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January 24, 2011

UPDATE: Possibly as a result of yesterday's article and coverage of it by CKNW, the BC Liberals have restored access to their constitution on their party's website.

Two issues remain: First, will delegates to their Feb 12 constitutional convention be given a list that shows the number of members for each of the 85 constituencies compared to the average membership? Those under the average would increase their influence with the weighted voting system, those over it would lose influence. Second, are Liberal leadership candidates holding back membership applications so as to submit them on February 4th at the last possible opportunity? If so, can those memberships be processed and verified by the February 26 vote?

January 23, 2011

BC Liberal Constitution

It is interesting to compare the 16 page NDP constitution, available on the party's website, with the 68 page BC Liberal constitution which wasn't available on the Internet until today. An anonymous source provided me with a copy which I've uploaded. I cannot attest to its accuracy so if anyone can do that, please let me know.

Long legal documents, such as contracts or constitutions, can be the source of bad lawyer jokes or they can be the consequence of past problems that required resolution through much legal language. I'll leave it to the Liberals to explain why their constitution is so long. It is an important document because its provisions will determine how the next Premier will be chosen.

Just two weeks before their leadership vote, Liberals will attempt to amend their constitution so as to replace their one-member-one-vote system, section 68(3), with a weighted system that will give each of the 85 constituencies equal value. Another way of describing the proposed change is that it will make some people's votes count much more than others. It is expected that by the time of the February 26th vote the average Liberal constituency will have 700 members, but under the proposed change a constituency with 100 members will have the same number of weighted votes as one with 1,000 members. Since every vote in a 100 member constituency is worth 10 votes in a 1,000 member constituency, leadership candidates can efficiently campaign by focusing on small constituencies, which are likely to be the one's held by the NDP. If the proposed change goes is adopted by a two-thirds majority, a minority of Liberal members could determine who is the next Premier.

The NDP's constitution states: "The Provincial Leader shall be the chief political spokesperson of the Party and, subject to the authority of the Convention and the Provincial Council, shall interpret to the public the policies of the Party." The Liberal constitution states: The Leader is responsible to speak for the Party concerning any political issue and be guided by the Party position on matters of political policy. There is an enormous difference between "interpret to the public the policies of the Party" and "be guided by the Party position". Liberal leadership candidates can freelance policy to a much greater extent than NDP candidates.

Tonight's Global BC news included a story on membership sign-ups by the various Liberal leadership candidates. It did not report on whether each campaign is holding onto its forms and not submitting them to Provincial Headquarters until close to the February 4th deadline. Despite the 41 day membership cutoff found in section 64 of the Liberal constitution, sections 36(3) and 69(2) give the party executive authority to shorten the qualification period. By changing it to 22 days, it makes it very difficult for rival campaigns to call each others sign-ups if thousands of forms are submitted close to the deadline. Of course, no one is saying whether or not that is happening. If it is, not only does it disadvantage rival campaigns, but it makes it very difficult to verify the membership applications, which is why I raised the possibility of illegitimate members determining who is the next Premier.

For most organizations, questions, regarding whether a minority of members can determine the leader or whether illegitimate members can vote, are purely an internal matter. In this case, that leader automatically becomes the Premier so it is the public's business whether the Liberal leader is fairly chosen.