Liberal Party holds biennial convention in Winnipeg

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Liberal03RGBBy Stephanie Egelton

From May 26-28 the first gathering of Liberals from all across Canada since the election of Justin Trudeau in October was held in Winnipeg. Trudeau’s Liberals won a Majority Government, improving from third party status with 34 seats to 184.

The first order of business for delegates at the convention (besides standing in line to register) was to attend policy workshops covering various subjects. Delegates discussed the policies being presented, then voted on two policies from each category to be brought to the main policy plenary later that weekend. Policies passed at the plenary that appeared to be of high importance included ensuring public hearings regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, LGBT rights for refugees, national housing strategies, youth involvement in democracy, and medical coverage for autism treatment, to name a few.

Liberal06RGBOutgoing policy chair Maryanne Kampouris noted that the party was “accountable for these policies,” but said that didn’t mean all would be passed through government. If these policies were not enacted, then policy within the party must explain that reasoning, she said.

The biggest item up for debate, however, were the amendments to the Liberal Party of Canada Constitution. Many amendments were minor, such clarifying logistics on how riding associations conduct business, though the most talked about amendment was regarding membership. The item at hand was removing the membership fee, and allowing individuals to register without paying a fee. Delegates at the convention voted almost unanimously in favour of the new constitution, called “1 Party”, to open up party membership without a financial investment. Trudeau called the reforms to the party constitution a “movement,” which got delegates and the attending media talking.

While the Liberals were in the process of advancing the party in a state of government, the Conservative Party of Canada was holding their biennial convention in Vancouver at the same time. At this convention, the Tories intended to brainstorm ideas on how to rebuild the party, following its fall from power. To the surprise of many at the convention, Consevrative delegates chose to change the party’s policy on same sex marriage – taking a neutral stance. Also on the table was a motion to allow interim leader Rona Ambrose to run for party leadership, which was soundly defeated.

Liberal02RGBThe public will get a chance to decide how important the changes made at these conventions really were when they head to the ballot box for the next federal election in 2019.

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