Flip-flop and confusion at the Liberal convention

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No explanation was offered Saturday morning when I was kicked out of the Liberal Party convention for the report into the party's finances.

The move came as a surprise; only 12 hours earlier I had been told the session would be open to the media.

I'm still awaiting an explanation from party officials, but the party made a decision and then reversed it within hours. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide why.

Due to the party's reversal in position, inaccurate information appeared in Saturday's paper, so in an effort to correct that, I'm going to try to lay out the timeline of events here.

Going into the weekend's convention, there were three core elements of interest to me as a reporter:

a) The party's much-publicized “renewal committee” would be delivering its final report to the convention, laying out recommendations for how to revitalize the party.

b) The party would be making decisions on constitutional amendments which will shape the leadership selection process for the next year.

c) The party would give an update on its financial situation; the party has been several hundred thousand dollars in debt for years, and it's been a major drag on their ability to organize.

In the lead-up to the convention, I was told two out of those three elements would be closed to the media. The constitutional debate would be open, but both the party finances and renewal committee results would be reported behind closed doors.

It is fairly standard for parties to hold some closed sessions at their annual general meetings. I wasn't surprised that the party wanted to keep their finances private, although I didn't understand why the renewal committee session was closed. The renewal committee was repeatedly publicized over the past six months. The process was launched with a flashy news conference at the Delta Hotel in St John's; I've written half a dozen stories about it. It didn't make a ton of sense to me to close that session, but the Liberal Party executive is entitled to make whatever decisions it wants.

I mentioned to a few people that despite the closed sessions, I still planned on talking to as many people who were in the sessions as possible, and I still planned on doing my best to write about it.

On Friday afternoon, I mentioned in passing to somebody that I had written a general story about the Liberal convention for Saturday's paper, and in that story, I said that the treasurer's report and renewal committee report sessions were closed.

It is worth noting that both the PC Party and the NDP made their financial statements available to the media during their respective conventions in the past month.

A few hours after arriving in Gander for the convention, I was told there had been a meeting of the party's executive in which they decided to open up both the session on party finances and the session on the renewal committee report. It was late in the afternoon, so I had to scramble a little bit to remove a few sentences for my Saturday story. The modified story was written in such a way that it left the impression that the sessions were open.

Privately, I was told by a senior party member in passing that the decision to open up the session was made in part in response to the government's Bill 29 amendments to the access to information legislation. I was told the party didn't want to be accused of being secretive after it spent all spring railing against the government for being secretive and restricting access to information.

Saturday morning, without any warning, I was kicked out of the room at the beginning of the treaurer's report. It was a bit confusing, since 12 hour earlier, I was told the party had specifically decided to allow the media in. I was informed that hours after that decision had been made, at around 11 p.m., the party held another board meeting to close the session again. Even if the board had informed me of their decision immediately, the change was made after the Saturday story went to press.

I have not yet received an explanation for why the party board changed its mind and then hours later changed it back. If I get an explanation from party officials, I'll post it here. I'll still be doing my best to get to the bottom of the party's financial situation, and the report of the party's renewal committee for Monday's paper.  

UPDATE: 

I did a lengthy interview with Liberal Party president Judy Morrow on this whole situation. She characterized it as a “miscommunication.” It seems like there was a Liberal executive board meeting Friday afternoon, where they were pressed for time, and made a rushed decision, which was quickly passed along to me.

“There was a miscommunication, yes. It was communicated too soon and there was a miscommunication, or a misunderstanding or what have you,” Morrow said.

Later in the evening, people had some more time to think about it, and decided that maybe they'd made a mistake so they all got together again, along with the convention co-chairs, and they reversed the decision.

Morrow said, “I'm not going to say there was a mix-up. What I'm going to say is we had debated at the board level, and there were varying views, as there should be in an open and democratic party, as to which which sessions should be open and which sessions should be closed. (Friday) night upon reflection, we pulled together the board meeting and met with our co-chairs and it was determined that the three sessions that were closed would remain closed.”

It also seems there was an element to this that the “renewal committee” pushed to have their presentation closed to the media.

“The renewal group felt strongly there was an election readiness component to the report and recommendations. So what's going to happen now is they are going to table that and we're going to do a full-blown meeting with the board and caucus and they are going to give a far more detailed report and recommendation than they gave this morning in the one our, and we're going to turn that into action items, and the board is going to decide then if we're going to put it on our website or issue a release or make the report public and go from there.”

Anyway, that's about all there is to it. Just as a teaser for Monday's paper, I had an exclusive interview with Liberal Party treasurer John Hogan, who gave me an update on the state of the party's finances, and the plan to deal with the party's debt. These days, they currently owe a little bit less than $800,000, but there'll be a lot more detail than that in Monday's paper.

 

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Recent comments

  • james look what you done now
    November 21, 2012 - 10:24

    James; your crack reporting caused the liberal god send to quit the party; poor old dean macdonald wanted to run the liberal executive like a board of his directors; oh dear what now for liberal party; only for this great reporting; we would never know the liberal party is a secret society; all sessions closed to media; imagine what they would be like if they were in government; what a scarey thought; with kevlin parsons and roger grimes and brian tobin pulling strings from back rooms; the horror; the shame

  • Fed Up
    November 08, 2012 - 12:58

    Why does a party that is in dire financial straights waive convention delegate fees for some of the higher ups and staff in the Liberal party office? There's plenty of secrets that should be made public to the paying delegates to the convention.

