The Grassroots Candidate 
Posted to Jim Elve's Group Election Blog.

Belinda Stronach has released a letter sent to the Interim Joint Council of the Conservative Party calling for a policy convention even if such a convention is held prior to the leadership vote.

"While as a leadership candidate I will continue to outline policy proposals, I believe that one person alone cannot determine policy for the entire Party. Instead, policy development must be validated by authentic grassroots consultation and input," said Stronach. "For this reason, I believe that the Party should act now to convene a national policy conference this Spring."

"There may be some who argue that the decision to call a policy conference should take place after the election of our first leader," said Stronach. "They misunderstand what our Party is all about. Policy does not belong to the leader; policy belongs to all members of the Party."

Stronach suggested that each declared leadership candidate nominate two individuals to work with the Interim Council on this initiative.

Many have criticized Stronach for being pushed into this race from the PC old boys and campaign managers looking for a winter paycheque and for those critics, such a call for a policy convention will be written off as a shallow move by those organizers to falsely protray Stronach as the grassroots candidate.

Stephen Harper has responded to Stronach's call with a release of his own:

I understand the problems involved in holding an early Party convention. If it is possible to hold one this spring, I hope you will do so.

I would not favour involving the Party's leadership candidates in planning that convention.

Our Party's founding convention should be a grassroots event.

If it is not possible to hold the Party's first convention this spring, the Conservative Party caucus and our Party's new leader will be guided by the approved policies of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance. These policies are the product of years of grassroots work by party members and convention delegates.

Whatever the Interim Council decides, you have my full support.

I find Harper's lack of enthusiasm for such a crucial aspect of the new party to be a little worrisome. Firstly, I find it hard to believe that whatever the council decides that it would have Harper's support. More importantly is the suggestion that should no policy convention be held prior to the election that the party and the new leader would be “guided by the approved policies of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance.”


I'm not sure what this really means. Does it mean the founding principles in the Agreement in Principle of the Conservative Party? Obviously not as there are no campaignable polices included. Does it mean that the new leader would be able to pick and choose from the policies of the former Alliance and PC platforms? It appears so.

The agreement doesn't give any guidance into how the policies of the new party would be formed should no convention be held prior to the election.

Having the policy convention prior to the leadership vote could also be a great way for the membership to understand the impacts of each candidates position on various issues and whether or not the candidates have, at a minimum, the policy support of the various regions.

To be sure, the time to prepare a convention would be limited and the costs for the new party high considering the election campaign that will follow shortly, but as Stronach points out, technology can be used to minimize those issues. The party cannot afford to lose the grassroots foundation of the Reform party and pass up the opportunity to develop a national election platform that would be generated by a delegated policy convention representing all 308 ridings in the country.

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