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.

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