Primary problems


Former Liberal MP Maria Minna is circulating a letter outlining her concerns with the workings and ramifications of moving to a primary system to elect a party leader. She has nine points, but I’ll excerpt number eight here, which seems relevant both for the philosophical concern and the specific complaints.

The primary system would give the Liberal leader and his/her office more power over Caucus and the Party. As a recent Member of Parliament with almost 18 years of experience, I can say with first-hand knowledge, that, most of the time caucus is not considered or listened to by the leader and especially his office. There is very little accountability to caucus members. Especially during our years in opposition, we could have avoided a great deal of pain and losses if the leadership and their offices had listened and taken into consideration the expertise and advice of caucus members. Therefore, I am convinced that a Leader who is so broadly elected will feel even less accountable towards caucus let alone any accountability to the party at large.


Primary problems

  1. That’s a concern that i had when this idea was first floated; you could even extend her thinking to: if you are elected by the people rather then just the party, then you’re essentially accountable to noone.

    Still, i support this proposal in principle. Hopefully there are some workable ways to bind the leader more closely to the party…take away his/her right to refuse to sign nomination papers, only interfere in riding nominations in very limited circumstances, not have an absolute veto on party policy, give individual mps and back benchers more power in the house, more free votes. I’m not sure what you can do to bind a leader to the caucus other then let them elect the leader. But the move by all parties to omov is undermining this process in any case.

    • I’m not a believer that directest democracy is best. Our PM is not (well, maybe scratch that and put ‘should not be’) a president. Thus, direct election by the people is not really appropriate. If anything, I think the Liberal party should make the party machinery more accountable to the people, and make MP nominations more open, but the PM should really, I think, be elected by Caucus. Then, the warm body you put in the MP’s chair actually matters, rather than being reduced to an electoral college vote.

  2. The longest remaining political dynasty in Canada, the Alberta provincial conservative party, uses a primary.

    A convention voted lack of sufficient confidence in the leader when the government was on the ropes politically, and the subsequent primary led to a new leader who retained the majority government.

    Getty/Klein, Klein/Stelmach, Stelmach/Redford…Redford should win the provincial election.

    The old inbred guard of the Liberal Party doesn’t trust its own members.  Alberta Conservatives have found that trusting your members is a very good thing to do.

    • Alberta Conservatives are happy with Redord?  That’s not the impression I get reading Con blogs.

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