Young Liberals of Canada and One Member, One Vote

These past few weeks on En Famille and on eclectic portions of the blogsphere, I’ve attempted to maneuver through the nuances of the discussion on the Youth amendment to One Member, One Vote.

The proponents of the amendment emphasize the strength and, by extension, the importance of the YLC as a bloc. In the past, the Commission has cemented its entitlement to securing a sizable portion of delegate seats at Conventions, forming a cohesiveness which has contributed to its pivotal role in shaping progressive policy on several occasions. 

YLC bloc aside, it would seem that an immediate extension of the current Convention system of Leadership voting to a system which would include all members – One Member, One Vote – would require quotas for youth (also women, seniors, aboriginals) in order to emulate current proportions. While one could argue that the current delegation system renders individual preference – and, hence, the views of these respective Commissions – irrelevant in favor of percentages tallied from riding association assemblies for first rounds of voting, the current system does give individual delegates license to vote as they choose on the Leadership on subsequent voting rounds; the votes herein ultimately determine the Leader in the case of several candidates (as in 2006).

In brief, a point allotment bolstering youth representation in Leadership voting has the following two apparent purposes:
i) Maintaining the vitally distinctive (internal) position of the YLC as a bloc in practical and symbolic terms, and,
ii) Maintaining the enthusiasm of the (external) reception that the Commission enjoys from the rest of the Party, which has been necessitated in the past by the YLC’s systematic underrepresentation and weakness (characteristic of members in the age range) in the organization at large.

These two purposes are mutually reinforcing. Together, they suggest the following predicament: “The Young Liberals of Canada, as a result of their youthful character, hold such a distinctively opinionated stance in comparison to the rest of the Party that their presence is weak in the face of the organization at large.”

Perhaps I have exaggerated for effect, but the meaning is clear: consideration of the fundamentally controversial issue of OMOV has been stymied by the disheartening virulence of another – one of organizational unity.

When members of the youth wing took memorable moments on convention floors to vocalize their stances on Same-Sex Marriage and Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense, among other policies, their ultimate strength lay not in the brute force of their numbers or the consistency of their accompanying masses; rather, their weight was in the substance of their reasoning. 

It is my view that as youth – the innovative forces with the most potential to effect positive, responsible change in our nation, not to mention the best volunteers – we should have pride, and not diffidence, in our enviable position in leadership campaigns. By the same token, we should utilize the breadth of our impressive achievements as inspiration to devise institutions by which we might integrate our student teams more fully with portfolios held in PTAs and the National Liberal Executive, while soliciting the views of historically marginal groups in aiming to be maximally inclusive.

It would be a triumph if young people comprised a more substantial proportion of the Party’s membership. It would mean more young candidates, more young regional presidents, and more young Members on the Hill. We can make it happen. Until then, let’s keep the conversation civil on the web, in the suites, and on the floor.

Clara Chang