Justin Trudeau and Liberal Party President Anna Gainey take the stage at the party's biennial convention Feb. 22, 2014 in Montreal. (Photo: CP)
"That is a sharp contrast," Gainey said. Without going into details of the proposed changes, Trudeau championed the need for a constitutional overhaul during a speech Saturday to the Nova Scotia wing of the Liberal party. "We need to be courageous and we need to show, once again, that the Liberal party is not afraid to challenge the status quo, even if it means breaking with our own traditions," he said. "Canadians are counting on us to keep building, modernizing and opening up our movement. We can't let them down."
"We need to be courageous and we need to show, once again, that the Liberal party is not afraid to challenge the status quo, even if it means breaking with our own traditions."
Shorter constitution, more flexibilityThe proposed new constitution would be shorter than the current 81-page document and give more flexibility to the national board, which includes elected riding presidents from across the country, to adapt and modernize party procedures in a timely way. That includes its cumbersome policy development process. Currently, the constitution stipulates that policy resolutions are to be put forward by riding associations for consideration at annual general meetings of the various provincial and territorial wings of the party. Priority resolutions chosen at those meetings are then debated and voted on at the national party's biennial conventions. The process is "inflexible, it is not evergreen, it does not respond to the pace of life in the digital age," said Gainey. The new constitution would allow flexibility to use technology to engage all registered Liberals in policy development between national conventions, reflecting "the electoral cycle that we're in and the environment we're in and the issues that matter at the time," she added.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the Nova Scotia Liberal Party annual general meeting in Halifax on April 2, 2016. (Photo: CP)The proposal would also scrap the 18 different constitutions that are currently in play, with the party's provincial and territorial associations and various commissions (youth, women, seniors, indigenous Liberals) each having their own guiding document. Those associations and commissions would continue to exist but there would be only one national constitution for the entire party. The various wings of the party have always jealously guarded their turf and Trudeau sought to reassure them Saturday that the proposed changes "will actually strengthen and make more resilient the close relationship between the federal party and regional partners. Trudeau has led the push for constitutional change, striking a working group earlier this year charged with "starting from scratch to redesign this party from the ground up," as he put it in an email missive sent to all party members and supporters. He asked Liberals to complete a survey, which the party says some 2,100 people did, and which showed overwhelming support for the kinds of changes now being proposed.
When Liberals agreed four years ago to let supporters vote in leadership contests, they balked at similarly opening up the process for nominating candidates to run for the party in elections. Many worried that a wide-open nomination process at the riding level would be too easy to manipulate by political opponents. But Gainey said rank and file Liberals, having seen the benefits of opening up the leadership process, are now behind the idea of doing away with exclusive privileges for paid members altogether. She argued that the party has wasted a lot of time and energy renewing memberships every year and going through the cumbersome riding-by-riding process of electing delegates to attend party conventions, which are never filled to capacity. "Ultimately, I believe a convention is something that should be open to anyone who's interested as a Liberal who wants to participate," she said. "The exercise and the resource that we get sucked into doing (for) these delegate selection meetings, for example, is one example of where we're slowing ourselves down and it's not helping us."
"Ultimately, I believe a convention is something that should be open to anyone who's interested as a Liberal who wants to participate." —Liberal Party President Anna Gainey
Also On HuffPost: