Monday, January 30, 2012

Reflections on convention and moving forward

I've had some computer difficulties the last couple weeks, combined with work and school keeping me busy, so only now do I have a chance to reflect on the LPC convention.

First off, congratulations to Mike Crawley and his team for a great winning campaign for President. I had a lot of good friends working very hard on his campaign, and I think that hands down he had the best campaign. It was an honour to work with some incredible Liberals on Alexandra Mendes campaign, and I look forward to seeing all candidates who ran for exec board positions to stay active in the party and contribute to the rebuilding process.

On the policy front, the big issues were obviously marijuana and the monarchy. I'm glad the marijuana policy passed in particular, and I sincerely hope the party makes it a part of the platform, and more generally, takes on the Harper crime agenda in a more cost-based way. For too long Liberals have either taken a less solid position on opposing the Conservative crime bills than I think many grassroots Liberals would have liked, or have attempted to use the "dumb on crime" messaging. I think using a more cost-based (and federalism) based line of attack on the Tory crime legislation will yield more positive results. The problem with saying the Conservatives are "dumb on crime" is that it sends a message that if you, personally as a voter believe in the Conservative attitude on crime, you must be dumb. It comes off as smug and elitist, and the Conservatives can and have spun this as "You want to lock up drug dealers and gangsters? Hug-a-thug Liberals think you're dumb." Saying that the Conservatives are "tough on wallets" when it comes to crime I think is a better line to use, and would help re frame the issue as one of pocketbook issues and government spending.

Constitutionally, I was pleased to see the creation of the supporter class, but disappointed at the outcome of them being allowed to vote in leadership races but not local nomination races. I was hoping for the opposite outcome, as I believe the leader as the embodiment of a ideology must be accountable first to the members of the party supporting that ideology. Allowing supporters to vote locally would help us engage in much more community politics, building up from the grassroots on the riding level, helping the people whose names will actually be on the ballot to reach out to the local population, engage with them, and get involved with the thousands of Liberal voters who aren't party members in a given riding. I am also against the oft discussed idea of banning appointments, but I was hoping that the amendment to limit the use of them would have passed.

On the whole, it was of course a very positive convention, and it was great to meet and see Liberals from all over the country. We can rebuild the party, and this convention was a great start.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Join the Alexandra Mendes call tonight and learn more about her plan to put members first!

Mendes has got momentum!

With this great profile in iPolitics: talking about putting members first, and her solid plan to engage and empower Young Liberals: Alexandra Mendes would like to invite you to her conference call tonight to have your say and hear how she wants to put members first!

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Empowering and engaging Young Liberals - Alexandra Mendes' plan for youth

Alexandra Mendes has a proven track record of Young Liberal engagement, including having her successful 2008 election campaign being managed by a Young Liberal! She knows the strength and abilities Young Liberals can show if given responsibility and empowerment. Read here about Mendes' plan for youth!

"Young people in politics, as in all other facets of civil society, offer us a daring, optimistic and creative energy that we must embrace if we want to truly reflect our communities.

No party, in fact, no organization can be truly vibrant and relevant without fully engaging these sources of power and renewal."

Dear Fellow Liberals,

As we approach the Biennial Convention, it is important to talk about the role of Young Liberals within the party, and the important role youth will play in renewing our party. It is sometimes said that “Youth are the leaders of tomorrow” – but I can speak from experience that youth are the leaders of today! I have a proven track record of successfully engaging and empowering Young Liberals. I know how important a role Young Liberals can play when they are given the respect and responsibility they deserve. An 18-year-old Young Liberal managed my campaign in 2008 and the efforts of Young Liberals played a crucial part in my victory in a very close race.

I have kept very good memories of my experience. I learned a lot and I won’t ever forget that you gave me my first opportunity.
Farah Chagnon, Campaign Manager, 2008 Election

At this biennial, youth will form a large percentage of the delegates, which is a great sign that young Canadians are engaged in the party and will participate wholeheartedly in the rebuilding process going forward. This is why empowering, listening to Young Liberal voices and ensuring they are heard is a cornerstone of my campaign.

Youth are worthy of distinction, not only because of the sheer size of their delegation, but because the general Liberal membership recognizes the overwhelming and urgent need to prioritize youth in order to rebuild and renew our party.

As President of the Liberal Party of Canada, my role will be to ensure that the Young Liberals of Canada Executive will have all the tools and resources required to be effective in their respective jobs – including communications tools, recruitment materials, a program for sharing best practices, fundraising support and encouragement for innovation.

