In the upcoming days, watch for criticism in the media—probably by anonymous Liberal sources (not to be confused with Anonymous Liberal Sources)—of the decision to allow the leader to veto policies. You should also expect criticism of the other major constitutional change to take place this weekend: the process to select the next leader has been opened to include non-member “Liberal supporters,” in addition to card-carrying members.
The objection by these folks will be that membership is now twice-devalued. Members don’t get final say over the party leader, and they don’t get final say over party policies. This is easily summarized and easily stated, so it will be easily repeated by those who agree. And when boiled down to that level of simplicity, it sounds dangerous, which makes it even more headline-grabby.
This argument makes a lot of assumptions. For instance, there’s no way of knowing how popular this “supporter” status will be with Canadians. They might take a look at what the Liberals are offering, collectively shrug their shoulders, and return to the goings-on of their lives. It wouldn’t be the first time in that has happened to Liberals recently.
From a communications perspective, the decision to open up leadership selection to everyone is going to get Liberals some earned media in the short-term. Only when the time comes for selecting the new leader will we see whether or not this experiment succeeds at keeping the Liberal party in the minds of Canadians.
Regarding the policy veto, this is nothing new. The platform is traditionally prepared by the leader’s office, but policies don’t originate in a vacuum. Policies that rise up through the institutional policy process are considered. For the most part, they’re not “vetoed” so much as they are “not necessarily the centerpiece of the party’s electoral promises.”
The outgoing national policy chair, Joan Bourassa, told the membership on Sunday morning that constitutionally, there is a requirement for the executive to report back to the membership regarding the platform-writing process. This report isn’t finished yet.
There will be another biennial convention before the next election; if the membership is still unhappy with the results at that point, they can bring this amendment back. But the fact that the amendment didn’t get the required majority should speak volumes. Likely though, it won’t deter anonymous Liberal sources.