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January 12, 2011

January 17th Key for Both Parties

Political parties are happy to accept new members at any time but there are time limits for how long a person must be a member in order to be able to vote in nominations or leadership races.

I used to go door to door with a stack of membership forms asking people to join the NDP. That is good exercise and hard work, especially on the North Shore. Today both the BC Liberals and the NDP accept online membership sign-ups. The Liberals charge $10 for a 4 year membership; the NDP has no set fee, but members are encouraged to donate as much as possible and annual contributions are required to remain a member in good standing.

Some have raised the question of why you need to be an NDP member for 90 days in order to be eligible to vote, making January 17th the eligibility cut-off for the April 17th leadership vote. As Harry Lali said in an article on membership in The Tyee, there's a need to avoid some of the manipulations the party has seen in past leadership conventions. I would add that in the past the NDP has encouraged members to be active, attending constituency meetings and participating in policy development. Lali has called for a return to the days when constituency activism was more important than policy committees established by the party's provincial bodies, executive or council. That is a worthwhile discussion but it is not likely to be one that determines leadership preferences.

According to the BC Liberal website: "Every BC Liberal Party member in good standing as of Friday, February 4th, 2011 will have an opportunity to cast a ballot in the Leadership Vote." Their vote is on February 26th so members who join just 3 weeks and a day earlier can vote. The constitution of the BC Liberal party does not appear to be available online, but Sean Holman of PublicEyeOnline obtained several pages of the party's constitution, enough to reveal that according to section 64 of that constitution eligibility to vote for leader requires a person to be a member in good standing for 41 days prior to the leadership vote. That would make the BC Liberal membership cut-off January 17, the same as the NDP's. Perhaps Holman has an old copy of the Liberal's constitution or perhaps they will also attempt to amend that section at their February 12th constitutional convention, but it suggests why the constitution and rules are hard to find.