I will work with the Caucus and party office to have regular town-hall meetings with youth and young liberals in different parts of the country, on post-secondary campuses and community centres, with an emphasis on un-held ridings and rural areas. I believe that our National Executive, MPs, Senators, and candidates of record should be on the front lines of engaging and listening to youth.

One of the keys to ensuring that Young Liberals have all the tools and resources they need entails thinking about the sustainability of the YLC, both financially and organisationally. Therefore, as President, part of my role would be to ensure that the LPC Executive Board does all it can to support a financially viable and efficient Young Liberals of Canada Commission. I believe that supporting the Young Liberals involves more than promises of increased budgets, rather it involves encouragement and support for self-sufficiency through YLC fundraising initiatives.
One best practice model that I have found is the Ontario Young Liberals FLY program that allows them to bring in additional sources of funding through a monthly donation system, independent of the LPC or OLP. This is certainly something that I as President, would like the National Executive to consider for YLC.

I will ensure that the YLC President, as a full-fledged member of the LPC National Executive, has an equal voice and opportunity to defend and support his ideas. This means that the President’s voice is heard, and that no other members of the executive seek to silence or ignore it.

The position of YLC National Director ought to be preserved to make sure the YLC has a voice and ally at the party’s organisational level.

I believe we need to form stronger relationships among our PTAs and the riding level associations, including those Young Liberals at the riding level. We could build on the model of the Council of Presidents and establish a Council of Young Liberal Leaders – with Young Liberal Riding Presidents or youth riding association representatives – to give them a direct voice and line to National Executive.

Youth need to feel engaged in all parts of our party, tapping into the energy, experience, and excitement they bring to the Liberal cause.

This means building on and celebrating the successes of YLC projects. As one example, the party ought to recognize the successful fundraising campaign for the 2011 YLC Climate Change Convention delegates. As President I would work with rest of National Executive and party to create a mechanism in which the party routinely taps into the energy and ideas of the Young Liberals across Canada such as event ideas, collaborations with other organisations, and support for Young Liberals to attend conferences. However, engaging youth, not only requires listening and support, but also seeking opportunities where the party can assist financially and organisationally with fundraising, while highlighting and encouraging these initiatives moving forward.

My entire platform is based on changing the culture of the Liberal Party to make it a member-driven and member-responsive party. We must harness the talent in this party to drive this party forward. When a Liberal—any Liberal—comes forward offering us innovative ideas and talent, we must harness this and help them to help develop our party. We need to harness the talent of young Liberals by allowing them to contribute to the areas that they are passionate about and in areas where they have talent.

It is my firm belief that young Liberals are best served by not being relegated to “Young Liberals Only” areas, but bringing them into all areas of this party. If a Young Liberal is talented in policy, messaging, etc. he or she should sit side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder with other Liberals at the table and contribute and have his or her contribution respected. At that table there will also be Liberals with many years of experience, wisdom and successes and this allows knowledge to be shared, and a whole new generation to be prepared to lead this party into the future.

I am feeling very optimist for the future of the Liberal Party of Canada.


* * * *

«Les jeunes dans la vie politique, comme dans toutes les autres facettes de la société civile, nous offrent une audace, une énergie optimiste et créative que nous devons adopter si nous voulons véritablement refléter nos communautés.

Aucun parti, aucune organisation ne peut être vraiment dynamique et pertinent, sans engager pleinement ces sources de pouvoir et de renouvellement
. »

Chers collègues libéraux,

Alors que Congrès biennal approche à grand pas, il est important de parler du rôle des jeunes libéraux au sein du parti et du rôle crucial que les jeunes joueront dans le renouveau. On dit parfois que «les jeunes sont les leaders de demain » - mais je peux parler par expérience que les jeunes sont les leaders d'aujourd'hui! Dans mon expérience politique et communautaire, j’ai déjà démontré ma capacité à engager et à responsabiliser les jeunes libéraux. Je comprends très bien l'importance du rôle que les jeunes libéraux saisissent lorsqu’ils sont traités avec le respect et la responsabilité qu'ils méritent. Ma campagne en 2008 était gérée par une jeune libérale de 18 ans, et les efforts plusieurs autres jeunes libéraux ont contribué significativement à ma victoire dans une course très serrée.

