The Hijackers’ Guide to the Liberal Party of Canada is a document written by Jeff Rybak – a member – to encourage grassroots participation in the Liberal Party at any level. This is not an official document of the Liberal Party of Canada. Translation services were volunteered to Jeff Rybak by Alexandra Mendes. If you or your riding association would like to submit a guide, please complete this form. All entries must be reviewed before they can be posted. Entries that are posted to the website will be be posted in the language of the author.
“1.c. To seize control of (a moving vehicle) by use of force, esp. to reach an alternate destination.”
- Nelson Canadian Dictionary of the English Language
At the Liberal convention of 2012 quite a lot of things changed. Notably, the party moved in several ways to take power out of the hands of the relatively small number of members who have become used to controlling the destiny of the party, and place it in the hands of the much wider group of people who vote for and support the Liberal Party.
There was a lot of discussion about this shift in power. Some members expressed fear that their party might be hijacked. Others dismissed this fear. But in my opinion the true debate wasn’t about whether or not these changes made it easier for someone to hijack the party. The debate was about whether or not it would be a good thing to see the party hijacked.
Any political party is a vehicle. It’s a vehicle for social and democratic action. And when people compete for control of this vehicle as they inevitably do, they use force. Debate, persuasion, collective action – these are all types of force. And when you use this force to take the Liberal Party to an alternative destination you are most certainly hijacking it. It’s been hijacked in the past and it will be hijacked in the future. Most observers simply call this democracy.
YOU WILL NEED
To participate in hijacking the Liberal Party of Canada you will need the following:
- Ten dollars
- This guide (helpful but optional)
- Access to the Internet (not really optional any more)
- Some free time
WHY US; WHY NOW; WHY IT MATTERS
The Liberal Party is at a crossroads. Faced with the obvious failure of our old habits, resistance to change is at an all time low. There are few enough people standing in the way of change (they couldn’t stop it at the convention) and many of the folks at the top have realized how badly we need it.
I won’t tell you where you should take this party or what you should do with it. That defeats the point of the hijacking. But I will tell you why we need the Liberal Party. Every other party in Canada is based on the theory that a small number of people can figure out what’s right for the nation and then their job is to convince voters that they know best. Conservatives, the NDP, even the Green Party and the Bloc are constantly trying to change your mind so that you’ll agree with their goals.
The Liberal Party of Canada is the only party that believes in the decency and good sense of ordinary Canadians. It’s the only party that tries, as its primary objective, to give Canadians what they want from a government rather than convince them of what they should want. That doesn’t mean it deserves to govern all the time. But when the Liberal Party gets it right it tends to produce good government because Canadians, on the whole, are good people. If we lose this option from the political landscape we are going to be in very bad shape – caught permanently between extreme views trying to sell us on their policies rather than simply listening to us.
The Liberal Party is the only party in Canada that can afford to let itself be hijacked. It needs to be hijacked. The old hijackers got a bit tired and complacent and they lost their way. Now it’s our turn, if you’re up for the challenge.
HOW IT WORKS
The Liberal Party seems daunting from a distance, but it’s really just a collection of smaller units. You start by hijacking your local bit of the party, and then you can move on from there.
Canada has 308 Electoral Districts, sometimes called Ridings. Each one elects a Member of Parliament and so political parties also organize in this way, running a smaller operation in each Electoral District. The Liberal Party calls these Electoral District Associations or EDAs.
When you join the Liberal Party of Canada and pay your ten dollars (hijacking ain’t free – even a ski mask costs money) you’ll also be joining your EDA. And that’s where the work starts.
LEARN ABOUT YOUR EDA
Every good hijacking begins with a bit of research. Fortunately, we have the Internet.
To determine which EDA you are in, start here at Elections Canada. That will give you the name of the district. You can also look it up here on the main Liberal site. Now Google it. You’ll get the names of past and present politicians, elections results, maybe some issues that affect things where you live. Wikipedia is great for information about Electoral Districts. Use that too. Now you know about the district. Next you want to find out about Liberal activity there.
EDAs are organized by a wing of the Liberal Party of Canada in each province. To learn about yours, start on the main Liberal page and scroll over the “Liberal Party” tab. Select your province. Each site, unfortunately, is organized differently. You want to look for a listing of EDAs and find the one you’re in. You may get a link to a website, or an e-mail address, or maybe just a name and a phone number of the President there. If there’s a website you should probably browse it. Take note of whether or not it’s been updated this year. Now you’ve probably got as much as you can get, prior to making contact.
TEST YOUR EDA
Before you can hijack your EDA you need to know what kind of shape it’s in. Some are highly organized and include a lot of members. Some are limping along with few members and not a lot of energy. Some are downright broken. The way you’ll want to go about hijacking the EDA depends heavily on the shape it’s in. And your first test will be seeing if they can respond to a new member who wants to participate.
Get in touch with your EDA through whatever means you’ve found. Phone, email, whatever. Tell them you’re a new Liberal. Tell them you want to be involved. Tell them you want to come to the next event. Tell them you’d like to attend the next executive meeting as an observer.
A functional EDA will respond promptly and positively. You’ll be welcomed to the fold. An active EDA will have at least some event in the future that you can attend, even if the date is a bit uncertain. If the EDA doesn’t reply, however, then we know there’s a problem. If they reply only in terms that acknowledge your membership but not your desire to participate, or if they seem to discourage it, then we have a serious problem indeed.
HIJACKING A STRONG AND ACTIVE EDA
The most important thing to realize when it comes to hijacking a functional EDA with a lot of participation is that the last hijacking is clearly still underway. If they invite you with open arms and encourage your participation and your contributions, that means you’ve managed to hook up with hijackers more organized than yourself. That’s a good thing. Successful hijacking is a group activity, and it’s much easier to join people who are already doing it together.
