Monday, February 02, 2009

On the OYL

I wasn't in Ottawa this weekend. I had personal reasons for skipping the AGM unrelated to the Liberal Party or the OYL. I will not comment on the current incident generating such controversy at the moment because I don't have any information to provide. I don't know what happened. I think that is true of 99% of the OYL. Hopefully, the details will come out in the coming weeks and this too shall pass. I will say briefly that I have known Jason Easton and Denise Brundson to be persons of incredible integrity and honesty. They are two of the hardest working, most dedicated Liberals I know in a party filled with hard working, dedicated people.

What I want to focus on is the culture of the OYL. In particular, the culture that has made it possible for anyone in the organization to even contemplate the type of shenanigans that are alleged to have taken place this weekend. We have in the Ontario Young Liberals a deeply divided commission. A large percentage of OYLers came to the party during Liberal leadership races (2003, 2006, 2009 (abortive)). When you consider that no one in this organization is over 25, you realize that they have spent most of their time in the party either in the middle of a leadership or some sort of election. These are battle weary veterans of hard fought and divisive campaigns. It should not be surprising that they have brought the dirty tactics they have seen at nomination battles and leadership races to the Young Liberals. I don't mean to paint my fellow OYLers as impressionable juveniles. I only mean to say that they know what it means to win at all costs and they aren't afraid to use the full arsenal at the OYL. This doesn't excuse cheating. Nothing excuses cheating, ever. However, in campaigns with no discernable spending limits, with perilously few rules in general, it is not entirely surprising to see things get out of hand.

The great irony of this weekend was that it was supposed to be an exercise in party unity. With the call of the leadership convention in the fall, it is my understanding that the decision was made to have a unity slate to bring together the warring factions that fought in Hamilton. It was designed to keep leadership politics out of the OYL as much as humanly possible. The election of two independent candidates this weekend puts those who would lead the OYL in a difficult spot. After the chaos of Hamilton, a lot of people viewed a unity slate as a godsend. With none of the sitting management board seeking election, there was a real possibility that we could have a celebration in Ottawa instead of internal fighting. However, any slate dreamt up in private will leave people feeling excluded. It will leave good candidates off for trivial reasons or because the people making up the slate didn't know they wanted to run. This is the negative side of slate politics. Refreshingly, two candidates took it upon themselves to challenge the slate. Unexpectedly for many in the OYL, they were both successful. (In the interest of full disclosure, I endorsed Alex Crombie's opponent in the race for VP Federal, Andrea Micieli. I did so because I thought she would be an excellent choice for that job having had the opportunity to campaign with her on a few different campaigns over the past couple years. I don't know Alex personally, but I am sure that he will do a good job as well.) We ended up with the worst of both worlds: a terribly divisive and even possibly ruinous AGM and acclaimed candidates for most of the important positions. It may prove necessary to rethink the way we run elections in the OYL. The OYL Constitution is an abysmal document on most counts and the conduct of internal elections is no exception. It leaves far too much to interpretation, simply to be made up as we go along, or just never thought about. We will not heal the OYL overnight, nor will we end the culture of division. However, it is time to start thinking about major revisions to the OYL Constitution to try to improve what has become an annual embarassment. A low spending limit would be a good first step. A rule regarding slates and their conduct during an election may be something to debate as well. I think that Jon Tsao who was acclaimed as Executive VP last weekend should assemble a constitutional ASAP so that the commission as a whole can figure out how to solve this problem, if it is solvable. At very least, we can get a better Constitution than the one we have now. While responsibility should be taken for any wrongdoing this weekend, it is more important for the OYL to look forward to try to stop this from happening on a yearly basis.


Anonymous said...

Since Krista resigned tonight, Tsao is the new President.

younglib4eva said...

Ted, aka Mr Bigmouth at Jamie blog, any comments to add to this?
Next time mind your own business. You are too old to get involved in youth politics grandpa!

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