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Could the Liberal Party Become The Open Party?

October 10, 2012

Here’s a short survey from the Liberal Party on foreign ownership rules for natural resources. There are two interesting things about this. First, foreign ownership of our natural resources, especially by state corporations of other nations, is an important issue Canadians need to talk about more. I’m not especially knowledgable about it so I won’t say any more, feel free to discuss in the comments though and educate me though.

The second, meta-issue here is openness and political party policy. The Liberals are trying to argue that they are the party which is really consulting people and casting  both the Conservatives and the NDP as unreasonable ideologues. I’m not convinced of that yet, but it might be a good strategy for them.

Personally, I don’t think the Liberals should spend so much of their time demonizing the NDP as they do. As I see it, the Liberals, the NDP and the Green Party all have more in common than they do with the Conservatives and they all agree entirely on one important issue which is that the Conservatives should not win the next election. So it seems like attacking each other should be lower on their priority list than other concerns. But it’s a complicated situation.

Bearing that in mind, if the Liberals want to really distinguish themselves from the other parties one really good way could be by making the party very open, and I mean very open. We’re talking more than a couple polls by email but a collaborative, ongoing discussion with party supporters.  A discussion which explicitly guides party policy in a very detailed way day to day.

With all the computing tools and ability to get feedback quickly we now through email, polls, facebook, twitter and google+, it is really possible to run a political party that consults constantly on an issue-by-issue basis with their members.  To be clear, I’m not proposing a system where the parliamentarians have their speeches crowdsourced and their every vote mandated by a Facebook poll.  Democracy is about discussion and compromise, we need to trust our representatives so do the work and make hard choices and trade-offs in our interests. However, there is no reason we can’t set up a system where they check in with us frequently, even weekly on all sorts of topics to guide their decisions.  These wouldn’t be polls run by a separate institute and biased towards different population segments. It would be a direct discussion online with the members or supporters of the party.  The elected representatives would still have the freedom to act as they wish, but they’ll have nowhere to hide when the website has all the direct poll results and their actions of those members in parliament. Ideally, each poll or question would be logged with a discussion thread where the MP would be expected to respond with what decision they made and if it differs from the consensus, why it does. This would be a safer route than direct democracy where voters essentially write laws and tie the hands of legislators which has proven to cause more problems than it solves, at least as it has been used so far in Canada.

So, here’s one more way the Liberals could choose to distinguish themselves, a bold experiment in consultative party democracy.  It will need to go far beyond a few email polls to make waves, but there is nothing stopping them. We’ll see if that’s what they follow this through or not.

What do you think? Would this kind of collaborative policy consultation be enough to give the Liberals a chance again?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 1, 2012 10:43 pm

    This is a good starting point to question. However, if you look at the structure of the British Parliamentary System it is all about winner take all, and confrontation. To understand why this is so we have to understand the beginnings of the BR.Parl. System. It was born of the lower aristocrats and the people of London forcing King John to give the people some power. The Magna Carta was signed. And not to belabour the details too much, the people have always had to fight for more rights and freedoms (something we in our world of privilege have forgotten to do today). Anyways, those in power have never, ever just given their powers away to the people. Coming to more modern times lawyers have dominated our halls of power, and as we see in courtrooms, lawyers fight to win.and the other guy, or in this case, parties are next to enemies. This explains why our politicians cannot get along in minority governments.
    Another horrible flaw of the Parliamentary system is that the idea has come down, as part of tradition, that our representatives have this attitude that they were elected to think for us. This explains why, in a true democracy our representatives would represent the will of the people, However, in our system, our politicians don’t seek the opinions of the constituents because they just don’t generally care what we thin., Why should they, they feel that we elected them because they are smarter than us, therefore they will do the thinking for us. It is called Elitism. My conclusion to solve this very difficult and complex mess is to stop voting for anyone that is associated with a party. Vote for independents who have no one to be accountable to other than their constituents. This has become my conclusion after almost 40 years of activism and promoting half direct democracy, and financial reform.
    If you are interested in reading more on this you can read my blog “Not My Idea of a Party”
    http://pushinback.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/essential-knowledge-needed-to-grow-a-democracy-part-9/

    or “Is Your Representative an Elitist or a Democrat” found at

    http://pushinback.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/essential-knowledge-needed-to-grow-a-democracy-part-5/

    Keep up the questioning. It is more than 98% of the population is doing.

    Rob McQueen

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