« « Je garde de très bons souvenirs de mon expérience. J’ai appris beaucoup et n’oublierait pas que tu m’as donné ma première chance. ».
Farah Chagnon, directrice de campagne, 2008

Lors de cette biennale, les jeunes composent un pourcentage important des délégués, ce qui est un signe très encourageant que les jeunes Canadiens sont engagés dans le parti et participeront sans réserve au processus de reconstruction qui nous attend. C'est pourquoi la responsabilisation, l'écoute de jeunes voix libérales et l’assurance qu'ils sont entendus est une pierre angulaire de ma campagne.

Les jeunes méritent notre considération, non seulement en raison de la taille de leur délégation, mais parce que l'ensemble des Libéraux reconnaît la nécessité impérieuse et urgente de donner la priorité aux jeunes afin de reconstruire et renouveler notre Parti.

En tant que présidente du Parti libéral du Canada, mon rôle sera d'assurer que l’exécutif des Jeunes libéraux du Canada aura tous les outils et les ressources nécessaires pour être efficaces dans leurs postes respectifs - y compris les outils de communication, le matériel de recrutement, le partage de meilleures pratiques, le soutien au financement et l'encouragement à l'innovation.

Je veillerai à ce que le président des JLC, en tant que membre à part entière de l'exécutif national du PLC ait une voix égale et la possibilité de défendre et de soutenir ses idées autant que les autres membres. Cela signifie que la voix du président est entendue, et qu'aucun des autres membres de l’exécutif ne cherche à le taire ou à l'ignorer.

Les jeunes doivent se sentir engagés dans tous les domaines de gestion de notre parti, puisant dans l'énergie, l'expérience, et l'excitation qu'ils apportent à la cause libérale.

Ma plateforme est entièrement basée sur le changement de la culture du Parti libéral ; d'en faire une organisation dirigée et réflective de ses membres. Nous devons exploiter tous les talents de nos membres pour conduire ce parti vers le futur. Quand un libéral, quel que soit son groupe d’âge, se présente en nous offrant des idées novatrices et osées, nous lui devons la considération de ses idées et toute l’aide appropriée pour les concrétiser.

Nous avons besoin d’utiliser le talent des jeunes libéraux en leur permettant de contribuer aux domaines pour lesquels ils se passionnent et qui les interpellent. Je ne coirs vraiment pas que les jeunes libéraux doivent être relégués à la simple catégorie de «Jeunes libéraux», mais que dans toutes les sphères de notre Parti on puisse retrouver leur contribution et leur talent.

Si un jeune libéral est talentueux en matière de politique ou de marketing, par exemple, il ou elle devra participer à part entière à la discussion et ses contributions devront y être reconnues et validées. A cette table il y aura aussi des libéraux ayant de nombreuses années d'expérience, de la sagesse et d’histoires de succès ; cela permettra des connaissances qui se partagent et une toute nouvelle génération préparée à diriger ce parti dans l'avenir.

Je suis très optimiste pour le futur du Parti libéral du Canada !


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Alexandra Mendes on renewal!

Some great stuff coming out of Alexandra's campaign in the run up to the Convention. Here is her new piece on party renewal, and building a democratic framework

Fellow Liberals,

As 2012 dawns with the promise of renewal the start of a new year offers us, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on what our beloved Party has to do to turn this promise into genuine change for the better.

Financial Management: We need to marry fiscal stewardship with democratic engagement.

Without per vote subsidies, members and supporters alone will drive the financial bus of the Liberal Party and we need to modernize the way we do business.

I have a track record that speaks to my passion for fiscal stewardship matched only by my passion for democratic engagement.

I have a plan that will help this party adjust to our new financial reality by providing a framework that will help us thrive financially by engaging members.

My track record:

I took over as executive director of an NGO when it went into receivership. I helped steer it back to being a vibrant, membership driven organisation that has enjoyed financial success ever since, by implementing a framework that allowed it to thrive in its work at the municipal, provincial, national and international levels.

In the Liberal Party I also have a proven track record as someone who can marry prudent financial management with membership engagement. As president of a federal Liberal riding association and an MP from that same riding, we engaged enough voters to win 3 times and we did it without accumulating even one cent of debt. In fact, we left money after each campaign to help kick start the next one.

It is all about the framework we develop:

If I am elected president, one thing I would like to do is provide a framework for sustainability and growth. I will be accountable to our members and ensure that the National Executive will operate with transparency in decision-making and actions undertaken in the name of the Party.

