Leading up to the Conservative National Convention, to be held in Vancouver May 27-29, 2016, I provided the following recommendations.
Lighting Canadians’ Hearts on Fire - The Three Main Questions
Question #1: What are we doing more effectively to encourage grassroots participation in our Party and in government, by people generally, but especially by our youth?
Our post mortem of the election loss must include the challenge for us to accept that the defeat was not just about “anyone but Harper” but about a broken party model that left many MPs and candidates isolated and virtually powerless. Without real engagement, in real time across the Party, MPs and our leadership were left dangerously out of touch during both our term in government and during the campaign.
In Government, we heard constantly that the Leader and the PMO were “controlling”, that MP’s were muzzled. In fact, for most contemporary liberal democratic parties, including ours, the party policy process did not promote cooperation but was rooted in district by district resolutions or in limited participation by relatively isolated MPs. This process actively discouraged the kind of collaboration that is commonplace in today’s social media-driven society. Canadians were left feeling disengaged from the leadership, from their MP’s, and from the decisions that affected them, e.g., Canada’s economic situation.
The nature of “engagement” for individuals in today’s society has changed dramatically while our party structure and processes are rooted in a previous era. Today technology promotes/demands collaboration and is driving rapid change through “frenemies” and other forms of joint effort. Those technologies should drive us to live less in our geographic village and more with the villages of similar interest nationally and internationally, while promoting best practices among elected leaders.
The past weaknesses which afflicted Party management included:
old voter technology versus today’s metadata analysis with emphasis on centralized control of information over distributed analysis and action;too isolated a party and government policy process;too driven by message constraints;too limited a use of the valuable resources available at the local party ever and beyond, which magnifies the problem of too few volunteers;little use of best practices shared among MPs and candidates;diminished motivation for MPs/candidates to develop comprehensive networks of stakeholder groups that should be the norm in every riding.
Recommendations that relate to Question #1 are grouped under Appendix #1.
Question #2: For what values do we stand that distinguish our Party from the other parties?
During my service as MP, my team knew that, to accomplish something beyond the ordinary in public life, we had consistently to acknowledge, articulate, and observe Conservative Party values: Freedom, Responsibility, Equality, Compassion and Integrity.
We accomplished a great deal because we governed ourselves consistently by these values. Such an explicitly proclaimed set of values can also provide a litmus test against which the Leader or any person in the Party can measure proposals and decisions. The Party as a whole can do the same and the response from the public will likely be as positive and productive as it was in our riding (at least, as measured by results during my two terms: engagement with over 50 identified communities; two Private Members’ Bills passed; three more at First Reading; four items from our riding in Budget 2015; Samara Canada’s highest rated website two years running).
In the future, the Conservative Party of Canada must incorporate and portray higher principles and standards of conduct than in the past if we are to succeed in making politics more deserving of the public’s respect and support. We can best do this by communicating and acting clearly in accordance with the values mentioned above and governing with integrity in every aspect of our polices and responsibilities. Today in the US, Bernie Sanders is campaigning precisely based on values he has followed for decades. And this has achieved an incredible degree of success - especially with youth.
While the ability to develop successful strategies and tactics remains at the forefront of our next leaders qualifications, a clear set of values must also be a major ingredient in his or her character. Such values throughout the Party are increasingly important in this digital, mobile age wherein the leader is likely more absent from than present with team members.
Selecting an overall leader with both these credentials will then enable the Party to exercise the same standards in selecting other leaders and making decisions right down to the grassroots level.
Our challenge is to distinguish our Party from other parties in a clear, positive way by “being” the specified values, rather than just espousing them.
Recommendations that relate to Question #2 are grouped under Appendix #2.
Question #3: What is our long-term vision for a united, prosperous Canada?
To ensure Canada remains united and prosperous, we need to cling to our Party’s leadership in economic affairs, in which former Prime Minister Harper excelled; promote innovative, effective heath care; enact viable, compassionate policies on drug use; and show we really care about the environment. In doing so, we must not forget the absolute significance of the “social contract” which stitches together all the incredible varieties of people in this great land.
