03/20/2014 05:17 EDT | Updated 05/20/2014 05:59 EDT

An Open Nomination Doesn't Mean Liberals Reward Bad Behaviour

There seems to be some confusion as to the difference between open nominations and the commitment in the Liberal Party for open and fair nominations.

As Justin clarified in Kingston this week: "It [open nominations] doesn't mean that anyone can behave in any particular way they like and still expect to become Liberal candidates," he said. "The way a campaign team behaves reflects directly on a candidate."

In 2009, when we presented the "Change Commission" report to the Liberal Party of Canada, we really wanted to call it "Stop Rewarding Bad Behaviour."

From coast to coast to coast we had heard stories of 'bad behaviour' in nomination and leadership races that were seriously turning people off the political process.

Less than five per cent of Canadians belong to a political party. We were reminded that many join a political party for the first time in order to support a candidate that they believe would make a great elected representative. We were asked if the first experience in partisan politics was an ugly nomination race where the 'cheater' wins, why would we be surprised that people would be completely turned off the political process and walk away in disgust.

For many many years, we have been trying to persuade women to run for public office.

Ever since the Lortie Commission in 1992, the nomination process has been seen as one of the greatest obstacles to getting more women into the House of Commons.

Over the years, I have heard way too many stories of women being bullied, intimidated, asked to withdraw from the race. Way too many stories of candidates who play fairly and observe the rules, losing to a candidate who didn't -- who broke all the rules and yet there were no consequences. Paying for memberships and using lists that they weren't entitled to have access to had become normalized -- "winning conditions."

Last summer during Liberal caucus, Campaign Director, Katie Telford came to the joint meeting of women's caucus and past women candidates where she heard clearly about the need to ensure a fair process and the need for serious consequences for improper behaviour.

In February, Justin asked me to be his representative at the National Election Readiness Committee with a mandate to ensure that we will be able to attract and elect great women candidates. At our meeting last month at Convention, we discussed the problems already arising in the increasingly competitive races to become a Liberal candidate for 2015.

Justin was very clear that open nominations must mean a fair and open process.

From the day he was elected to Parliament, Justin has been outspoken on the need to move beyond the so-called "power brokers" in the party. In his leadership campaign he described the vision of a movement not a tightly-held clique.

As we said in the Change Commission report, good governance must be "fair, transparent and take people seriously."

Gatekeepers, bullying and intimidation have no place in our party. Members of our party need to feel confident that if they report behaviour not in keeping with the values or the rules of our party that the party will investigate and follow up with appropriate consequences.

For so many years, candidates, especially women candidates, have been insisting that there be a code of conduct that would be enforced.

We have miles to go before the election in 2015. For every upcoming, exciting nomination race in the country, in addition to Justin's message of "Hope and Hard Work," there's now a very clear message: "Play Fair."


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