We must have mandated quarterly reviews of the books. Every cent the Liberal Party spends has to be justifiable: it should either be spent on successful member outreach or on generating successful fundraising. We must run a leaner financial ship.

We must also run a ship that is powered by the membership and that demands a new framework for membership engagement.

We must have a mandated set of rules governing response times so members know that we are listening because we actually are.

Also, in a membership driven organization we must spend money to make money so we must have a financial wing of this party that provides reliable and sustainable funding to membership outreach. This means that we must develop - and better fund - clear and emotionally engaging messaging, we must fund initiatives such as micro-targeting and we must use our members’ creativity to find new ways of turning support into long-term funding.

In short, we need a sustainable framework that prevents waste of funds and of our members’ engagement, while it promotes growth and connectivity with voters. With that framework we will have a vibrant, financially healthy membership driven Liberal Party of Canada.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Alexandra Mendes on the record

Here's a collection of the questions and answers given to Alexandra Mendes last night on her Facebook chat. I've edited a couple for length and clarity slightly, and in a couple cases either combined or omitted a part of a question which asked the same general points repeatedly. I've also, in the interest of privacy, omitted names. It should give you a good idea about where Alexandra stands on some important issues in Liberal rebuilding, and her emphasis on listening to where the membership wants her as President to go, rather than imposing a top-down vision onto the grassroots.

Q: You talk about an approach to change the culture of the party. I would like to ask you to address that please. It is important. Thanks :)

A: Thank you for the question. A culture change has a great deal to do with how we'll message ourselves in the future. As Liberals we've been way to reactive, not pro-active enough in showing Canadians what our Party stands for! That will require a willingness to invest in proper messaging techniques.

Q: As Party President, would you allow Bob Rae to run for permanent Leader?

A: The Party President, whoever that may be on Jan. 15th, doesn't have the authority or the mandate to make such a decision. It will be up to the members to make the final decisions on Leadership rules. At least, that is how I will propose to go about it.

(Follow up to previous question)

Q: How can the membership make the decision on leadership rules? It will be up to the National Executive. Are you proposing an extraordinary convention?

A: that is exactly what I would propose. We now know it can be done and it can be done well at a very reasonable cost. If we truly want the "one-member-one-vote" concept to have any significance, we must let members decide on major issues such as leadership races' rules.

Q: My question is given that the Cons and NDP campaign arduously in between elections. How would you go about changing our image from the invisible party who meet in boardrooms to visible engagement?... As President of the Liberal Party, how would you help our members & general public to get more engaged with the party or grassroots?

(these are 2 questions which Alexandra answered together)

A: One of the most democratic ways of making members feel engaged and involved is making them part of the decision making process. Obviously I'm not referring to the day-to-day decisions that have to me made to run the Party, but anything that affects members, the Party's image and values and our capacity to deliver on Canadians expectations, I would definitely consult the membership widely and regularly.

Q: What can the party do to help heal the wounds of contested nominations At present, it seems to be a "heal thyself" approach to the problem.

A: I agree that contested nominations can be very divisive and deep wounds are oftern very difficult to overcome. My only answer to this difficulty is in ensuring that the rules of the nomination process be so stringent that any malicious and/or personal attack between candidates should immediately disqualify them.

Q: What are the 3 top Liberal key values? What characteristics define us as Liberals?

A: For me, the the most significant Liberal values are: acceptance, boldness and pragmatism!

Q: How important do you feel bilingualism is to the future success of the Liberal Party of Canada and do you believe the President should be bilingual?

A: Being bilingual seems to me to be an essential requirement for any Party Officer. Not only is our Party the party of bilingualism, our country is richer, more dynamic and more creative precisely because of our capacity to make it work! It's hardly perfect but it's certainly much more of a reality than when Pierre E. Trudeau introduced it.

Q: Merci pour cette occasion de discuter de ta plateforme. Ce qui rend le travail de président complexe, ça doit être la grande diversité des associations de circonscriptions au niveau de leur degré d'organisation, de motivation, de financement. Vraiment, dire que toutes les associations sont égales, comme on entend toujours, est loin de la vérité. Il y a des associations super bien organisées, d'autres qui sont complètement absentes, et ce n'est pas la faute de la permanence. Est-ce qu'on ne devrait pas aussi responsabiliser les associations aussi ? Et de quelle manière est-ce que cela pourrait être fait, d'après toi ? J'ai souvent entendu des gens se plaindre du peu de collaboration et du peu d'écoute des instances centrales, mais souvent rien n'était fait dans les comptés.

