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February 2, 2011

Liberal Memberships

Between now and the February 12th BC Liberal convention on its leadership voting rules, one of the hottest commodities in BC politics is the data on how many Liberal members are in each of the 85 ridings. The only source on those data has been Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer who appears to have been the recipient of some good leaks.

On January 29th Palmer wrote in his regular column about the proposed weighted vote system the Liberals are considering for adoption at their special convention. After citing data on the number of Liberal members in various ridings, he noted: "So for all the talk of this rule change being a sop to the hinterlands, it would appear to be as much of a tool to boost the voting strength of under-organized B.C. Liberal ridings in the Lower Mainland and provincial capital region."

On his blog, "View from the Ledge", a post distributed by email at 4:08 PM on the day his column appeared in the Sun, Palmer provided a fascinating table that showed the membership in 11 Liberal constituency associations as of December 15th and as of January 26th. It showed the membership in Surrey-Newton increasing from 87 to 4,493! Out of a 17,757 gain in membership, showed in that blog posting, 9,177 members were in just three Surrey ridings.

As a result of a challenge to statements I made on Twitter, based on Palmer's blog, I doubled checked his blog. To my surprise the January 29th posting had disappeared. In its place, there was a January 29th post showing the number of Liberal members in each of the 85 riding associations prior to the membership drive; Surrey - Newton had 87 members in that list, as previously reported. A January 30th blog posting was added with revised numbers in which Palmer wrote:

"Note, however, that this posting is corrected from one that went up on Saturday.
The earlier posting mistakenly combined memberships that had lapsed or expired as well as those that are current.
My apologies for the misleading posting and thanks to the campaign manager who e-mailed me to point out the error."

Palmer's updated post showed the membership in Surrey-Newton increasing from 87 to 1,422. Keep in mind the reason for the previous error; it added lapsed or expired members. For all we know, those lapsed members might renew by February 4th. At the low end, it means the membership in Surrey-Newton increased by 16 fold; at the high end the increase is over 51 fold.

Both of the tables released by Palmer show that the increase in Liberal memberships in the Surrey ridings greatly exceeds the overall provincial increase, representing anywhere from 12 percent to 25 percent of the total increase in Liberal memberships. On the basis of the proposed weighted vote system, the three Surrey ridings mentioned in Palmer's blog (out of 8 ridings in Surrey), represent just three and a half percent of the vote. Even with the revised, lower, number, just three Surrey ridings have approximately seven percent of the membership. Adopting the weighted vote system would make each of those votes worth half of the average value.

Someone has spent a lot of time and effort to sign-up thousands of members in Surrey. Are they going to be happy with diminishing the value of those votes? It would be a great service for delegates to the February 12th Liberal convention, if they could have a list of the number of members in each of the 85 ridings as of the February 4th Liberal membership cutoff. Since the BC Liberal Party is not likely to provide its delegates with that crucial information, could someone please leak it to Vaughn Palmer!