Rebuilding the Party: Open Nominations
As we rebuild the Ontario Liberal Party, we need to build it into a strong and robust organization. While I sincerely hope this is not the case, the political realities indicate that we should prepare for a while in opposition. To build a strong and resilient party, we need to trust the people who will be doing the actual work of getting the party elected: the grassroots. The best way that we can do this is to trust them to select their local candidates and ensure open nominations in every riding in every election.
We need to be continually looking outside of our existing members, donors, volunteers, and supporters to grow the party and one of the best ways to do this is to give regular people a good reason to get involved. If people can make a real and immediate difference locally, they are more likely to stick around and volunteer for us. Regular people, who have not yet been engaged by our party, are more likely to get involved if someone they know is seeking a nomination. Whether it’s a teacher, a colleague, a friend, or a local community member, candidates have a vested interest in bringing in more volunteers and volunteers can feel they have a more immediate impact on the state of their community.
A good nomination race means two or more candidates doing everything they can to sign up new members, new volunteers, and new donors. At the end, the electorally stronger candidate wins and inherits (at least some of) the other candidate’s infrastructure. All of the information collected by both candidates goes into the party’s lists and we can put int the work to continue having a relationship with these people.
Use Open Nominations to Grow the Party
We can utilize the momentum of a local nomination race to grow the party by making sure that every nomination contestant uses our party’s database. That way, we can continue to have a relationship with every voter that they talk to and every donor who gives to them. Their volunteers will be asked to be our volunteers. In short: we will grow the family.
Donation processing can also be provided to the candidate. In the 2013 federal Liberal leadership race, the party used its existing payment processing infrastructure to help the leadership candidates. This meant that they were able to accept more varieties of donations, and the party took a levy on each donation. Additionally, each leadership candidate’s campaign had to pay a fee and deposit to enter the race.
I’m proposing that we should do the same for local nominations.
By giving access to the existing infrastructure to nomination contestants, we will be putting them in a better position to do the work of growing our party, while at the same time investing in the party’s campaign funds.
Our MPPs are doing great work and should be lauded for that. Part of the work they should be focusing on, if they aren’t already, is building up their local PTA. It’s in their interests to do it:
- Active and strong PTAs are more likely to win
- MPPs who build a strong and active PTA will be more likely to win a nomination with the people they’ve brought in
- It’s easier to sign people up for the party and grow our movement when you’re the incumbent
Some will suggest that MPPs should be focused entirely on their work at Queen’s Park. This is important, and why voters elected them. They should be focused on this and so should their staff. The MPP should also put some of their energy into ensuring that their political team is also thriving. If the MPP tries to run their political team themselves, they’re more likely to lose the next election. Being a candidate and being a campaign manager are simply not the same jobs.
Each and every election should have an open nomination process to ensure that the grassroots is empowered to select their candidates. Without this, if a leader does something that some party activists don’t like, they have little recourse other than to leave the party. With open nominations, there is a fair process to challenge the leadership when they’re wrong and support them when they’re right.
Inviting New Candidates to Run
Initiatives that encourage new people to consider running for office should be encouraged. We should have systems in place for regular people to nominate their friends, colleagues, and neighbours. These people should be contacted by the party and our existing MPPs and encouraged to seek nominations.
We should have processes in place, like #InviteHerToRun, which seek to promote gender equity in our slate of candidates and caucus. We should also ensure that candidates from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to run. By having an online form that invites people to run and having the party follow up with those people, we can help the prospective candidates to know that they will be supported if they run.
Candidate Support Groups
Different demographic groups face different challenges in running for office, and this is why different candidates support groups should exist. The federal Women’s Commission did some absolutely amazing work in ensuring that female candidates had some support structures during the last federal election. With that idea in mind, candidate support groups could do some of the work to help a candidate know that they will have a team if they run.
Rebuilding our party for the long-term
I want our party to be successful and that means electing as many MPPs as possible. I want to form government if we can, and be in the best possible position to fight for the things we care about if we can’t. I want us to be responsive to the needs of Ontarians and work to implement policy that make a more just and equitable society. That starts by having a more just and equitable party powered by the grassroots.
The only way to make sure the grassroots is empowered is to give them power, and what better power than choosing their local champion.
Bryan Crockett is a communications consultant and paralegal student in Oshawa, ON. He is not an official of the Ontario Liberal Party.