Renewal within the Liberal Party is a notion that is implicitly good. No Liberal is against renewal. But just as in life, where there is something that is unarguably beneficial serving as a source for action, people will use it to hide more questionable motives.
In recent articles it was reported that certain members from the Ignatieff and Rae campaigns were advocating a Leadership convention as soon as possible, the motivation alluded to was that the earlier the convention, the less likely any rivals would be able to build the necessary organization to be competitive.
It is in this light a recent call for renewal by MP Keith Martin, a former Michael Ignatieff supporter, must be examined. Now though it is not clear that he has leadership motivations in advocating this type of renewal, it is clear that such a position, in relation to directly reforming the party, is weak.
Mr. Martin has outlined five initiatives for changing the Party into one that can adequately challenge the Conservatives; they range from "de-federating" the party, implementing one-member-one-vote, a national membership database, and greater integration of technology tools. Out of the five initiatives, the very first he gives priority to is:
1. We must schedule the next leadership and policy convention no later than the end of March 2009. This is absolutely critical. If we wait until May, it will not give the new leader, and his or her team, enough time to prepare for the next election. We have seen the extreme lengths Mr. Harper is willing to go to in his quest for more power and we cannot take chances by waiting any longer than absolutely necessary to hold this convention. We do not have the luxury of time on our side.Admittedly on this point Keith Martin does stress this initiative is more to guarantee electoral victory then party renewal, but in relation to those earlier reports from leadership campaigns, it does raise the specter of ulterior leadership motivations. Mr. Martin did support Ignatieff in 2006 and one could suggest his ties to that campaign are what determining his ideas of change; however that is assuming he is still an Ignatieff supporter and that he is basing his rationale on that.
Also it is evident that true renewal is not strictly limited to the time before the leadership convention, nor does Kieth Martin's suggestion have no electoral merit; but as there are only two leadership candidates currently declared and as the party needs real fundamental change, the Liberal Party should continue to hold the Convention in May.
A May convention would give more time for policy ideas to be formulated from grassroot members, a better opportunity for ideas of how to structurally enhance the party to develop, and a greater emphasis on attitudinal change within the whole party. More time of course would also permit more debate and mutual progress among leadership candidates.
For those that suggest we had a drawn out renewal process in 2006 and that didn't work, I would respond by suggesting that argument implies then we shouldn't even try to renew the party this time around, if it didn't work then. Clearly things need to change, but limiting the time for not only that change to occur but renewal in general, is not the answer.
I should note that my intentions of this post are a result of leadership considerations. It is because I am not inclined in the least to support any of the candidates, be they declared or be they potential, that I would like the convention to be held in May to see each present their ideas and vision in order to select the best future leader of the Party and of the country.