Following along with my previous post, the policy process has also taken a digital twist. At previous policy conventions, a floor vote would be held to select resolutions with enough support to be debated at plenary sessions. Instead of holding two in-person votes, the Party has used Liberal.ca to open first round voting to the entire membership. With the first round of voting moved online, priority resolutions will only be voted on by in-person convention-goers once, at a plenary session early Sunday morning.
I’m not sure what this means for En Famille, the Liberal members-only online forum designed for policy discussions—and championed by presidential candidate Ron Hartling. En Famille has largely served as a sandbox where those so inclined could discuss policy amongst themselves—and no one else. If you’re not familiar with En Famille, it’s comparable to the closed Facebook group “Liberals Rebuilding the Liberal Party” in terms of the kinds of issues discussed.
Using Liberal.ca as a vehicle to influence and discuss Liberal policy is almost the online equivalent of holding open primaries to choose the next leader. Participants still have to be members in order to vote on policies, but unlike with En Famille, non-members (and our friends at the Conservative Research Group) can watch the sausage-making in real time. Next week, expect some really great SO-31s from the James Bezan-esque depths of the Conservative backbench accusing Liberals of being soft on crime with their pro-drug rhetoric.
I’m interested to see whether the policy proposals that made it to the convention floor via Liberal.ca are viewed with as much passion in person as they were online. The proposals voted upon by the membership online address issues like the legalization of marijuana and preferential balloting in national elections. In particular, champions of these two issues have had a great deal of success using the Internet as a tool for grassroots organization, but not a lot of success turning online actions into concrete results.
Successfully bypassing Ottawa backrooms via online plenary won’t mean the end to traditional lobbying, but it will also be interesting to see how this online consensus approach is viewed by those in the lobbying business.