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Zach Paikin

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Step Aside, Grandpa, You're Ruining the Party

Posted: 05/07/2012 10:04 am

Several months ago, three young Liberals (all under the age of 25) tried to fundamentally shake up the party, and run for a spot on its national executive, entering a five-way race for National Policy Chair. I was one of them.

Although the three of us received a combined 48.4% of the vote -- with two of us, myself included, coming within five percentage points of the winning candidate -- it turned out to be close, but no cigar.

This past weekend, at the annual general meeting of the federal Liberal Party's Ontario wing, things changed. Another young Liberal -- Mississauga's Nokha Dakroub -- decided to challenge the incumbent Golden Horseshoe regional president. She won. In fact, she doubled his vote total.

Many would dismiss this result as being insignificant, arguing that not much effort is required to win over a region that runs merely from Peel to Niagara. Moreover, according to them, young Liberals may be prepared to do local work, but they aren't prepared to lead the party's national executive.

I counter with two facts. First, and most obviously, is that the Liberal party is greater than its national executive. Local, grassroots organization roles are just as important -- if not more important -- than overseeing the process from above. The Conservative party's successful electoral machine has relied just as much on the strength of its riding associations as it has on the prowess of the party's national office in order to win votes.

Second, Dakroub's victory this weekend wasn't easily ensured.

When I ran for National Policy Chair, my campaign team based our national strategy largely on two assumptions. Number one, the more than 3,200 delegates in attendance would be more likely to be fiercely loyal to a presidential candidate embroiled in a tight battle (e.g. Mike Crawley vs. Sheila Copps) than they were to be inextricably tied to candidates for the other positions on the national executive.

Number two, having just suffered the worst defeat in its history, the Liberal party's delegates at the convention would have a greater volatility rate. That is to say, they would be able to be swayed by the force of a non-presidential candidate's ideas, and platform more so than in a traditional convention, in which personal loyalty is usually the trump card.

Both of these assumptions led our team to prioritize communications over organization, an unorthodox way to campaign in an internal party race. The strategy was clear: Own the air waves, capitalize on strong oratory skills, and win and communicate key endorsements. It almost paid off.

Dakroub's win this past weekend wasn't a fluke. In contrast with my campaign, the two aforementioned assumptions didn't apply in her case. Her delegate pool was smaller than 150 members spread out over a small geographical area. Hence, for her, it came down to building personal relationships, earning loyalty and moving bodies -- not easy tasks, and often not learnable skills.

Taking into account all of the above, Dakroub's landslide victory should be viewed as a remarkable achievement.

The two generations prior to mine have not had a particularly strong record in power when it comes to protecting inter-generational liberty. Chronic deficits, climate change, the lack of serious effort to reform unsustainable services, and the post-Cold War prioritization of short-term commercial gain over securing vital long-term strategic interests; all of these leave Canada more vulnerable on the inside, and more threatened on the outside.

Many members of these same two generations also have the unmitigated gall -- or better put, the chutzpah -- to tell those of my generation that they're "too young" to run for positions of political leadership, even though my generation seeks to clean up the mess that they made -- a mess that will affect my generation but not theirs.

Because of them, the family that I may start may not have easy access to health care. Because of them, I may not ever get a pension. Because of them, the geopolitical, and environmental map will be far more unpredictable during my lifetime but not during theirs.

Dakroub's big win this past weekend is a major landmark in the history of the Liberal party. It not only shows that young Liberals want to break out of the sandbox assigned to them by the party establishment -- it also shows that the party's grassroots are beginning to agree that youthful Grits have a key leadership role to play in rebuilding, reorganizing, and modernizing our party.

Braeden Caley, Zach Paikin and Daniel Lovell may have raised awareness, but so far it is Nokha Dakroub that has proven to be the trailblazer.

 

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