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Wednesday, January 22, 2003

So much for non-partisan

Since there seems to be actual media coverage around the NDP convention, I think it's incumbent upon me to comment on it, despite my assertion that I'd put aside party issues until after convention. Of course, the coverage is not around a candidate, or a platform point, or even on the horserace elements of the contest. All the major media can discuss is the 25% carve-out of union representative vote. "Anti-democratic", it's called. And emotionally, I agree... union representatives in theory are representing hundreds of affiliate members, but in fact, my experience with unions suggest those who are interested in leadership and responsibility in a union are given it. Which means to me that there are members involved in the NDP who got their ballot a different way, and therefore have a vote that is weighted heavier.

It's important to understand the history of this situation. At the delegated conventions the NDP had been using to select their leader until now, affiliated labour organizations were guaranteed 25% of the delegate positions. When the party debated moving to one member, one vote (hereafter described as OMOV), those labour delegates made it clear they weren't prepared to lose their historic role in the party, and the 25% carve-out was the compromise reached.

I think we were better off with a delegated convention than with this compromise, but never mind. This is the change we accepted, and I wasn't at the convention to say otherwise. But, if I understand the situation correctly, that same convention was silent on the matter of how the carve-out votes would be reported. Voting tends to be reported in raw numbers --- will the carve-out votes be multiplied to reach that 25%? Will the 3/5 vote that results be rounded up or down? I get the sneaking suspicion that all we'll hear on Saturday is percentage of vote for each candidate. And I think that's a huge mistake.

I think each ballot result needs two numbers: the raw total votes, and the "adjusted" percentage. We don't need the carve-out votes separately described, though it could be estimated by a backward calculation if anyone was particularly curious. This has the advantage of being transparent without ghettoising the labour vote. I don't think there's going to be a huge variation in the two numbers, but if there is, that's something the party can use as a lever with labour to get a more pure OMOV next time around.

We risk an embarrassing disparity between the vote winner and the leadership winner. But that's a burden that Dubya carries every day, and it doesn't seem to have done him any harm.

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