POLITICS

Liberal Directors Release Final Ideas For 'Radical' Change

01/06/2012 03:09 EST | Updated 03/07/2012 05:12 EST
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The final proposals designed by the Liberal Party of Canada's national board to make "sweeping" and "radical" changes to the party were released Friday.

The ideas are now in the form of official resolutions that will be debated and voted upon at next week's Liberal convention in Ottawa, beginning Jan. 13.

The board made its original proposals in a document called "A Roadmap to Renewal" in November 2011, then gathered feedback from party members. It said in the document that it wanted to engage the party's grassroots to help develop a clear plan to win the next federal election.

When it released that document last fall, the board said the resolutions were a mix of those that reform the party's structure and processes and others the general direction of the party.

"Taken together, the proposed resolutions, if enacted, would result in sweeping constitutional change and radical operational modernization of the party's affairs," the board said.

Some of the ideas require changes to the party's constitution and they will require the approval of two-thirds of those in attendence at the convention. The others require only a simple majority.

The final resolutions are mostly the same as the ones released in the fall, with a few tweaks.

On changes to the election of the party's next leader, the board has dropped a proposal to confirm the leader's election through an in-person American-style electoral college vote. The board is proposing an election based on a preferential or run-off ballot system, weighted equally by district, conducted over a period of several days or weeks.

The board has added a proposal to have the race overseen by an independent leadership vote committee and by a leadership expenses committee.

The final resolution package also bumps up the dates for the Liberals to begin preparing for the next election, now saying the the National Election Readiness Committee should be reconstituted no later July 30, 2013 rather than Sept. 1 of that year. The board had also originally proposed that nominations for federal candidates be opened no earlier than October of that year; it now says September.

The resolutions maintain the date of the next policy convention, which will focus on the election platform, as May 30, 2014.

But the board is standing behind a controversial proposal to create a new category of membership to allow people to join as "supporters" instead of full members, to spur new interest in the party.

More than 1,000 Liberals are expected to attend the three-day convention. One of its main themes is how to rebuild after the disastrous election result last May that saw the party drop to just 34 seats and lose Official Opposition status and its leader Michael Ignatieff, who failed to win his own seat.

Ignatieff quit as leader immediately after the election. He will be returning to Ottawa next week for the convention. Aside from discussing ideas and voting on policies to change the way the party operates, delegates will also elect a new party president and other positions.

The party presidency is proving to be a heated race between former MP Sheila Copps and long-time party executive Mike Crawley. Former MP Alexandra Mendes, businessman Charles Ward and former diplomat Ron Hartling are also in the running to replace Alf Apps.