28 March 2010

Reflections on Liberal Canada 150 Conference

Living in BC, I arrived late to the CAN150 webcast each of the three days. Still, I managed to capture and participate via Twitter for about half the time. Since all panels have been archived, I can catch up with the other half should I feel moved to do so.

Shall start off with the positive:

1. Considerable credit must go to the Liberal Party of Canada for making its conference available via the web, Skype, Twitter, live chat, and so on.

Due to affordability, I have no television, radio or phone. My only means to connect with others, to services, to my community and of accessing learning opportunities and getting news is via the Internet. People like me are normally left out of such events, even if we'd like to participate. As was mentioned during the conference, broadening access is crucial to engaging the full citizenry.

Comments to the live chat - it also picked up tweets - were accepted as is, unfiltered or moderated other than for technical reasons.

This type of accessibility and openness is a tremendous coup for a major political party and an example that other Canadian parties should follow.

2. Kudos to the LPC also, despite a number of members' squirming, to listening to panel recommendations on issues uncomfortable for the party. (Of interest to me, those recommendations often got online support from Liberal grassroots.) Two examples: the need for a carbon tax and Robert Fowler's apt presentation on the LPC's rudderless direction in recent years. (Robert Fowler is my new hero.)

In contraposition to the above were two major negatives:

A. The chosen conference themes presupposed the issues deemed key by party brass: jobs or a "productive society"; "How do we care?" which seemed largely focused on retirement and healthcare; the environment and energy; "Culture & the Digital World," a panel which seemed mostly intent on broadcasters' interests with a bit thrown to the issue of copyright; and Canadians, especially non-profits, exporting their knowledge and helping throughout the world. (I particularly enjoyed the last panel and the one on the environment.)

For the conference to have been truly open to "new ideas," there should have been solicitation of suggestions for topics from the public and Liberal grassroots.

B. There appeared to be little, if anything, on housing, the cost of which is driving so many people into poverty. There was also no panel dedicated to democratic reform, which must include electoral reform - and yes, Canadians DO care about process; witness the protests against prorogation 2.0.

All of which makes me wonder what an open, accessible conference by the NDP or Greens might look like...

ETA: Michael Ignatieff's closing speech was dull, certainly not what I was expecting or hoping for. It neither lived up to the conference nor to the introduction of Ignatieff as a former journalist, etc., etc.

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