Thursday, April 30, 2009

Michael's Choice

Rebuilding the party a necessary step

At the Liberal party national convention in Vancouver, Michael Ignatieff has been provided with a stark choice:

Rebuild the party from the bottom up or rebuild the party from the top down. Not rebuilding the party at all is simply not an option.

Speaking at a meeting of Liberal party riding presidents, former Prime Minister John Turner made his preference on the manner of this rebuilding abundantly clear.

Turner insisted that the Liberal party “will not be rebuilt from the top down. It has to be rebuilt from the bottom up.”

"I don’t want to see any leader-appointed candidates across the country,” he added. “I believe riding-by-riding is how this party should be reconstructed, how this country should be run."

Turner is clearly taking side with the people behind Liberal 308, an enterprising effort to rebuild and renew the Liberal party across the country on a riding-by-riding basis.

Ignatieff responded to Turner by agreeing -- somehwat.

“I believe very strongly and I’ve said since I became leader, I want to open nominations in every [riding] in the country, I want to rebuild the party from the grassroots up," Ignatieff replied. “But I cannot abandon the prerogative of a leader to make those appointments that I deem necessary.”

In other words, Ignatieff will allow individual riding associations to nominate their own candidates so long as its convenient for himself. If Ignatieff has trouble finding a riding for a new star candidate, all bets are likely off.

Many Canadians likely still remember Stephane Dion's star-candidate adventurism when he installed Joan Beatty as a Liberal candidate over David Orchard, the candidate duly elected by that riding's Liberal riding association.

Dion's move came after a promise to use the leader's prerogative to appoint more women as candidates.

Unsurprisingly, National Liberal Women's Commission President Nicole Foster Woollatt was in favour of Ignatieff retaining the power to appoint candidates.

“It’s not something you want to use frequently," he mused. "But it can be important."

Particularly, one supposes, if the Liberal leader is using that power to appoint female candidates, even in ridings were a riding-elected candidate is already in place.

For those supporting the Liberal 308 initiative -- and it certainly deserves support -- Ignatieff's stand on this particular issue is not very promising, but this shouldn't be so surprising.

After all, Ignatieff's abrupt ascension to the Liberal leadership dismembered that renewal process from the leadership campaign -- two things that optimally should have been conducted together.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Jeff Jedras - "John Turner at Council of Presidents"

Challenging the Commonplace - "Telling Early Moment May Top LPC Convention"

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