Start with the first step.

I have been soundly chastised by some people around me by stating, for the record, that I don’t think that any of the current Liberal leaders have what it takes to win big outside of our traditional hunting grounds.

I have also had some gumption to suggest that the Fossilized Remains of the party need to go. If they don’t then we, the grassroots membership, should continue along as if they were.

My focus is, and will be until the coffers are full and the bills are paid, on building the membership and promoting the Victory Fund.

I worked in fundraising for many, many years, and if there is one thing that all fundraising professionals know is that people aren’t going to give money to a cause they don’t believe in and aren’t engaged in, apart from the passive dumping of pocket change or unwanted pennies into a bucket or box.

If we can’t give the people of this country a reason to belong to the party, they aren’t going to. If we can’t engage the public, or offer them some value for their time and money, political parties are going to become increasingly irrelevant and voter participation will continue to fall.

How do we do that?

More importantly, how do we do that without invoking the name of Obama?

Canada’s politics doesn’t have an Obama because our country, our people, lack drama or the need for dramatic shifts in an Obama type way. We’re a generally stable and pragmatic people. We don’t have the issues or the craziness that requires this type of call to arms. We’ve already tried to build “the movement” with the only issue we’ve got (the environment) but average voters don’t care about it. They don’t care about it because it’s still a hippy-dippy, peace, love, granola, feel good issue. With the current leadership, I don’t see that changing.

So what do we, as the Liberal Party of Canada, have to offer the people of Canada that they aren’t already getting from the CPoC, NDP, or BQ?

What’s our plan to engage the people who’ve voted for us in the past but haven’t committed to us?

What do we have a plan for that the others don’t?

Ask Questions

For a different perspective, here’s a post by David Eaves:

Liberal Renewal: Identify Good Questions, Not Answers

The following was a memo I wrote for some friends back in May, 2006 as the Liberal Renewal Commission was just getting going. I was sensing that we needed a process that was emergent – one that leveraged its reputation (and meager resources) not to do something top down, but facilitate something bottom-up.

Recently a friend asked me to dig it up. After a little touch up, I thought I’d post it, as I believe much of it is as true to today as it was two years ago.

Memo: How Can the Liberal Party Renewal Committee maximize its impact?

Most Liberals agree the party needs to re-examine its policies, priorities and ideology to ascertain what, if anything, must change to enable the it to regain office.

The process and output of the Renewal Committee will determine its reception both among party members and the leadership candidates. This one pager assessment will argue that, to maximize its impact the committee should help define the debate liberals – through their leadership candidates – must have, not resolve it.

A robust output that outlines a new liberal party platform will likely have little impact. First, leadership candidates will be disinclined to use it. Adopting the committee’s recommendations could either damage the candidates credibility as an innovative thinker (they are ‘borrowing’ someone else’s work) or, more likely, candidates will ignore the recommendations as they won’t allow them to distinguish themselves from their opponents. Second, for a liberal party platform to be credible it must, in some capacity, emerge and/or receive buy-in from the grassroots of the party. This isn’t a plea for wide spread consultations. However, the opposite, hand picking a group of ‘best and brightest’ risks alienating members not included in the process and undermines the democratic ideals that should be core to the party’s DNA. Sitting on the civic engagement committee, I am forced to wonder how does this process measure up against the standards of engagement our policy recommendations will suggest for government programs?

How then can the Renewal Committee have impact, in the midst of a leadership race and without conducting broad, time consuming and questionably helpful consultations?

The liberal party does not need answers. The key to solving any problem, including the renewal of the Liberal Party and the creation of a platform, it is in ascertaining the right questions. The Renewal Committee should thus do two things: 1) Determine what, for each sub-committee topic, are the three emerging questions ANY political party must possess answers for to be the dominant Canadian political force in the 21st century. 2) Provide some criteria for an effective answers and some initial insights. Committee members could then publicly sign a letter committing themselves to pressing the leadership candidates for answers to each of the questions – a test to their capacity for leadership of the party and country for not just the next election, but for the 21st century.

This approach will maximize the impact of the committee by enabling it to provoke a real debate within the leadership race and, ultimately, among party members. If the commission simply provides answers it will alienate the leadership candidates and the party at large. By asking questions it can attempt to position itself as a force for thinking about and opening up, the debate over liberalism and ideas. Moreover, by asking questions it enables all members to participate in this process – by proposing answers – and can ensure that the issues the committee believes to be essential to renewal are placed front and centre.

“A 21st Century Liberal Party of Canada” – document proposal

A Liberal supporter who is interested in the goals and aims of Liberal 308 has made up a proposal for reforming the Liberal Party that he will be looking to propose at the upcoming LPCO conference. It is posted for your convenience to read and comment on. Its posting here does not indicate that the founders of Liberal 308 necessarily endorse it or its approach, but it was posted here for discussion on what it says in the document.

The file is in PDF format. Feel free to download/browse it and to leave questions/comments on, either at the comment thread here, or at the Liberal 308 Facebook group.

a-21st-century-liberal-party-of-canada

Axworthy’s Take

Tom Axworthy’s Liberal credentials are second to none, so I thought I’d share his take on what the party should be doing to renew itself. First, be sure to check out his 2006 article on party renewal, which looked at four key questions:

I. What is the most pressing or overarching issue of our times and how should liberalism respond?

II. What are the values that should animate progressives and determine the central mission?

III. What human and financial capabilities are required to implement the policies that are created to reflect the value preference of liberals?

IV. What is required to animate the volunteer base of the Party so that they will mobilize and persuade citizens of the rightness of their cause?

 

The answers to the questions may have changed over the past two years, but these are still questions worth asking.

For a more recent take, here’s what Tom wrote on the need to re-energize the base, in the wake of the last election:

In assessing campaigns, the media tend to focus on the air war – the leader’s tour and the coverage it generates, advertising and the debates. This aspect of campaigning is obviously critical, but without a ground campaign to get voters to the polls the best advertising will not be enough to swing a close election. Parties still need active members. The Liberal party needs them more than most because it has a large potential voter base that needs more encouragement to vote.

In their preoccupation with leadership, media and party insiders are missing the real issue. The primary challenge for the Liberal party is that its cause is no longer compelling enough to persuade Canadians to give up their leisure time to join its ranks.

Party renewal, therefore, is not some romantic notion pursued by idealists. Renewal demands hard-headed realism that requires a Liberal party overhaul; rebuilding itself brick by brick, riding-by-riding so it is once again competitive on the ground.

The vote on Liberal 308’s logo.

As you can see, a majority of you picked the white text on red background. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the other logos for your blog/website, which are listed in the blogpost below this one.

We are going to be getting bilingual buttons/logos for the site and for those other logos (so you may see a minor change to the main logo above), and we also have some exciting plans for the website in general, so stay tuned here and over at the Facebook group for those developments!