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Support Marc and his plan for democratic reform

January 17, 2013

To my fellow Liberal members and supporters,

I have heard you.

In person, through emails, through social media, many of you have made one message very clear – our democratic system and our party need reform.

Canadians want a Liberal Party that is more accountable and reflective of their priorities.

Today, I want to make it clear to you that I have listened and I want to share with you my intentions on electoral and party reform.

On electoral reform

I have heard your frustration with a system that elects Members of Parliament and governments when more than 60 per cent of the population votes against them. You want a system that is more reflective of the will of the people.

I agree.  However, I do not support a merger of the Liberal Party of Canada with the NDP. I am a Liberal. My values of fiscal responsibility and socially progressive government are not for sale. My values are not the same as Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, nor are they the same as those of the NDP.

Further, while I understand the deep frustration of those advocating for electoral cooperation in the next election, I do not support taking away Canadians’ democratic choices.  If Canadians in each riding want to vote for a Liberal or a NDP or a Green because that is the party they believe best represents their values, they should have that right. Who are we to take that choice away from them?

If elected, my proposal would be to reform Canada’s electoral system by changing our voting process to a preferential ballot, or a ranked ballot.

Used by many other nations, as well as the leadership races for the Liberal Party of Canada, the federal NDP and the Conservative Party of Canada, a preferential ballot better reflects the will of the people.

Using a ranked ballot, Canadians would no longer tick only one box indicating their first and only choice. Rather, they would rank their choices and tick not only their first choice, but their second, third, fourth, etc. choices.

If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the votes when the first choice votes are tallied, the bottom candidate is dropped and his or her second choice votes are allocated to those who remain. The process continues until one candidate has achieved at least 50 per cent plus one of the support from that riding.

The preferential ballot fundamentally addresses the challenge of vote splitting. Parliament will better reflect the real preferences of its people.

On Party reform

As I have gone across this country, Liberal members have also made clear to me their desire for a party that is more accountable and reflective of their priorities.

Their frustrations included email blasts that are one directional, that rarely ask for the input of members and always ask for money; policy positions that reflect special interests rather than the grassroots of the party; and a party structure that does not properly reward or seek the input of the hard working men and women who toil in their local riding associations.

As leader, I would eliminate the power to appoint candidates except under exceptional circumstances and only after consultation. The power of appointment is not about ensuring that insiders and favourites of the leader get nominations handed to them.

Instead, I would empower ridings to select the best candidate for themselves through an open nomination process in all ridings. I would also ensure sufficient time for riding associations to call nominations, allowing candidates sufficient time to run before an election.

As well, I would restructure the balance of fundraising between local ridings and the central party. I would ensure more local money stays within the local riding association. Through strong local associations, we will build a stronger national party.

On engagement and election readiness, I commit to members and supporters that we will do more to drive conversations rather than simply solicitations. The Party must do more to build its Liberalist database and to understand the motives and concerns of its membership. It must do more to provide training for volunteers and coordinate communications with local riding associations.

Only through email conversations, riding events, the training of volunteers, conversation and dialogue will the Party again represent the priorities of its members, and engage and inspire Canadians to vote Liberal once again.

My fellow Liberals, let me end here with a note of hope and a note of reality.

We have much to be proud of. The Liberal Party has been a truly positive force in Canadian history and around the world.

We achieved this because the Liberal Party reflected the will and values of Canadians – and those values continue to exist today.

We can be that Party again.  But there are no easy fixes. We cannot simply elect a new leader, slap a new coat of paint on the party and expect success when we know the engine needs repair.

Before we can represent ourselves to Canadians, we must work hard to reform the foundations of our party, to make our party a strong, 21st century electoral machine.

The time for leadership from our party is now. The direction Stephen Harper is taking this country demands it.

I have made my intentions clear. Integrity, experience, a relentless focus on the economy, a plan to reform our party and our democracy – this is the kind of change I intend to offer Canadians.

Join me and together let’s drive real change.