawyers and intellectuals, while the Cons attract a lot of salesmen (insert joke here) and marketing/corporate types. They have this natural knack at it. We have such talent too. We just need to tap it. It's great to place the "policy-wonk" ideologue in charge of policy, but please, don't have a popularity contest and put them in charge of fundraising. Teach people how to raise funds (and that membership is the basic easiest way)- while ensuring continued contact with the person.

WesternGrit said...

Ps: I still haven't renewed my membership. I get emails every day asking for money, but haven't received one f'n link with a Paypal clicker, so I can just go online and get a membership. Why are we so stupid, not to realize what Paypal is, and how it is a great, secure way to fundraise and pay for things? Barack is using it...

Sheesh! Sometimes we piss me off...

saii said...

@ westerngrit:
If an ordinary "uninformed" person was asked with that question, I bet they would be totally turned off with the liberal party and not vote(or worse vote for the dark side ;) ). Who hires these people anyways? I mean, the people who should be working there should be someone with charisma, a people-person, not someone who would drive away voters.

I guess party renewal should start from the inside out, not the other way. Find out who these "senior party members" and "anonymous liberals" are and give them sanctions. We should work as a team, not a divided one.

Mowich said...

Your post on ideas for the Liberal party are really excellent. One of the reasons that my party, Conservative, is so successful is that they have not forgotten the importance of their grass-roots membership.

I would very much like to see the Liberal party rise again. Having spent my formative years as a member of a Liberal household and surrounded by my parent's Liberal friends, I have a deep respect for the party. I changed my political stripe when the Reform party came on the scene because of their inclusions of everyone in the party from the ground up.

There are way too many Chiefs in the Liberal party now, and far too few Indians. Anything that would reverse this trend would be good for the Liberal party.

Finally, dropping the "Natural governing party of Canada" moniker is absolutely necessary. When people of any political or nonpolitical leaning hear this term it simply gets their back up. The arrogance expressed by the term is plainly foolhardy.

WesternGrit said...

Yeah, I agree about the "natural governing party" moniker. The media has to stop calling us that. They basically use that name for parties in any country which tend to govern most of the time (Republicans in the US, Liberal Democrats in Australia, Conservatives in UK, etc., etc.). I don't recall the last time I've heard a Liberal call ourselves "natural governing party"...

Laura said...

I totally agree with your point about the liberals not being "just another left wing party". Also, I very much dislike the use of the word "progressive" to mean left wing. The word "progressive" has been so overused, it has ceased to have any meaning. I think that the left wingers and the revolutionary types like the word "progressive" because it doesn't sound as arrogant as calling themselves "just plain right"- but that is essentially what they are doing, because after all, who is really against progress?

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