New Brunswick's Liberal Party must clearly articulate its core values if it hopes to rebuild after a disastrous showing in the 2010 provincial election, according to an internal renewal document.
The party's renewal commission released its preliminary report on Thursday morning that offered broad suggestions on a number of issues such as: accountability, leadership, communications and the party's values.
The renewal commission said many Liberals came forward to say that the party's core values had become "muddied."
The commission pointed to the former Shawn Graham government's tax cut agenda and poverty-reduction strategy as evidence that the party's philosophy did not seem consistent.
"Many members would like to see a Liberal Party with a well-defined set of values that set the basis for future policy decisions, and that members could feel pride and excitement over. It was hoped that a defined set of values would help solidify and grow the party membership," the document said.
The renewal process was started after the Liberals became the first New Brunswick government to be ousted after only one term. Only 13 Liberal MLAs were returned to the 55-seat legislature in the election.
The Liberals are also regrouping after the party was hit hard in the federal election on Monday. The party saw lost two seats and now has only one in New Brunswick.
As well, the Liberals finished third behind the Conservatives and NDP in seven ridings.
Kim Rayworth, the renewal commission's chairperson, the party's poor showing in the federal election should not hurt the provincial party's rebuilding.
"I don't think it's hampered. I think we have the attention of our membership," Rayworth said.
"I think there's still a lot of passionate and committed people that want to continue to work for this party."
The commission's full report with its final recommendations should be finalized in the summer.
2011 leadership convention 'too soon'
Shediac-Cap-Pelé MLA Victor Boudreau is the party's interim leader as the party completes the renewal process and then embarks on a leadership convention.
The report said a "significant majority" of those consulted in the renewal process believe holding a leadership convention in 2011 "would be too soon."
Rayworth said Liberal party members made it clear that getting a new leader for the party can wait.
"The exercise of undertaking a leadership convention was not a burning priority," Rayworth said.
"For the most part, people were really desirous that we would spend the time looking at renewing the party and making it more relevant to members and all New Brunswickers."
The party also has to decide whether it wants to push forward with another leadership convention where members elect delegates who then select a leader or whether the party will turn to a one-member-one-vote system.
The old delegate-based model was an issue of concern among some party members and some viewed it as "not as fully democratic as some version of one-member-one-vote."
In the end, the commission did not recommend a particular method to elect a new leader.
Another problem cited by the renewal commission was the party's inability to properly communicate both internally with its members and externally to the general public.
The sharpest criticism came during the former Liberal government failed attempt to sell NB Power. The Graham government also faced a severe public backlash over reforms to the French immersion program and the post-secondary education system.
"It was argued in several meetings that the previous government failed to adequately prepare the terrain for major policy announcements," the document said.
"The general public, many contended, were not properly informed of the problems that these policy proposals were intended to fix. Members did not expect to be informed of announcements prior to the general public but did feel the party could do a better job of explaining why certain policy decisions were taken and how they promoted Liberal values."
There were other concerns raised by Liberal members that the party needed to find new ways to reach out to people and engage them on important issues.
The document acknowledges the days of significant partisan involvement have passed and said the party must realize it can no longer simply hold political meetings.Liberal Renewal Document