A: Merci de ta question et meilleurs voeux pour 2012! Je vais te répondre de manière plus précise par courriel, FB n'est pas idéal pour tous les éléments de responsabilitation que tu touches.

Q: Do you plan on running for MP in the next election?

A: Yes I do. If the members of Brossard - La Prairie so decide, I would very much like to be the riding's next MP again!

Q: Could you please comment on the benefits of running a positive campaign when running against fellow Liberals for a nomination or for any other position and what would you do as President to make sure that that attitude is translated to the riding level?

A: Thank you for your question, it shows you've been following my refusal to attack any of my fellow candidates! I don't believe in belittling, humiliating and offending others as a means to make myself look better. As my Mom taught me so well, my freedom (of expression, of thought, of movement) stops where my neighbour's begins! I hope that putting an end to these infernal divisions AMONG Liberals will be part of the culture change we are ready to undergo as a Party!

Q: Do you have any plans to help support and empower the National and Provincial Commissions?

A: I believe that our commissions, both at the national and provincial level would need to have their mandates revisited and updated. The nature and means of the political landscape are vastly different than when said commissions were formed. I believe we should undergo an honest analysis of what the objectives of the commissions are, how the can best be attained and how the Party can - and should - support them.

Q: How do you see the role of party president? Party spokesperson or internally focused. If elected president, how much would you be in the media?

A: I've been very clear, from the beginning of this campaign that I don't believe the Party should have more than one official "face/voice": the Leader, with support from Caucus.

I have no intention of using the media to do the internal job of rebuilding and growth that we need to do. If I continue to be invited by P&P to the Pannel, I will do so as a former MP. Not as Party President, nor as Party spokesperson.

On the other hand, if an issue requests messaging to be done by the Party Officers, I will do it in full collaboration with the Leader's office.

Q: Thank you for the example you have set for others in running a positive campaign. I hope other campaigns follow suit! With the party in its current financial state, and the elimination of the per-vote subsidy, would you please describe the skills and experience you have in making a little money go a long way?

A: I believe that the way we've been managing the current campaign can be shown as an example: fundraising has been limited to avowed supporters, respecting Elections Canada limits, even if we are under no obligation to do so; I have been very reluctant on spending a lot o money on "swag" both for frugality's sake and for the environment's sake.

My travelling has been limited to the essential, while respecting the need to reach to Liberals throughout Canada.

As a Party, we now know how best to use the technology available to reach out to as many supporters as possible, with a minimum disbursement of funds.

Using technology, we can also improve 100-fold the way Liberalist is used to identify fundraising opportunities and we will have to invest in micro-targeting if we want to really connect with our voters.

Q: As you may know, numerous riding associations, especially in Quebec, are in pretty bad shape right now, what is the first thing you would do as party President in order to get people involved again so to get that red machine going strong once more ?

A: Here are some of my ideas for riding renewal:

There are no magic rules for reviving Liberal EDA’s:
- Supporter identification;
- Field-worker help in re-activating a proper association (ensuring membership drives, holding town-halls, general meetings, election of local executive, etc.)
- Ensure PTA / field worker support and guidance for at least two years;
- Encourage Caucus members’ help in garnering interest for Liberal events;
- Any other worthy idea the NE and/or members submit.

(A Liberal member asked a very similar question, so I have included her answer here as well)

in terms of what I would consider my "value-added" as a candidate from Quebec:

I'm a "voice" from Quebec, but I am not Quebec's voice... as Liberals, in Quebec as in all other provinces and territories, we have vaired perspectives on how we define the Party and the country.

I believe I know my province well, but being a first generation Canaddian also gives me a certain outlook that is hardly province-centric. What I do believe in fiercely is the absolute value of our federative system, how it's the best way to work with what unites us, while respecting what is different in each region. Obviously, there is always room for improvement, but our country, the way our forefathers conceived it, it still, for me, the most democratic way of conciliating interests and aspirations of people of diverse backgrounds.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Join Alexandra Mendes on Facebook tonight!

Come join over 100 of your fellow Liberals in a Facebook chat with Alexandra Mendes, candidate for Liberal Party President!

All you have to do is like Alexandra's Facebook page, then start asking questions at around 8 pm on her wall!