Foremost among the responsibilities under the “social contract” is the need to provide a long-term vision to bring together Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Canadians. No longer are Canadians prepared to allow Aboriginal people to be treated as second class citizens. Failure to deal with this reality risks Canada’s ability to survive as a nation, politically and economically.
Beginning with Stephen Harper’s groundbreaking Residential Schools Apology, we made significant strides but the successes fell short of a long-term vision for the country. Knowledgeable Canadians recognize that Liberal and Conservative administrations have both failed to articulate what key principles ought consistently to underlie Govenment actions in this relationship.
While in office each party has “gone along to get along”. This has been leadership by expediency, resulting in a patchwork of arrangements between the Government of Canada an the over 600 Aboriginal communities that define themselves as First Nations. In that vacuum, the Supreme Court of Canada has yielded to the temptation to forge law and policy which ought to have remained in the purview of the legislature.
The lack of leadership from Ottawa has invited First Nations leaders to push boundaries in terms of their rights and title while a multitude of lawyers, consultants, accountants, economists, and embedded bureaucrats not only benefited from this confusion but have also helped perpetuate it.
A Government’s primary role in Aboriginal Affairs is to seek principled avenues of managing the long-term relationship; the specific responses should then follow.
Our Government needs to articulate and act in accordance with six key principles which reflect the needs of Aboriginal people and all Canadians; principles so compelling that they will stand the test of time, and the inevitable occasional change in ruling parties. These principles are: Self-Sufficiency; Certainty; Accountability; Transparency; Equality; and Reconciliation.
Recommendations that relate to Question #3 are grouped under Appendix #3.
Lighting Canadians’ Hearts on Fire - Specific Recommendations
Appendices #1, #2, and #3
What Can Be Done at the Convention?
At the Convention, the Party should consider running a series of small forums seeking answers from delegates to these three big questions. I would welcome the opportunity to participate, in some capacity. I am pleased to say that my EDA, West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country, and our EDA President, Roger Garriock, have endorsed the following 19 Recommendations, for consideration at the National Convention.
Appendix #1 Engagement, Democracy, and Empowering MP’s
Question #1: What are we doing more effectively to encourage grassroots participation in government, especially by our youth?
1. It is resolved that we add to our National Party Constitution, a new paragraph 10.7: “The Leader of the Conservative Party will serve as party leader for no more than 8 years after being appointed Prime Minister.”
(Note: With thanks to MP Michael Chong for his help in developing this recommendation)
2. It is resolved that “The Conservative Party adopt a business-oriented approach to the job description for candidates and Conservative MP’s requiring them to formulate a business plan using a consistent framework reflecting community priorities as identified through community consultation AND THAT MP’s and candidates be provided a forum, such as National Caucus, to brief fellow Caucus members on best practices and developments relating to such a business plan.”
3. Recommend a new policy statement under Section K: “Social Policy” to include a new Section- “Youth”: “It be resolved that the Conservative Party create a strong youth sector and emphasize that young people are welcome to participate in the Party in any way they see fit AND THAT each Conservative MP or Candidate develop a strategy to engage youth in their riding AND THAT the Party support University Campus Clubs and other school initiatives such as HEY (“Helping Every Youth”) Day, and the MP Book Award for Writing.”
4. Recommend a new policy statement be added under Section 138: “Policy Development Principles” to read: “It be resolved that nomination contests be conducted well in advance in order to provide candidates time for training.”
5. Recommend a new policy statement be added under Section 138: “that Regional Caucus Chairs be elected by each respective regional caucus.”
