Thursday, August 12, 2010

Green Party Voting Results, Part 3: Greenlighting the Inoperable "Benmurgi Motions" Adds Confusion, Changes Nothing

Green Party Voting Results, Part 3: Greenlighting the Inoperable “Benmurgi Motions” Only Adds Confusion, But Actually Changes Nothing

Back on July 10th, I blogged extensively about what I dubbed the “Benmurgi Motions” (“Local EDA Autonomy Under Fire at Green Party BGM: Reviewing the “Benmurgi Motions” Pertaining to Proposed New EDA Responsbilities”). In a nutshell, I took great exception to motions G10-c14 through G10-c23, the “Benmurgi Motions” (named by me only because Ralph Benmurgi's name appears first in the list of sponsors – and that the only reason). The concerns I outlined in my earlier blog were numerous. I believe that these motions were largely ill-conceived, and will fundamentally change the relationship between the Central Party and local EDA's by establishing an unbalanced power relationship.

Well, looks like not many of the Membership shared my concerns regarding this series of motions. All were greenlighted by the Membership, with the lowest level of support being 76.6%, which is quite high. Clearly, the will of the Membership is that EDA's be subjected to the will of Central Office. I do not agree with these motions, but the Membership has spoken.

So, what happens now? You'll note that, with the prefacing “c” letter in the motion title, these motions are intended to be amend the Constitution or By-laws. These aren't directive motions (no “d”) or policy motions (which would have a “p”). As Constitutional / By-law motions, one would presume that the motions themselves seek to either amend one of these documents by changing something which is already there, removing something which is currently there, or adding something new.

Unfortunately, not one of these 10 motions actually seek to do that. Nowhere in the text of these motions is it even indicated which of the documents the proposed wording is intended to go into. Is it supposed to be added to the Constitution or one of the By-laws? If a by-law, which one? Is it supposed to be an addition, or is it intended to replace existing wording?

To compare, let's look at the wording for another motion which has received a lot of comment in the blogosphere, that being G10-c29, Federal Council's motion to do away with the 4 year fixed term for our Leader, and replacing it with a “leadership review” process. Here's what that motions says:

BE IT RESOLVED that Bylaw be amended to " Within six months of a Federal General Election, unless the leader becomes prime minister, a Leadership Review, where all Members in good standing may vote, shall be held. The date of the Leadership Review vote will be set by Federal Council and may coincide with a General Meeting. The Leader's term shall end if Members in good standing do not pass a resolution endorsing the Leader by at least 60%.

You'll note that there is reference to where the intended amendment is supposed to be located. In this case, G10-c29 seeks to amend By-law by replacing it in its entirety with the new wording. Seems pretty clear. And from this perspective, G10-c29 is an appropriately worded motion.

Not so for the Benmurgi motions. Without any references to where new wording is intended to go, it's not at all clear now what can be done with these motions.

If you think that this argument is semantic, and full of sour grapes, well, it isn't (well, maybe there are some sour grapes – but they wouldn't be new; I raised this issue earlier in my blog, and on the forums for each of these motions; there hasn't been any response to what I've written publicly about how these motions, in absent of a location in the Constitution or by-laws, are intended to operate). From a semantic point of view, though, there are real issues here.

First of all, if these motions are intended to amend the Constitution, they will need to be ratified through a further mail-in vote by the Membership should the Members present at the BGM approve them. If these are intended to be amendments to a by-law, there isn't any further process for these motions to go through after they are approved at the BGM. Who is going to decide which process (ratification or not?) these motions should be subject to?

Really, this sort of discussion shouldn't be coming up now. It should have been addressed pre-submission by the committee screening the motions. All of these motions should have been returned to the original authors (probably not Ralph, but you know, I don't know who) before being posted for voting. Without operational language, there is actually no way to implement any of these motions!

So, should we go back to the authors now? What's the mechanism for doing so? The motions have been greenlighted by the Membership; clearly, the Membership is satisfied that there wasn't any issue with them, else they would have voted yellow to workshop them, or red to start over (as I did). Maybe there's a chance for the Membership to address this on the floor of the BGM, but really, should the attendees at the BGM be tasked with figuring out the best locations in our Constitution or By-laws for the addition of Membership-greenlighted text?

If the Benmurgi Motions intended to amend our Constitution, might that have impacted the way in which votes were cast? Some of our Members, after all, really believe that the Constitution is sacrosanct. What about if By-laws were intended to be amended? I don't know the answer to these questions. Some would say “likely not”, but what's the proof? Maybe the Membership voted to codify these processes, but given the lack of specific wording about the Constitution and By-laws, they didn't think that maybe either document was actually going to be altered. We can't ever state definitively what it is which motivates a voter to cast their ballot in a particular way.

So, now we're left with interpreting what these motions really intend to do. My interpretation is that they don't really seek to do anything with our Constitution or By-laws, because if they did, they would have explicitly stated so. Yes, they may want to codify procedures, but without including these procedures in one of our governance documents, there isn't any mechanism to actually compel anyone to follow these procedures. We've created a paper tiger at best, an embarrassment at worst. And one which is going to potentially lead to conflict down the road should anyone get the idea that somehow these motions, approved by the Membership, are to be located in our Constitution or By-laws.

And don't even get me started on the fact that there isn't any unit in our Party called a “riding association”!

No, I had suggested before that the Party would be prudent to initiate a dialogue with EDA's regarding some of the very real issues which our Central Party has with a number of EDA's. A dialogue could lead to buy-in by all stakeholders, and ultimately an appropriate set of motions could be presented at the next BGM. Rather a consultative process than pushing a poorly-worded set of motions through without any consultation with EDA's (and which don't actually do anything, because they don't actually amend the Constitution or By-laws).

We may yet have the opportunity for dialogue over the next couple of years, given that these motions don't actually change anything. They are an expression of the Membership's will right now, and nothing more. Without operative mechanisms, they can't compel an EDA to adopt a template Constitution, or provide a mechanism whereby the Central Party can withhold revenue from an EDA under the Revenue Sharing Agreement.

And nevermind the very real issues some EDA's will be facing when told that they must rescind their existing local Constitutions and replace them with a template provided by the Party!
No, the only real accomplishment here is that EDA's and Central Party will have yet more things to be confused about with one another, due to the lack of operative language in the Benmurgi Motions. And further confusion is really something which we should be avoiding at all costs, given that it tends to lead to frustration being experienced by people holding volunteer positions in our Party. More frustration is the last thing any of us need.


Mark Taylor said...

Maybe at the BGM you should make an amendment to the omnibus motion to pull the "Benmergui motions" (noted spelling) out of the omnibus motion. You do clarify that if this a constitutional amendment, it would be useful to identify where the constitution is being amended as well as correcting the language to identify EDAs instead of riding associations.

Anonymous said...

You really need to learn how to write/communicate more concisely. Or hire an editor.