There is a bit of chattering among Liberal members about bringing in a one-member, one-vote system to select the new leader. While it would be impossible under the current Liberal constitution, and so almost definitely will not proceed, there are better reasons than that to be highly skeptical of such a method. One-member, one-vote (OMOV) is probably the simplest election system for selecting a leader. Basically, all the campaigns sign up as many people as possible, regardless of riding, before the membership cut-off. After the cut-off, they organize those people to turn out on voting day. All of the Liberal members vote for their choice of leader, either by preferential ballot or in a series of ballots, until someone gets 50% + 1 of the votes. The primary argument for OMOV is that more people will be able to participate, expanding the franchise and bettering democracy. However, taking the current Liberal leadership model, all Liberal members do get a direct vote for the leader. Delegates are then selected proportionally based on the vote in each riding. Those delegates are trustees, in that they must vote as instructed by the members who elected them. This is much the same model as used in the American convention system, where turnout is in the millions, rather than in the thousands as it is here. The Conservative model is similar. Every member of the party votes, but those votes then win points, with each riding having a maximum of, say, 1,000 points. If 10,000 people vote in Calgary Southwest and 10 people vote in Joliette, each vote in Calgary is worth a tenth of a point, and each vote in Joliette is worth 100 points. The winner has to get 50% + 1 points, not votes. So you can lose the popular vote, but still win the leadership. Under the current systems in place, each member does get a vote. It's just weighted for the number of people in that riding. Giving up this process would have huge consequences for each party, and for Canadian democracy. First of all, if all members across the country have equal weight, parties tend to get bigger where they are already big, while getting smaller where they are weak. If the Conservatives went to OMOV, the huge membership rolls in Alberta and rural B.C. would control the leadership selection process, choosing leaders to the right of the party. These leaders would be popular in these areas of strength, but likely have little attraction where the party is weak: francophone Quebec and urban Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Memberships would drop in these areas, while growing in the base. If the Liberals went to OMOV, the large membership numbers in Toronto - and to a lesser extent Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and other urban centres - would dominate the party. Rural Quebec and rural Western Canada would become deserts to the Liberals as leaders became more and more urban in focus to appeal to the members who controlled the party. To go to OMOV is to abandon the commitment to 308 ridings, a commitment that is the first step in party renewal. For the Liberals, OMOV would mean the death of riding associations in rural Quebec and rural Alberta. For the Conservatives, OMOV would mean the end of their Progressive Conservative faction. For the NDP, OMOV would mean sparks of growth in Quebec would never flare into flame. OMOV does not renew a party; it speeds its withering away into a regional rump. Canada already has enough forces of provincialism and decentralization. The national political parties are one of the few institutions that bind the country together. Moving to OMOV would change our national parties from forces of national unity to another slipping bond in our perilously loose confederation.
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