The other great thing about hijackers is that they tend to be a pretty open-minded bunch who appreciate good ideas and initiative. So don’t be shy. Pitch right in and see what happens next. I’m willing to bet you’ll be in charge of something pretty soon. Then when you can truthfully claim to have a hand in the hijacking that’s underway, even though it was happening before you arrived, you can rightfully say you’ve hijacked the party. Congratulations!
HIJACKING A WEAK EDA
Many EDAs suffer from low participation and a lack of energy. They may have been hijacked at one point in the past, but since then the hijackers have before tired and discouraged and they may have forgotten where they intended to take the party once they had control of it.
If you find it’s difficult to get a reply from the EDA or to find any information about events or ways to participate it could mean they don’t want you (see below) or it could simply mean their energy level is so low that they’re falling apart. Messages get lost, websites aren’t updated, and the President isn’t a bad sort at all (maybe a more enthusiastic hijacker back in the day) it’s just that she or he is one of the last folks standing and has too much to do and not enough will to do it.
This is a great opportunity for you to assume control of the hijacking immediately. Keep leaving those messages until someone answers. If you’re stuck contact the Provincial wing of the party and ask for a new way to reach someone. Then when you do finally get through to whoever is nominally in charge, point out the obvious problems. Be kind about it. No one likes a meanie. Offer to help. Maybe take over whatever it is that isn’t working well. Is the website old? Offer to update it. E-mail not getting answered? Offer to take that over too. No one’s hosted a meeting in ages? Well, it could be at your place.
This is a lot of work, naturally. You don’t have to do it alone. In fact, it’s best not to try. That’s how hijackers become tired and discouraged. What you want to do is involve as many people as possible and invite them to participate in your hijacking. Hit up friends, family, and like-minded sorts. Use the Internet again to Google the name of your electoral district and “Liberal” together. See what names pop up. Drop them a message. Invite them to a meeting. See if they want to help.
Weak EDAs don’t need to stay weak. It’s just that sometimes they fall below the level of energy needed to take in new participants. Don’t be afraid of seeming pushy. You’re a hijacker, after all. You don’t need to ask to be part of the Liberal Party if you want to be, and you sure don’t need to beg. If the folks at the helm don’t have the drive anymore then it’s time they should hand it to someone who does. Be that person. And then share it with a whole lot of other people. Congratulations! You’ve hijacked the Liberal Party.
HIJACKING A DYSFUNCTIONAL EDA
There’s only one way an EDA can become truly dysfunctional. One that’s short on participation can become stalled, broken down, or even disappear entirely. But that’s just extreme weakness. See above. It’s only when an EDA doesn’t want you because you don’t fit their idea of what a Liberal should be that we have true dysfunction. Now buckle up, because you’re in for a bumpy hijacking.
First, you should remember that no one in the EDA can stop you from becoming a member of the party. You did that already, right? If not go online and do it there. No one can prevent it.
Second, you should know that control of the EDA rests, ultimately, in the hands of members who vote in their executive. It’s just like any other election that way. Whoever can muster the most support wins.
Third, you should realize that whatever the local folks who are running the EDA might think, the larger and wider Liberal Party wants and needs your participation. And if you want to change things at the local level, you’ll find support.
Contact the provincial wing of the party to express your concerns. Ask if there’s someone who can advise you. Network with local Liberals and ask if there’s anyone with experience who can help. Create more local Liberals to back you up. Remember that anyone who lives in that district (from the age of 14 up!) with ten dollars to spare is a potential voting member of the EDA.
Dysfunctional EDAs that don’t want to include new people have a critical vulnerability. They don’t want to include new people. And you’re playing a game where whoever shows up with the most people wins. So learn from that mistake. Invite anyone and everyone to participate in your hijacking. Sign them all up. Find someone in your group who is willing to read and interpret some legalistic stuff (constitution and by-laws) and figure out what you’re going to have to do to put things to a vote. Because you’re going to win.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully hijacked the Liberal Party of Canada.
There are many strong and active EDAs but there isn’t a one of them that’s strong enough. Anyone there with a bit of sense knows they want more people and the door is always open. Or it certainly should be.
Weaker EDAs are a real problem for the party, especially in areas where it’s tough to be a Liberal. But don’t confuse weakness or lack of resources with bad intentions. When you give people a fair chance they’ll usually come through. Sometimes they just need a poke or a reminder about why they joined the party in the first place. If you find the door closed, knock loudly.
Very few EDAs are dysfunctional in the sense described. I’ve addressed the topic for completeness’ sake. I want to illustrate that it’s always possible take control of the party, even against opposition, and to dispel the common notion that those already in positions of authority have the right or even the ability to control who joins or what happens next. When they won’t open the door, the Liberal party gives you the power and the right to show up with friends and to kick it down.
Just remember one thing. Whether you find the door open or whether you need to knock hard or whether you kick the door down on your way into the party, be sure to hold it open for the people coming behind you. You will not always agree with other Liberals. You may even not like their ideas and beliefs. But as long as we can all agree on including as many people as possible, rather than running our party as a closed shop, that’s enough to keep the conversation going.
This guide has been tongue in cheek but it’s sincerely intentioned. It started with the flow chart and then when someone said they were actually using it (and successfully so!) I decided to refine the project with more information.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading The Hijackers’ Guide to the Liberal Party of Canada as much as I enjoyed writing it. You may use this document as open source and distribute it freely.
To quote Bob Rae, “go forth from this place, and for heaven’s sake, multiply.” And hijack.