Among the five proposals that candidate Justin Trudeau made earlier this year, the now Liberal leader's stance on open nominations stood out the most for me. "If elected leader, I will ensure that in 2015, every candidate for the Liberal Party will be nominated through an open nomination process. I will not appoint any candidate, in any of Canada's 338 ridings."
He continued, "The goal is to build a truly representative party, made up of citizens who are engaged at the grassroots level, so they can bring Canadians' voices to Ottawa." If the Toronto Center by-election nomination is any indication, Trudeau is making a wrong early start in the fulfillment of that promise.
The Toronto Centre nomination for the right to replace Bob Rae as a Liberal MP comes to an end this coming Sunday at a downtown public library. In the spirited nomination battle are three vastly different candidates vying to win the nomination. These candidates include the great community activist Todd Ross, the vibrant Diana Burke and the well accomplished Chrystia Freeland.
In a race that everyone assumes would eventually go to Freeland, it's a surprise that two great candidates came forward to contest it. That they actually did is the biggest surprise of the race as the conclusion was known by most awhile back. Freeland is set to be nominated without putting much work on the ground to earn the privilege with the help of the party's establishment.
The Rhodes Scholar is also the preferred candidate of the new leader, Justin Trudeau. Freeland, fresh from New York, has relied on big name endorsements and has spent more time raising money from rich donors rather than selling membership where, in an open contest, it should matter most.
The other candidates, a Metis and a Jamaican born, are veterans of local activism and bring great diversity in a party that is lacking much. To their credit and the surprise of the party establishment, they even managed to make the race competitive by fulfilling the slogan of Justin Trudeau, Hope and Hard Work, before the party made the process impossible to attain a competitive edge.
As the race was intensifying as to who would sell the most membership, the party, like a third world dictatorial institution best practiced in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe decided on Aug. 27 to backdate the closing of membership sells to Aug. 20. This has literally removed hundreds of members from voting on Sunday, giving the edge to Freeland who was having a hard time connecting on the ground.
As that surprise announcement was made, Ross sent an email to his supporters expressing what could have been a great run for him. "The cut off for memberships is retroactive to Aug. 20, 2013. Unfortunately, that means that many of the people that we engaged and signed up will not be eligible to vote. It's a bit disappointing as we were really getting people engaged -- but we will work with the rules as they have now been set and focus on the existing members."
Earlier this week, Burke also expressed her frustration about the hundreds of membership she has sold but will not be part of the voting process. She told HuffPo "I do have a lot of friends who were signed up who are a little upset they can't vote for me." The business executive added how "hard work and hope is sort of what I ran my campaign on, and we were all working hard hoping to get these votes out, so it is a bit, sort of a concern."
Peter C. Newman predicted two years ago how the Liberal party was transitioning from "walking wounded to the walking dead". What will slowly but surely kill the party is its elitism, arrogance and its failure to embrace true democracy within itself. Then, what would eventually re-elect the Conservatives in 2015 -- with or without Stephen Harper at the helm -- is not that the Conservatives are much better but that the alternative is worse.