Policy Corner September 2012 Update
As part of the effort in rebuilding the Liberal Party, one of the issues that has generated discussion is how to engage people in policy-making in a way that is in keeping with the real-time world of today and that acknowledges that some people may be less committed to Parties but still deserve a voice. By “real-time world”, I mean the world of instant messaging, and of posting opinions and reacting to events in real time. By “voice”, I mean the desire of everyone to have their say and contribute to the debate without feeling manipulated or ‘managed’. This is no easy challenge, largely because the old ways of making policy, drafting resolutions, and working them up through the Party
bureaucracy to try to get them passed at Convention is so much the opposite of real-time, open and ongoing engagement.
Ottawa West-Nepean is looking to change some of the ways policy is done. While not abandoning the policy resolution process, a process that is very structured with long-term horizons to completion, OWN hopes to foster a culture of on-going policy engagement rooted in issues that matter to the citizenry of Ottawa West-Nepean. Called the Policy in Action process, its purpose is to provide a mechanism where the voices of the voters and citizenry can be heard in real time on federal issues that matter to them.
So how will this work? The first thing that must be done is find both the issues that matter in OWN and the people who are concerned about them, in tandem. OWN has people involved in issues on a wide range of fronts, from pensions, to clean water, to day care, to job creation and employment stability, to First Nations issues. What do they have to say? Who else is interested in each issue who can be brought into the dialogue? With the Policy in Action approach, we can define those interested, issue activists as Issue Facilitators. Importantly, they need not be Liberal Party members or supporters – at least not initially. This is because it is the issue that matters, and that is what engages people.The idea, too, is to help the Party know what the broad-range voters in OWN think about issues, and not just what a select few think.
Once identified, forums for engagement and discussion will be organized – anything from living room sessions to panel discussions in larger forums. It will depend on what the participants want and feel they need to address their concerns. On occasion, an issue area might develop into a project that will set targets for the membership, and look to contribute to the Party platform and to Caucus debate. Naturally, much will depend on the energy and enthusiasm of the people involved with the issue.
The advantage of this process is that it is two-way; with citizens interacting with the Party and vice versa, in productive and constructive ways.
Currently, we are still in the early days: the issue and issue facilitator identification phase. So, if you have an issue that is of concern to you, please let us know. However, we would not ask you to be a facilitator unless you wanted but we would welcome your participation in any issue forums we might hold.