New Grit con­sti­tu­tion passes

Strong sup­port from mem­bers

SundayXtra - - LIBERAL CONVENTION - By Larry Kusch and Kristin Annable

JUSTIN Trudeau wasn’t go­ing to take any chances his vi­sion for turn­ing the Lib­eral Party of Canada into a more open and ac­ces­si­ble “move­ment” would lose steam at this week­end’s bi­en­nial con­ven­tion in Win­nipeg.

Trudeau made the need to pass a new con­sti­tu­tion the crux of his speech to del­e­gates Satur­day af­ter­noon.

Then, when the mo­tion came to the con­ven­tion floor a few hours later, he was stand­ing at mi­cro­phone No. 2 to for­mally move it, re­fer­ring to him­self as a del­e­gate from the Que­bec rid­ing of Pap­ineau.

As it turned out, the new con­sti­tu­tion — which makes party mem­ber­ship free and al­lows any reg­is­trant to vote in nom­i­na­tions, lead­er­ship con­tests and pol­icy con­ven­tions — passed eas­ily, with the yeas out­num­ber­ing the nays 1,988 to 66.

The prime min­is­ter’s ad­dress and the con­sti­tu­tional vote were the high­lights of the three-day con­ven­tion — the first na­tional Lib­eral party meet­ing in Win­nipeg in 36 years and the big­gest event so far at the newly ex­panded RBC Con­ven­tion Cen­tre.

Lib­er­als were in a cel­e­bra­tory mood as they gath­ered na­tion­ally for the first time since their elec­tion win last Oc­to­ber.

How­ever, the three-day meet­ing, which con­cluded Satur­day evening, didn’t re­ally get into high gear un­til the ar­rival of the prime min­is­ter, who landed in Win­nipeg late Fri­day af­ter rep­re­sent­ing Canada at the G7 sum­mit in Ja­pan.

Af­ter the con­sti­tu­tional vote, Trudeau walked to the stage, shook hands with the ses­sion chair, turned to the huge crowd and mouthed the word “thanks” while touch­ing his heart with his right hand.

In his speech, Trudeau spoke pas­sion­ately about the need to change the party’s rules to keep build­ing what he called “a con­fi­dent, ma­ture, open move­ment.”

He re­minded del­e­gates the party’s third-place fin­ish in the 2011 elec­tion was nearly its death knell.

“It was al­most the end of us,” the PM said.

Hit­ting rock bot­tom was “lib­er­at­ing,” Trudeau said. The party had to think hard about what it had to do and work hard to get it done, he said.

“Our col­leagues in the other par­ties have not yet learned these lessons, but they could. And we need to stay two steps ahead of them. With this new con­sti­tu­tion, we will,” he said.

Trudeau said the new rules will re­flect what the party has as­pired to be un­der his lead­er­ship, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is open to all Cana­di­ans.

“We have grown into a con­fi­dent, ma­ture, open move­ment, united and fo­cused on what mat­ters to Cana­di­ans and to our fu­ture,” he said ear­lier in the day be­fore the vote on the new con­sti­tu­tion took place.

“The party con­sti­tu­tion we have to­day is a prod­uct of the era that we worked so hard to­gether to put be­hind us — the era of fac­tional bat­tles, of hy­phen­ated Lib­er­als, of re­gional chief­tains and be­hindthe-scenes power bro­kers.”

The num­ber of del­e­gates op­posed to the new con­sti­tu­tion seemed to be higher at the out­set of the con­ven­tion. Mem­bers sport­ing ‘No’ but­tons could be seen through­out the sprawl­ing con­ven­tion cen­tre.

Sev­eral del­e­gates who spoke against the new rules com­plained they were foisted upon the con­ven­tion with­out suf­fi­cient con­sul­ta­tion.

“I felt ma­nip­u­lated. I felt that there wasn’t an open or trans­par­ent process. As a rid­ing pres­i­dent, I didn’t even know about a new con­sti­tu­tion un­til I was al­ready a del­e­gate and I was com­ing to this con­ven­tion,” a Toronto del­e­gate said dur­ing the de­bate. “So there was a huge lack of in­for­ma­tion.”

How­ever, some last-minute “friendly amend­ments” were made that mol­li­fied a num­ber of op­po­nents.

In his speech, Trudeau also soothed many con­trar­i­ans when he praised them while ad­dress­ing their con­cerns.

“It takes courage to speak out against some­thing your party lead­er­ship be­lieves in. And I want you to know that I ad­mire you and thank you for do­ing it,” he said. “But I also want to say this: if I thought for a sec­ond that the new con­sti­tu­tion was about tak­ing power from the grass­roots, I would be right there with you shoul­der to shoul­der, speak­ing out against it. But it isn’t, and it doesn’t.”

RUTH BON­NEVILLE / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau shakes hands as he makes his way to the podium to give the keynote ad­dress at the Lib­eral con­ven­tion in Win­nipeg Satur­day.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Trudeau, party pres­i­dent Anna Gainey (left) and Lib­eral youth pres­i­dent Mira Ah­mad vote for the new party con­sti­tu­tion.

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