6. Recommend a new policy statement be added under Section A- “Role of Government” to read: “Parliamentary Committees and Question Period”. “It be resolved that the Conservative Party should broadly endorse that the committee system be reviewed and improved to reflect a need for greater productivity, incorporating a study of best practices in relevant jurisdictions AND THAT the head of each Committee should be empowered to work with Committee members to design clear and measurable goals for the Committee to purse AND THAT Committees should be tasked to respond to real questions that need to be answered in the process of implementing laws or policies and that the Conservative Party should broadly endorse the above-mentioned review and incorporate of study of best practices in relevant jurisdictions and that the format should be restructured to encourage more fluid discussion enabling those with specific expertise to lead such discussions.”
7. Recommend a new policy statement be added to Section A- “Role of Government”: Parliamentary Committees and Question Period. “It be resolved that the Conservative Party include in its next election platform proposals to reform Question Period as outlined in Motion M-517 which called on the House of Commons to:
a. Strengthen the role of the Speaker in enforcing discipline;
b. Increase the amount of time allotted to every question and answer;
c. Examine the convention that allows Ministers to not answer questions put to them;
d. Select half the questioners every day randomly;
e. Dedicate Wednesday as Prime Minister’s Question Day (as is done at Westminster) and;
f. Dedicate the other days to Ministers in a way that would require each to be present on at least two of four days.”
Lighting Canadians’ Hearts on Fire - Specific Recommendations
Appendices #1, #2, and #3
Appendix #2 Distinguishing Ourselves on a Value Proposition
Question #2: For what values do we stand that distinguish our Party from the other parties?
8. It is resolved that the Purpose of our Party is “To Serve all Canadians passionately and effectively, without fear or favour, in accordance with key values, including Freedom, Responsibility, Equality, Compassion and Integrity.”
Appendix #3 Creating a Long-Term, United Vision for Canada
Question #3: What is our long-term vision for a unified, prosperous Canada?
9. Recommend Section 80 Aboriginal Affairs Principles and Section 82- “The Legal and Democratic Authority for Aboriginal Self Government” be amended. The new policy statement to read: “It is resolved that the Party govern its actions and words in Aboriginal Affairs by the “SCATER” Principles:
“S” for Self-Sufficiency: the need for Aboriginal persons and all other Canadians to be self-sufficient;
“C” is for Certainty: the need for all Canadians to be able to regulate our conduct with a high degree of predictability in education, city management, governing bodies, and business;
“A” is for Accountability: as in all aspects of Canadian government, in Aboriginal self-government, elected and appointed officials should be accountable to those governed; there should not be a large concentration of power concentrated in a few hands;
"T” is for Transparency: related to Accountability;
“E” is for Equality: as represented, among other places, in our Charter of Rights;
“R” is for Reconciliation: acting on responsibility that Canada owes to Aboriginal people, legally and morally, for past injustices.”
10. Recommend a new policy statement under Section L- “Aboriginal Affairs” sub-section 84: “Respecting the Canadian Constitutional Framework” be added to read: “It be resolved that an Aboriginal Community is a highly respected element of Canadian society and is not a Sovereign Entity, Separate Nation or has a status that is not consistent with the peoples of Canada. Canada must respect and acknowledge the culture and traditions of Indigenous people as it must with any other sector that comprises the fabric of Canada where such traditions and cultures enhance equality in a pluralistic society.”
11. Recommend a new policy statement be added to Section L-“Aboriginal Affairs” sub-section 82- “The Legal and Democratic Authority for Aboriginal Self Government” to read: “It be resolved that the Conservative Party set timelines for treaty negotiations with incentives for all parties to bring closure.”
12. Recommend a new policy statement to be added to Section 58-“Wellness Promotion” to read: “It be resolved that: a new emphasis be given to encourage our nation to be more active in pre-emptive healthy physical activity AND THAT the Party expand the Parliamentary Fitness Initiative ensuring all Parliamentarians are aware of it; the Party supplement current activities with information sessions tailored to the routines and health issues of people in public office and emphasize the personal responsibility of Canadians in maintaining their personal health; the Party adopt National Health and Fitness Day; that day to be core to Canada’s 150th Anniversary Celebration; and the Party support stricter limits generally in the Canada Food Guide in the amount of sugars that Canadians consume.”
