For all the issues around Open Nominations, the idea itself is not a bad one. The idea that candidates should weather a nomination process brings significant advantages. It weeds out those who cannot develop a loyal support base and those who cannot raise the funds needed to run a nomination and, later, an election.
A political party, however, cannot function with full transparency and openness. It' is an organization whose sole function is to build the foundation for the winning of elections. Its job is to find the best candidate for each riding and to build as large a universe of donors and volunteers as it can.
So how do we improve the process for next time?
1. BE MORE HONEST
This is congenitally difficult for politicians and politicos but useful. Just say, out loud for all to hear, that the party wants Open Nominations but reserves the right to appoint or support candidates where it thinks best.
When the party is supporting a candidate, say so. If party members trust the party, this will be an advantage. If it is not an advantage, there are other issues to address.
There are contestants who began their campaign in 2013, with an eye to a nomination meeting in 2014. They worked hard, signing up hundreds or thousands of new Liberals. Imagine the frustration when the party did not call their meeting in 2014, allowing their memberships to expire. Was their a more explicit way for the party to convey its message, "We do not like you. We do not want you as a candidate. We only want you as a donor and a volunteer." If the party does not want a contestant to run but does not red light them, tell them. Don't bring the new members, asking why they have not been asked to vote in over a year, into this.
2. BE MORE TRANSPARENT
I would never suggest to a political party that it be completely transparent. But two small changes would have eliminated almost all the complaints associated with nominations over the last year.
SHOW THE NAMES
Once a contestant is green lit by the party, add them to a public list of candidates. Even now, a person has to do some real searching to determine who is contesting any given riding. This adds to the air of secrecy and distrust. If someone has paid their money and received approval from the party to run, make it easy to find them.
SET A SCHEDULE
So much time and effort has been wasted by candidates because they do not have an end date. Nobody believed that they might be campaigning for a nomination for over a year. Who would? The very idea is idiotic. Inevitably it causes frustration and extends to anger if the party decides to add a preferred candidate to the mix.
It is obvious to all that the party uses the nomination meeting date for its own purposes. It should. It is one of its tools. But it has used it in a clumsy, arrogant manner which has alienated many.
Set the nomination dates for all the ridings in advance. It does not even have to be an exact date, just the month of the meeting. This provides time constraints for contestants, allowing for effective budgeting and resource allocation. This will also engender more trust amongst the membership, many of whom believe that the party's preferred candidates are given inside information.