Today, Belinda Stronach announced that she will not be seeking the leadership of the Liberal Party. CTV News cited that her reason for not running was because of the way the Liberal Party picks their leader.
“I would rather see a Liberal party with millions of members where each and every individual has a direct vote. We have the technology. I would rather spend my energies working towards the goal, that goal, than running in a system that still values political deals for delegates over the free-market of ideas.” — Belinda Stronach, today at her press conference
“When we’re looking at renewal, what better way to renew the party than to sign up millions of members and be able to give each of those members a direct say who their leader should be?”, Stronach asked rhetorically on today’s early installment of Mike Duffy Live. Mike Duffy responded, “One person, one vote”. Stronach confirmed, “One person, one vote”.
Now, let’s rewind to Belinda’s leadership aspirations in the then-newly formed Conservative Party of Canada. Stronach had a two pronged strategy for tipping the race in her favour: youth politics and the 100 point ridings.
Under the terms of the Alliance-PC merger, the youth wing issue was to be decided at a future policy convention. During former PC and Liberal leadership races, the number of campus clubs would skyrocket under the aspirations of leadership contenders. Each campus club (sometimes only existing on paper instead of in practice) would be allotted a number of delegates to vote during a leadership contest. While the baseline national number of campus clubs would usually hover around the 40-50 mark, during a leadership contest, this number would easily surpass a couple of hundred. This would allow leadership candidates to secure a number of delegates.
Currently, the Liberal Party has a number of quota delegates from groups such as the National Women’s Liberal Commission and the Aboriginal People’s Commission. The validity of this practice is debatable and is the subject of discussion for another time.
Today, however, Belinda wishes to shut down this system of quota politics as she advocates for “one-person, one vote”.
Yet, when Belinda was running to be leader of the Conservative Party, she vigourously defended the practice of equal riding representation. In equal riding representation, if a riding in Quebec had 10 members it should be equal to a riding in Alberta with 8,000 members. She argued that each riding should be allotted 100 points (the points represented the % of the membership vote in that riding for each candidate) and that the leadership contest should be added up riding-by-riding, 100 points at a time. The strategy for Belinda was to buy up memberships in Conservative-poor Quebec ridings to muscle against Stephen Harper’s solid base of tens-of-thousands of singular members in Western Canada.
The Montreal policy convention witnessed a lot of maneuvering by Stronach. She argued for quota delegates as she lobbied for a Conservative Youth Wing. Therefore, when she was a Conservative, Stronach was against the “one-member one-vote” system. At the time, another youth wing advocate and then-boyfriend Peter MacKay caused Harper to famously kick a chair when he went up against Harper’s friend MP Scott Reid on the one-member one vote issue.
But most of the headlines from the weekend meeting – intended to draw the strands of the party together – were focused on the convention-floor showdown between Mr. MacKay and Ontario MP Scott Reid.
Mr. MacKay won the battle Saturday afternoon, when delegates voted down a rule change that would have limited the number of delegates from small eastern riding associations.
But to win that victory, the Central Nova MP had to take his dispute public, telling reporters he felt betrayed by the motion, which, he said, put the future of the party in jeopardy.
His public display of pique worked, and his message appeared to get through to the delegates gathered in Montreal for a weekend of policy debates.
When Mr. Reid, a close ally of Mr. Harper, stood at a convention floor microphone to urge members to support his motion, he was greeted by a mix of boos and cheers.
Mr. MacKay had complained about Mr. Reid, who helped broker the merger of the PCs and the Alliance, saying he was disappointed that Mr. Reid would try to renegotiate the terms of the union.
The Alliance had a one-member, one-vote rule at national conventions, but the parties agreed to use the Progressive Conservative rules: the same number of votes for every riding, regardless of size.
Now, the Reid proposal was just as valid as the Stronach/MacKay suggestion as a method for selecting a leader (and voting at other conventions). In fact, MacKay likely still believes in the Youth Wing / Equal riding method for selecting future Conservative leaders. That, of course is his strategy and belief and he’ll have a lot of support in the party. There are certainly arguments to be made in favour and against both methods. Peter MacKay certainly deserves a lot of credit for what he has brought to this party that he co-formed with Stephen Harper.
Belinda Stronach, on the other hand, has made a complete 180-degree-turn and is showing significant ideological inconsistency regarding how she believes party leaders should be elected.
She once advocated so very strongly against the one-member, one-vote proposal in favour of the Youth Wing / Equal riding proposal. Today, it is her support of this method — which the Liberal Party doesn’t practice — that has her bowing out of the race for that party’s leadership.
It doesn’t add up. What’s the difference between Belinda’s principles when she ran for the Conservative leadership and now when she was until recently considering a run for the Liberal leadership? Is principle a factor? The Liberal Party of today, Adscam notwithstanding, has considerable party structure and organization in Quebec. There aren’t any 10 member ridings for her to buy up. It can be argued that the Liberals even have a better Western Canadian organization than the Conservatives did in Quebec when Stronach was urging Conservatives to Start. Right. Now. Belinda is also playing catchup on youth politics in the Liberal party. Youth politics is an establishment in the Liberal Party and it doesn’t favour a new Liberal face.
So why advocate for a one-member one-vote system? Belinda can sell. Given an even playing field of candidates (one that she didn’t have against the obvious early favourite Stephen Harper), Belinda is a bigger draw for events in which one can sell memberships. If you were selling Liberal memberships (or anything, frankly), who’d be a better salesperson, Belinda Stronach or Bob Rae? Belinda can go to large urban areas in Western Canada which have a deficit of Liberal memberships (Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina etc.) and sell memberships by the hundreds to those who wouldn’t otherwise care about the Liberal brand.
Belinda doesn’t have a deeply held democratic belief about how leadership contests should be held. She used to advocate quota politics and riding equality. However, now that this strategy can’t benefit her, she’s promoting a system against which she used to lobby in order to find at least part of an advantage.
Belinda isn’t defending a principle here, she’s playing politics.