Monday, January 04, 2010

Scrap The Thinker's Conference

This is not a new position for me, but I like the idea of a Thinker's Conference less today than I did fourteen months ago, so I figured I'd argue for it's immediate destruction. There are a lot of reasons not to go through with this thing, so I'll list these one by one:
  1. Timing: This is the new addition to the list. With the conference scheduled for late March, political reality threatens to scuttle the thing whether we like it or not. The odds of there being an election or at very least a confidence vote around the time of this conference seems to increase by the day. If we do end up in an election or in the position to vote no-confidence we can't very well say "you'll have to wait until our Thinker's Conference delivers our policy platform." If we need a platform before this thing takes place, we run the risk of being contradicted by our own conference. The proroguing of Parliament gives a perfect excuse to cancel the thing. Let's take advantage.
  2. Optics: We have a leader with the reputation of being an elitist out of touch with the cold realities of today. In order to improve that leader's image we are going to surround him with other elites and talk about a point in time when a large number of Canadians don't expect to be alive. It's kind of like asking Stephen Harper to dress up like a robot on Halloween. It confirms a negative image for our leader.
  3. We Already Have A Policy Process: In fact, we just had a policy conference in Vancouver last year and we are scheduled to have another one next spring. The grassroots of the Liberal Party seems to have less and less power everyday. Robbing the grassroots of the illusion of a meaningful policy process is a terrible pill for the party faithful to swallow. It also shows the Liberal Party to be an elitist and closed institution which plays into the optics issues above.
  4. Stop Trying to Recreate Trudeau: We all love Pierre Trudeau. It doesn't mean we have to replay the sixties playbook every time we're in a rut. The Kingston Conference was successful in that time. It doesn't mean it will work now. The En Famille online forum seems to be a more timely version of the Kingston Conference in this open-source internet era.


Anonymous said...

#1 The timing was designed so that it could be cancelled. Ignatieff has never really wanted to have this conference.

#2 We should be having a grassroots conference, but see my response to #3.

#3 Bang on, but after the Seinfeld convention the cupboards are either a bit bare or filled with old stock.

#4 This was never about recreating Trudeau, it was about silencing those in the party who actually believed we should be proposing alternatives. Ignatieff could think of any so this was thrown out, and far enough away, to give him some breathing room.

Chrystal Ocean said...

I love what Anonymous just wrote. Must be hell to be a red Liberal these days and a member of the LPC's diminishing grass roots.

CanadianSense said...

Another great post.

Thank you.

Volkov said...

Maybe I'm not as cynical as I should be, but I disagree; the Conference should go forward, Harper's election call be damned.

This is the one chance that the grassroots - yes, the grassroots, which still exist in this party and are being listened to, finally, as evident with this amazing about-face by the Council of Presidents in regards to actually listening to the ridings - to swell up and show what we're made of, which is a lot despite what the doomsayers from the other parties say.

It's essentially a giant IRL-En Famille anyways; people can go in person and discuss, or participate online, and we can actually propose something. We can be listened to. And if its during the election, so what? Better press, better timing, and I guarantee better participation.

Your cynicism is warranted, to be sure. However, if you want something done, sometimes it takes a little faith.

Liberal Justice said...

I disagree Volkov. I think Ignatieff is right to have a "Thinkers Conference". Ordinary people certainly know what they want, and they should be listened to for that. But they are not capable of designing policy, which is what we need right now. An ordinary citizen or grassroots Liberal might say that in order to keep the recession at bay we need to continue with the low interest rate policy. But they are not qualified for that. The Thinkers Conference will have experts from all areas who, hopefully, will think out of the box about what Canadians want and come up with some great policies. Ignatieff is an academic and he understands that policy development is not for ordinary people. We should let the experts come up with the best policies that can move the country forward and put an end to Harper's reign. Ignatieff has my 100% support on this.

Aaron Ginsberg said...

Liberal Justice, the decision as to whether or not to raise the interest rate is made by the Governor of the Bank of Canada, not the Prime Minister. Any decisions that are being made with respect to taxpayers dollars, to wit taxing and spending decisions, are absolutely up to the people of this country. That's the whole idea of a democratic government. If you want to get elected, you better find a plan the people like.

Volkov, there was a policy process last year where the grassroots of the party had involvement, and Michael Ignatieff ignored it. It seems clear he will ignore the policy process at the next biennial convention too. If he wanted to hear from the grassroots, there's an established forum for that and there's forty pages of policy from Vancouver for him to read. He wants to hear from his fellow "thinkers".

Mr. Ignatieff has at his disposal a platform committee and staff in both the OLO and in the LPC who are experts on policy to provide him with expert advice. The platform will not be formed in Montreal. He doesn't even want to talk platform there. He wants to talk about the future of liberalism in Canada and the country forty years from now. It's a glorified academic conference.

Liberal Justice said...

Aaron, you're out of touch. If the Finance Minister directs the Governor of the Bank of Canada to change any of his policies he is required to do it or resign. You're thinking of a time long ago, which no longer exists.

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