Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Conventions Matter

By: Melissa Lantsman

Political Convention [puh-lit-i-kuh l kuh n-ven-shuh n]  noun

  1. A meeting or formal assembly of delegates for discussion on particular matters of common concern related to a political party.
  2. A weekend of drinking in a Canadian city (and if you’re a conservative) that is not Toronto with old friends who believe generally in lower taxes and are passionate about an issue you’ve never heard of.

The biggest challenge any organization (in this case a political party) faces is when its most passionate advocates become quiet.

Any way you look at it, a convention is where a party is unified and energized – and is fundamental to setting direction. It’s where party faithful spend a couple days telling its leadership where to go and how to get there.

Conventions are where political parties develop their value proposition. In some cases, it’s a test for party leaders to ensure they have the confidence of grassroots supporters, it’s where its executive lay leadership is elected and it is always a place where the next party leader is discussed even if there is no formal race at that time. Always.

This year is special for the upcoming Conservative Convention in May. First, I’ll be there. Second, it’s in Vancouver which will afford you an additional three hours of drin…conventioning when coming from Toronto. And most importantly, it’s a crucial time for the Conservative Party of Canada – after a crushing defeat in the last election where Canadians soundly rejected a more conservative policy direction (arguable, but let’s placate here for a moment) – the Conservative Party needs to have a tough and candid conversation about what went wrong and how they’re (we’re) going to fix it.

The Party will elect a new leader next year – but I suspect there may even be one or two conversations at the convention about that. The next campaign will be two years after that – and if you don’t think that’s a long time – you’re probably living in a world outside politics, because in politics – it is an eternity.

In short, this is a policy convention, where many resolutions – some more welcomed than others will be vigorously debated on the convention floor. It will be one of the most watched in our party’s history. Some of those resolutions will be really interesting, some very procedural and some very boring for spectators of this sport (that is the standard disclaimer in case you are disappointed).

Here’s the important part: as a young person involved in politics, conventions are an opportunity to shape our future with much more than a vote in a general election. They are an opportunity to bring forward the issues that matter most, enshrine them in our party’s constitution and make them party policy. With that we hold our leader to account to espouse the direction the party sets.

Melissa Lantsman was part of CJPAC’s first cohort of Fellows. She is a recovering political staffer working and living in Toronto.