  • Duggan
    November 07, 2012 - 12:04

    The problem is there is no central authority or discipline in the Liberal party. various people are parading around like they own the party, making statements and decisions without any consultation internally. Without unity and a single direction, the thing spirals into chaos. Mr. McLeod's experience last weekend is proof of that.

  • McManus
    November 06, 2012 - 12:41

    The embarrassing bit was notifying the media they were allowed to be present for some sessions and then telling the media they could not attend those sessions. The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing in the Liberal Party. Their Renewal plan is all about better communications and then they mis-communicate to the media as a first act in their renewal is almost laughable only it is so pathetic.

  • Ben
    November 06, 2012 - 09:28

    And they say the existing government is secretive with Bill 29! Well if the Liberals are this secretive now imagine what they would be like if they were governement. As well they can barely manage to pay the interest on their loan...imagine if they were running the provinces finances(scary thought). Somebody mentioned the staff in their office too...need to get some competent people in there. Most of them are friends brought in by Yvonne when she was leader. The 'back room' boys got rid of Yvonne as leader, maybe they should have cleaned house in the office too.

  • Matthew
    November 06, 2012 - 09:04

    A farce, no doubt about it. When you have third rate people like Coady and Aylward leading a renewal exercise you know they have problems. Look at their Liberal party staff and Opposition office staff - all friends of Coady or MHA's, not a real brain in the bunch. There are twns of thousands of Liberals who don't show up to vote anymore. This weekend's annual meeting is living proof why.

  • Just Saying
    November 05, 2012 - 21:03

    Read between the lines. Dean MacDonald didn't want the renewal tour report to be an open session. The board gave in and closed it. That's the simple explanation to this whole mess.

  • Political Watcher
    November 05, 2012 - 14:35

    Renewal tour? The more things change the more they remain the same.......

  • HA HA HA cant shoot straight gang
    November 05, 2012 - 12:15

    and this bunch wants people to vote for it in 2015; the renewal committee; didnt want media present; and i guess finance committee didnt want media present; Liberals; what a joke; really; what's the secret with finances; they owe over $800,000 bucks; they cant look after their own finances but they criticize and complain about PC's cutting debt load left from Liberals by 4 BILLION dollars; Grimes/Tobin/Wells went it with deb of 6 BILLION and left with debt of 12 BILLION in just 13 years; PCs cut it from 12 BILLION to 8 BILLION in just 6 years; the renewal committee bluff group of Macdonald; Coady and is it boy wonder Alyward; GOT nothing to report; nobody showed up for the renewal meetings anywhere; not even in corner brook; when just 12 old timers from back in clyde wells days; wiped the rust off their walkers and went to Greewood Inn; what a joke; looks good on Liberals; if they want couple hundred thousand ask Tobin; and Grimes and especially CLYDE WELLS; who had his salary boosted by general funds of liberal party according to Claire Hoy's book to give back a few hundred thousand; they cant sink low enough in polls for me; go NDP go; more than 54,000 voted NDP in 2011 election; only 42,000 voted LIBERAL; worst showing in history of provincial elections for them; worst that 2003; and they deserved it; done nothing to get ready for 2011 election; and doing nothing again to get ready for 2015 election; or reduce their party debt; least PCs were fighting and scravelling with fight in them back in 1990's; this crowd liberals waiting to get back in government with divine right; hopefully they got another 20 years of waiting; but with NDP coming on strong; they wait way never end until 40 years thought they didnt like BILL 29; funny for bunch who never approved freedom info act; let it lie dormant; under Tobin/Grimes;they seem to be hypocrites

  • Scosha Diamond
    November 04, 2012 - 14:36

    Great article, look forward to reading the full piece. There is a lack of communication, and finance –which has been addressed by supporters and the criticism accepted by the MHA’s. I did not get a feel for the executive, as there are 3 new members after this weekend’s AGM. I do, however, have complete faith that the leaders and supporters posse the skills to make the necessary change –with that said I hope that this change is enough to reach all people whom have loss faith for our system. After this weekend, I discovered there is a lot of work and brainstorming to be done. I am excited to start working and including my thoughts with the party to provide new energy and ideas, this excites me for the future. I encourage anyone and everyone to get involved, sitting around your kitchen table bickering back and forward will not help will the change one wants to see – one has to jump in and put forth their thoughts. "You must be the change you want to see in the world." ~ Mahatma Gundi ~

  • Cyril Rogers
    November 04, 2012 - 11:12

    Just one more reason I am concerned about the future of the Liberal Party. I was a supporter at one time but almost every decision they take nowadays goes against the grain for me. What they don't need is more secrecy surrounding their debts. Get it out in the open! Let people know and maybe, just maybe, people would support efforts to clear that debt up!

  • Ed Hollett
    November 03, 2012 - 15:36

    So after all that, and an interview with Judy Morrow, it still isn't any clearer.