BC Liberal Party Leadership Race Design: A Potential for Chaos


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Watching the BC Liberal Party make up new rules for replacing their hated leader is an exercise in spin. Now that they’ve decided to try to move from a one-member-one-vote system to a representative system, they’ll have a leadership race that requires the leader to have more province-wide support than if they kept their old system that favoured candidates who could appeal to the bulk of the membership in urban areas.

But the party has created chaos in their timing. They decided a few days ago to schedule a general meeting to ratify their new leadership voting system for February 12, 2011. Then yesterday they decided to have their leadership vote just 14 days later:

“We felt it was important give our members an opportunity to adopt a more representative voting process prior to the Leadership Vote,” said Patryluk. “The setting of these dates provides for a thoughtful, organized, and reasonable process allowing our party to move forward.”

via Party Sets Leadership Vote for February 26, 2011.

The general meeting needs to approve the new voting system with a 2/3 majority. If that passes, then leadership contenders who will have been campaigning since well before February 12 will be able to continue in their strategy based on needing broad provincial appeal.

But what if that voting system doesn’t get the 2/3 majority? What if candidates with urban appeal decide to quietly undermine that vote to ensure they have an advantage? What if the expected change in the leadership vote system ends up not happening, then any contender who is working the whole province for support will suddenly be irrelevant if that 2/3 vote fails. Then they will have only two weeks to reconfigure their campaign to pander to urban voters, a distinct disadvantage.

The 14 day gap between key dates could easily be up to 6 months to allow contenders to know for sure which voting system they will be working in. Instead the party choose a two week gap likely in an effort to actually get rid of Gordon Campbell sooner rather than later.

A much smarter, though practically impossible, process would be to insist [somehow] that Campbell leave now, install a caretaker premier who pledges not to run for party leadership, then have their constitutional meeting on February 12 and a less rushed leadership campaign without the overarching need of getting Campbell out of the picture.

Instead we have the potential for significant manipulation in the leadership race and a missed opportunity to avoid threats to transparency.

But then when we think about a decade of the lies and broken promises and anti-social neoliberal policy choices and the BC Rail scandal and such, it is no surprise that the party has created a process that is vulnerable to dirty tricks.

And if it weren’t for the needless turmoil that the province will suffer under waiting for the next premier and that person’s management and policy preferences, reading the party’s press release above would be just funny. Claiming that the 14 day gap will lead to anything thoughtful, organized or reasonable is just potential insanity.

Arrogant, out of touch and deluded are common descriptions of this party’s rule this decade. They seem to be maintaining that tradition with what appears to be a presumption that the February 12 vote will pass as hoped. Maybe it will, but it is an enormous risk to assume there won’t be a movement to scuttle that change.

Meanwhile, we all wait to see through all this potential chaos which person will become an unelected leader of the party and the province for up to 27 months.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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5 thoughts on “BC Liberal Party Leadership Race Design: A Potential for Chaos”

  1. A vote for a political party-candidate rather than an independent, district representative accountable to us, the voters, is a wasted vote. Parties represent the corporate community, and corporate rule taken to fruition
    is full-blown fascism. Canadians and British Columbians sign-off on fascism every four years like Pavlov’s Dog hoping to receive the best package of promised government bribes in return; all the while they remain ignorant to the fact that the government is simply returning a few fiscal crumbs it already strong-armed from the working stiffs (that’s you and me in case there was some misunderstanding).

  2. I’d be happy to see an Aristotelian democracy chosen by lot over the sham we have in place.

    I take it as a known truth that we have a corporatist government. One does not elect a single-voice political organization (called a political party) endebted to its high-stakes financiers who demand to be repaid first, and honestly expect to be represented at the district or regional level.

    But Canadians are not known, at least to me, for their intellectual honesty. I think Emma Goldman explained this quite well: “Material comforts are not conducive to the awakening of the mind”.

    Clearly democracy has been hi-jacked by big money. Fortunately we, the people, are given an option once every four years to change that — but we are either unaware of how, or do not care, to do so.

    The cognitive process to this understanding is dead simple: democracy is ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’, and NOT “of the people, by the political party, for the corporations”.

    Ignore the expensive propaganda campaigns and the mainstream media rhetoric, understand the ‘government is run by liars and nothing they say can be believed’ (I.F. Stone), and vote for an honest, ethical, independent candidate brought up from the grassroots.

    When we can all understand this fundamental theory of representative democracy, we will fill all 85 districts in the province with independents. Thus we break the back of corporatocracy peacefully, legally and just by using sense rather than being sold by glitzy showbiz campaigns of broken promises to be.

    Democracy is tough work. If we ignore our role, these independents will circumvent the people too. But it is at least one move toward an accountable government, where 85 folks have to reach decisions based on direct democracy in the Legislature rather than all of us forced to follow The Party.

    Democracy is an important truth that is not even understood by our voters, and for good reason. The propaganda campaigns against our understanding permeate the schools, the media and all things politik. ‘It’s a wasted vote if you don’t vote for a real party (contender)’ or ‘it’s your civic duty to vote’ are often trotted out. Whose asking where did these witticisms erroneously taken as the gospel come from? The state propaganda machine, of course. And the ignorant populace parrots them on cue every election.

    For nearly 30 years I have been encouraging people to vote Independent or, at least, to have some moral fortitude, some self-respect, and not validate our war-mongering corporate-party politics with a vote. But few care to honestly think it through.

    I find most, even self-proclaimed progressives, are cognitively trapped into believing an Independent is a wasted vote. As with most things we are educated en masse in, ‘up is down’ and the vote for a party candidate is the wasted vote. (That is, if you hope to be represented.)

    “The sign of a truly totalitarian culture is that important truths simply lack cognitive meaning and are interpretable only at the level of ‘Fuck You’, so they can then elicit a perfectly predictable torrent of abuse in response.” ~ Noam Chomsky on totalitarian cultures

    When we come to appreciate how we, the people, can be ‘our’ government by participating from below, by bringing upstanding community members to the fore to act, and by insisting on accountability, then democracy will come to Canada for more than a day every four years. All we do now is vote to opt-out of being represented. The results of our selfish, ethnocentric, pillaging, lieing, deceptive, dishonourable, abusive, power-crazed governments speak volumes about what is going wrong. We just need to care enough to see it for what it is, rather than viewing the spectacle in awe.

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