Thursday, February 14, 2013

Liberals on cooperation

From a letter distributed to the leadership campaigns last week, some content of interest on the issue of cooperation that you may not be hearing in other channels. Ron Hartling ran for the party presidency last year and is the President of the Kingston riding association. Ron is neutral in this leadership race, to be clear, and has committed to his riding to his neutrality. Following his email is some data shared by one of his riding executive members.
From: Ron Hartling []
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2013 04:00 PM
To: David Bertschi ; Martin Cauchon ; Deborah Coyne ; Garneau, Marc - Personnel; Martha Hall Findlay ; Karen McCrimmon ; Murray, Joyce - Personal; George Takach ; Trudeau, Justin - Personnel
Subject: FW: Cooperation

Dear Candidates,

I am forwarding for your information some member feedback on your recent debate responses to the cooperation-with-other-parties question. It was sent to me by the Kingston and the Islands Outreach Director who has personally spoken with over 200 of our members in the course of our current membership renewal campaign.

Her findings are consistent with what I also hear from many of our members, who I have long assured that constitutionally they are the legitimate “owners” of the Liberal Party, which exists to advance their values in Parliament. That of course is a bit of a tough sell as they have seen precious little supporting evidence in recent years. From that perspective, eight out of nine candidates flatly rejecting electoral cooperation in any form is more than a little disheartening. There are many ways to approach electoral cooperation and the encouragement of strategic voting to lift from the majority of the electorate the spectre of yet another damaging Harper Government. Perhaps you could consider whether it is appropriate to close the door on all such options and how you as Leader would respond if it turned out that the majority of our members actually wished their Party to find a way to cooperate. Open-minded discussion could result in a solution which would include selecting 308 Liberal candidates and which would respect the right of EDAs to make their own decisions as to what they would do in their ridings. Arguably, with or without NDP cooperation, such a solution could result in more Liberal MPs elected than if we once again go to the electorate with the Ignatieff OLO’s position that the “Big Red Tent” is the only option for progressive voters. They obviously didn’t buy it.

Best wishes to you and your campaigns,
Ron Hartling
President, Kingston and the Islands Federal Liberal Association
LPC(O) Eastern Region President

I think that the issue of cooperation is something that needs to be addressed and the public needs to be educated on the options, as well as the prons and cons of each option. The sentiments I've received from talking to people on the phone, as part of our virtual phone bank reminder for memberships renewal, and others at social gatherings are the following:

- some who watched the first debate thought it "arrogant" for all the leadership candidates, except Joyce Murray, to so quickly and definitively reject the possibility of cooperation with the other parties on the left

- some blamed the Liberals in particular for the lack of possibility of cooperation and saw this as "business as usual" politics, targeted at getting back into power than working towards any real sense of promised "renewal" and "what's best for Canadians"

- some used more colourful language to talk about the Liberal party, using words like "greedy", "power hungry" and "childish"

- some expressed frustration as they saw no real option of defeating Harper with the vote being split on the left

Clearly some of these statements lack a bit of sensible reasoning since it's not a one-sided issue, as any form of cooperation would require all the parties (or at least the NDP).

However, I think it's important that we are aware of what people are thinking and that we must do something to clear up this oversimplification of the issue, which posits the harmful view of "childish stubbornness" against the "logical" argument for cooperation.
Circulated here for interest's sake and to give some perspective on how some Liberals out there in the ridings are reacting to the cooperation issue.