The leadership campaign of Maxime Bernier mobilized and motivated many young Libertarians to become more involved and more active within the Conservative Party. Libertarians come from all age groups, of course, but the particular activation of a new cohort of young people inclined to these sorts of views was evident during this process.
Although I was part of Team Scheer, I saw and continue to see this activation as a positive development for our party. Notwithstanding the choice that Bernier has made, this new group of Conservatives have the potential to make a durable and positive impact on the Conservative Party.
In order for Libertarians, and young Libertarians in particular, to shape the future of our party, they will need to do a number of things.
First, they will need to build the infrastructure for sustained and effective activism. Other groups, such as gay conservatives and social conservatives, have built institutions designed to influence the direction of the Conservative Party. Libertarians could do the same.
Secondly, they need to establish a broad agenda. If you focus on only one thing, then your engagement within the party becomes all-or-nothing. But, if you identify a half-dozen desirable policy changes, you are more likely to be able to advance at least some things that are important to you.
Thirdly, Libertarians need to actively cultivate their position within the party through cooperation with other kinds of conservatives. Do not assume that your position is self-evidently correct – rather, seek to be present with other conservatives and make the case to them. Do not attack their motives simply because you disagree. Taking these steps will lead to policy success that will be meaningful and durable over time.
This weekend at the Conservative Party Convention, and in its aftermath, I have noted the frustration of some young Libertarians. Here’s the context for that frustration, from my perspective. A resolution on supply management was proposed by some riding associations for consideration at convention. The order of consideration was determined based on online voting done by each riding association – the more votes you got, the more likely your resolution would be considered. The supply management resolution, due to the number of votes it received, was ranked 26th of 26 resolutions to make it through for consideration in one of the policy breakout sessions. This meant that it would be considered if time allowed, and not considered if time elapsed. If it had received more votes or been top selected at one of the regional policy meetings, then it would have been considered earlier.
I cannot speak to everything that went on in the Economic Policy Breakout, because I spent most of the time in the Social Policy Breakout and only popped into the economic room at the end. But pretty consistently across policy discussion rooms, consideration of each policy proposal takes a minimum of 5-6 minutes (often more than that) – including speeches for and against and the counting of votes in the room.
Given the requirement to count votes manually, you could really only go so fast – and it certainly would not have made sense to vote on resolutions without some argumentation for and against. The economic room ran out of time after considering 20 of 26 resolutions. It would have required another half hour to forty minutes at least to get to the supply management resolution.
Since the convention, some people unhappy with the outcome have liberally levelled criticism at anyone and everyone who could be blamed for the failure of the supply management resolution. I’ve been accused by some, for example, of delaying the process, simply because I spoke to a couple points of order. These points, demonstrably, did not involve more than 90 second to two minutes of commentary – nowhere near the margin that would’ve been required to get to supply management.
Many more points of order were raised by those eagerly pushing the supply management resolution, who wanted to suspend the rules in some way to skip forward. It would have been hard to justify suspending the rules for those who wanted a discussion on supply management, since that would have meant skipping over other resolutions which had received a higher ranking. I am told that the room was late getting started, but the margin required to get to the supply management resolution was ultimately so large that it is hard to imagine any way in which the outcome could have been different – any way, that is, other than said resolution having received more votes during the online vote beforehand.
At the end of the session, in the midst of a somewhat heated exchange, I told a few other delegates to “work harder on Ideas Lab next time” (Ideas Lab is the online voting tool whereby the rankings were determined). I apologize if this seemed crass to some people, and I probably could’ve made the point more gently. But those who took offence could also consider the merits of the advice. I am reliably informed that the riding of Beauce did not vote in the Ideas Lab process. That one additional vote could have impacted the final rankings. Other advocacy groups within the party have organized in a long-term and intentional way to elevate their priorities in the ranking, and Libertarians could do the same next convention.
After this convention, inevitably, some individuals who did not get their way will disengage from the process. (The same will likely happen with some all-or-nothing social conservatives). But the only way to actually influence the direction of policy in this country is to lean into the process, not lean out.
I want to see more Libertarians and more liberty-oriented policy ideas in our party. This convention saw the passage of policies supporting more competition in key sectors, and supporting the phasing out of corporate welfare. (Both of these had my support). These are less contentious and probably more substantial issues than supply management. But if supply management is your priority for the next convention, go for it. Start organizing now. Use the process. No one action or step is going to guarantee your success, but you owe it to your cause to put in the sustained effort necessary to get to where you want to go. And recognize that sincere conservatives are going to be organizing on the other side of the debate as well.
I understand that conservatives from time to time are frustrated with “the party”. But you are “the party” – you have all the tools to work to change it. Those who leave the party behind will only make their ideological cohorts who stay less effective. And members of our party, unlike any fringe movement, have a history of being asked to govern the country from time to time. If you care about policy, then surely having a role in that is worth the effort.
Our party needs the thoughtful and engaged participation of Libertarians. It will be interesting to see what steps they choose to take ahead of the next policy convention.