Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stephane Dion Lost The Election Because He Won The Convention

(Abstract: Because delegates at the Leadership Convention weren't representative, Stephane Dion failed to represent Canadians. For the Liberal party to reflect the interests of all Canadians, the Liberal leadership's delegate system must change.)

Stephane Dion and the Liberal party lost the general election of Oct. 14, not because Liberal voters stayed home or because other Liberals stood back, but because the process that elected him Leader is significantly flawed.

In the past few days, there has been one pressing question: How did the Liberal Party lose the election? Some seek to answer it by pointing to the fact it appears close to 900,000 Liberals stayed home on election day. Some point to the fact prominent Liberal organizers stood back and failed to help Dion's campaign. I disagree. I know why the Liberals lost this election, and it is perhaps a bigger problem then just a few Liberals not voting or refusing to help. The reason why the Liberal party lost this election, was because Stephane Dion shouldn't have been leader in the first place.

To respond to the first allegation of why the Liberals lost. While it is true that it appears that a lot of Liberal voters decided not to vote on Oct. 14, how can anyone say those people are responsible for Dion's defeat? How can you hold that specific group more responsible then the Liberals who voted NDP or Conservative? Or for that matter anyone who didn't vote Liberal? You can't. You can't because it's a democracy and everyone can vote or do what they please. With democracy if it's anyone's fault, it's that of all of the voters. So this explanation, that we lost because a group of Liberal voters democratically decided not to express support for Dion has no merit, as all voters can do as they wish, and just because they voted Liberal in the past means they have no responsibility to continue to do so.

Now the question remains, why is it that Canadians did not choose to elect Stephane Dion? The reason why, is that he should not have been elected Leader in the first place. That the Liberal Leadership Convention with its delegate system elected a leader who was not representative of Liberals and more importantly of Canadians.

In 2006 the Liberal leader was not selected by every Liberal, he was selected by close to five thousand delegates in Montreal. Just five thousand Liberals. Five thousand Liberals who were the only ones who could afford the trip to Montreal. Five thousand Liberals who were the only ones who could get the support of Liberal organizers and the party's establishment to be selected as delegates. Five thousand delegates who themselves consisted of nearly two thousand ex-officio and unelected delegates. It was the fact that our leader was elected by five thousand unrepresentative and undemocratic delegates that Stephane Dion failed to be elected by Canadians of every shape and background.

Some may respond suggesting that is not true, a good portion of those delegates were selected by Liberals in every riding, making them truly representative. This argument only has merit in perhaps just over half of the ridings, where there is significant Liberal support to actually have enough Liberal voters turn out to elect representative delegates. In all the other ridings, delegates were chosen by a few hundred Liberals, sometimes less, and even then were only representative of those campaigns who organized them.

Furthermore it was the case in almost all ridings that those delegates who could go to the Convention were only the ones who could afford it. A majority of Liberals could not afford to go to Montreal and participate and thus the delegate system excluded Liberals from average and lower income households. I would argue that this point is important not just in its impact on the democratic element of the convention, but on the Convention's very substance.

Considering one's values are determined by their experiences, having only delegates from better-off backgrounds led the 2006 Convention to be occupied by delegates whose experiences and thus values were far from common; as seen in the environment being made the de facto second choice. Because those more affluent delegates did not share the experiences more common to general Canadians, their values were unrepresentative. And as a result they themselves were skewed to a candidate that in turn was as non-representative. This idea would further explain the failure of the environment to be a primary concern for all of Canadians on election day.

But on perhaps the most important point, a point on which I will write later on, even granting that somehow those Liberals who were selected in the delegate selection meetings (DSMs) were actually representative of their electorate, that did not entail they were generally representative. For on the ballots of those DSMs, where each delegate announced who they were supporting and thus allowing voters to select them on that merit, occasionally it was the case that those delegates were not actually for that leadership contestant. That those delegates posed as another leadership candidates delegates in order to give not only votes but momentum to their original candidate once they were in Montreal. But again, I will address this more sinister feature of the 2006 Liberal Leadership in the near future.

This point of of the delegate system being unrepresentative is exacerbated by the number of Leadership candidates there were. Considering there could only be one Leader, the majority of delegates who were elected had to inevitably make a second choice, and perhaps a third in some cases. This meant that a majority of delegates made decisions unrepresentative of their electorate.

From all of the above it is clear Stephane Dion should not have been leader. He was unrepresentative of general Liberals and of Canadians. It was because less then five thousand delegates, a good portion unelected, choose Dion that he was unrepresentative of Canadians. It was because those delegates were from a higher economic background that made Dion unrepresentative of Canadians. It was because those delegates were themselves unrepresentative of their small electorates that made Dion unrepresentative of Canadians. And all of these facts are direct consequences of the features of the Liberal Leadership Convention.

Because delegates at the Leadership Convention weren't representative, Stephane Dion failed to reflect the interests of all Canadians. For the Liberal party to represent Canadians, the delegate system must change.


Green Assassin Brigade said...

Ding Ding ding! we have a winner.

I've been telling lib friends this for years that a undemocratic system of picking a leader(and sometimes candidates) will either pick a leader(or candidate) no will follow or simply turn people off the party.

One member one vote should be the only system for any democratic party. Add a mail in voting system that allows people to choose their own second, third choices and you've got a representative image of the party and brokered deals creating your Dion Dilema

Anonymous said...

opps should read, no brokered deals

Green Assassin Brigade