BC Liberals to decide who decides

The provincial Liberal party will be voting on February 12 on how new party leaders come to power, and therefore how premiers of our province are chosen.

The provincial Liberal party will be voting on February 12 on how new party leaders come to power, and therefore how premiers of our province are chosen.

While this will all take place the day after the Courier goes to press the implications for the change are interesting to contemplate.

As of now, all members of the Liberal party have one vote towards the leader, and the person with the most votes wins. Simple.

But the difference comes when you look at the population of the province, and where most of that population lies across the 85 ridings in the province.

Not in the rural ridings, where three-quarters of the economic base of the province lies.

This means that high-population areas like the Lower Mainland have more of a say in who becomes the next premier of the province, but then that party leader has to win across all 85 ridings to become premier.

What is being proposed is a one member, one vote system, counted by riding, which means the 85 ridings each pick who their preferred candidate is, and the candidate who has won in the most ridings, wins the leadership of the party.

This would allow the rural part of the province to have equal representation to the more urban (and more heavily populated) centres of the province, and also allow the party leader to start from a broader provincial support base to run for premier.

John Rustad, local Liberal MLA says the intent of the change would reflect the need for the government to win the majority across the 85 ridings in the leadership.

That is, the leader of the governing party should have to have the same basis in support across the province as the party does in order to be in power.

But does it mean that economic interests would overshadow social issues as the economic driver of the province, the resource-rich rural ridings, had increased power?

That is still to be debated, and the Liberal party will discuss and debate the change. Across the province, 22 delegates from each riding will be representing their party for the proposed change and then vote on whether or not the change will be adopted.

It will be done in an unconventional convention of sorts. There will be a video broadcast link connecting the main convention in the Lower Mainland with the other rural conventions going on simultaneously.

Local MLA John Rustad will be in Prince George for the convention there, and he supports the change to the leadership race, saying “whoever the leader is, along with the party, needs to be able to field support from the majority of the ridings around the province.”

The changes would only effect the Liberal party candidate selection and the provincial NDP would not be looking at changing their leadership selection process, should the Liberals vote in the changes.

NDP spokesman Michael Roy believes the one vote one member system allows people equal weight regardless of where they live in the province.

“It doesn’t seem very fair to diminish the value of these votes based simply on where they live,” said Roy.

The Green Party of BC wouldn’t be considering the shift in leadership selection, because with a smaller membership spread fairly evenly across the province, leader Jane Sterk feels the Green Party has a demographically representative membership.

Sterk said when the NDP and Liberal leadership candidates go out and “recruit great blocks of members from one group or another it distorts democracy,” so changes to the leadership selection in those parties might be warranted.

The BC Liberal Party will be busy this month with potential changes to leadership selection February 12, a Throne Speech and budget next week as well as the leadership election February 26.