13. Recommend a new policy statement under Section 58-“Wellness Promotion” to read: “It be resolved that the Party create and/or adopt a National Cycling Strategy that capitalizes on the positive effects of cycling for health, the economy, tourism and the environment AND THAT the design and construction of national transportation infrastructure take into account the incorporation of feasible and cost-effective bike friendly features AND THAT fiscal incentives be incorporated for the purchase and use of bicycles AND THAT National Safety guidelines for motorists and cyclists be established.”
14. Recommended deletion of Section 47 “Environmental Principles” to be replaced with a proposed new policy statement to read: “That our Environmental Policy is defined by the concept that “The Environment IS the Economy” where such concept defines the metrics of a sustainable future based on continuous and simultaneous improvement in efficiency and productivity. Specifically the measurement of success is based on the continuous growth in our gross domestic product, (Productivity) with simultaneous and continuous reductions in the use of resources, whether those resources are natural, renewable, non-renewable, human or otherwise, (Efficiency).”
Discussion: world-renowned environmental engineer David Bromley, a West Vancouver-based Party supporter, makes the case that Canada’s sector of professionals who owe their livelihood to the environment has grown in size, global influence, and impact on Canada’s economy. Meanwhile Canadians have developed increasingly effective ways to minimize resources in industrial production. Canada can steadily work to promote efficiency and productivity; meanwhile, with the right combination of environmental stewardship, our economy and environment should advance together, a move away from the traditional view that one must sacrifice, for the other to make progress. This approach encourages our Party to stand for conservation in contrast to environmental aspects who would use the environment as a stop agent.
15. Recommend a new policy statement under Section I-“Environment” to include “Marine Safety and Abandoned Vessels” to read: “It be resolved that the Party emphasizes our commitment to Maritime Safety by implementing an institutional change, to transfer the Coast Guard back to the Minister of Transport; and that the Kitsilano Coast Guard base be re-opened using a cost-effective plan, or create or upgrade a facility that can effectively and efficiently respond to marine safety matters.”
“It be resolved that the Conservative Party stand by its commitment to deal with abandoned and derelict vessels.”
“It be resolved the MP’s and candidates in Pacific and Maritime ridings consult with scientific and technical experts and implement decisions based on independent scientific data.”
16. It be resolved to amend existing policy Category F-“Economic Development”, item 27 vii. with the addition of a paragraph (c) “It be resolved that the Party promote innovation as a key aspect of Economic Development.”
17. Recommend a significant amendment to existing policy statement Section 29- “Science, Research and Development” to read: “It be resolved that the Conservative Party say what we are doing and we have done in providing the right balance between freedom for employees, including scientists, to speak publicly and the need for the organization to be truthful, coherent, articulate, and consistent in public statements.”
18. Recommend a new policy statement under Section M-“Criminal Justice” be added regarding “Legalization of Marijuana” to read: “It be resolved that we move to the ticketing regime thus providing needed change and allowing Canadians more time to observe what jurisdictions experience before moving to full-scale legalization.”
19. Recommend a new policy statement be added under Section 61- “Pharmaceuticals” to read: “It be resolved that Vanessa’s Law be incorporated into the Conservative Platform AND THAT the Party adopt the terms of Bill C-692 calling for the development and implementation of a comprehensive federal framework to address the proper use of prescription drugs AND THAT the Party support formalization of the designation of the third Saturday in March every year as “National Prescription Drug Drop-Off Day” AND THAT the Party formally endorse the continuance of the Conservative Caucus to Combat Substance Abuse.”
20. Recommend a new policy Section be added under Section J-“Health” to read: “Drug-Addiction” and such statement be added to read: “It be resolved that the Conservative Party create and sustain sound policies to assist people struggling with drug addiction AND THAT the Country benefits when those with resources take time and invest those resources to assist the most vulnerable AND THAT it be resolved that taxpayer’s money be invested to assist people in recovery.”