There is widespread talk among NB Liberals about the soon to be released renewal report. This report - and the following debates over its recommendations - will play a crucial role in charting the course for our party as we prepare for the 2014 election.
The renewal commission was formed out of concerns that, during the last government, it was clear many people who had been with us for years didn't see their liberal values reflected in some of the policy decisions made by the leadership. This included the decision to sell NB Power to Hydro Quebec despite a firm campaign promise against selling the public utility. It also included flattening the tax rate - drastically cutting taxes for the wealthy - which represented a hard-right turn that was a clear departure from the centre-left platforms of 2003 and 2006.
The Fredericton Fort Nashwaak riding association released its proposals on renewal, which highlighted the importance of policy in the renewal process. In particular, these proposals emphasized the need for the party's leadership to clearly reflect the values of its members in policy-development, something that would include engaging and listening to members rather than treating them as drones, used at election time and discarded soon after until the next election cycle.
Recommendations in the Fredericton Fort Nashwaak discussion paper included organizing the party along the lines of issues, to attract new members - and engage existing members - on concerns such as environmental conservation, poverty-reduction, and population growth.
I would encourage you to read the Fredericton Fort Nashwaak renewal paper and don't worry, it is a quick read at nine pages. Party renewal is an essential step moving forward if the Liberal Party is to be a viable force in 2014, one that can stave off a challenge on the left from a newly confident NDP while offering a clear contrast to the closed-door operations and muted caucus of the Progressive Conservatives.
Our party needs to seriously re-think how to engage members, and what being a 'Liberal' really means.