The two proposals had been hotly contested within the party, which is attempting to find a new direction and policies that will resonate with Canadians and help pull it back from the brink.
The night before, delegates at the party’s biennial convention in Ottawa voted to open the party to outsiders by creating a new, free category of membership. They are hoping the change will revolutionize the way politics is done in Canada and help the party rebuild. On Sunday, a U.S.-style process of choosing the party’s leaders through a primary voting system was also narrowly rejected.
But for a while on Sunday morning, it looked like the hundreds of Liberal delegates gathered in a convention hall only blocks from Parliament Hill were opposed to any controversial policy proposals.
Of the more than 1,200 delegates who voted on whether severing ties with the monarchy should become party policy, 67 per cent were opposed.
Prior to the vote, some Liberals had described the idea as the type of bold policy idea that Canadians — and party members — were looking for.
“Last night, our party chose to adopt a more open process to select our leader,” said delegate Sean Sutherland. “It’s time that we had a discussion about doing the same with our head of state.”
Others reminded delegates of the role the Liberal party played in repatriating the Constitution and creating the Maple Leaf.
Those opposed, however, worried about creating a republic with the head of state beholden to politics as well as the impact on Aboriginals given that treaties are with the Crown.
“We need to tread very carefully before we make this decision,” said Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett.
Debate over whether to legalize marijuana was equally contentious, though 77 per cent of delegates voted in favour of legalization.
Samuel Lavoie, president of the Young Liberals of Canada, which proposed both motions, said he was excited to see the “overwhelming” support from members to legalize marijuana, but isn’t certain whether it will get into the party’s federal election platform.
“There is no doubt that there’s a strong will from the membership to have this part of our election platform,” Lavoie said. “As to whether it will be a platform commitment in 2015, we will see.”
Delegates also supported changing the way Canadians elect their federal representatives, with voters ranking candidates in order of preference.
None of the proposals have to be adopted as official party policy as Liberals agreed Saturday night to let the party’s leader keep his or her veto power over the election platform.
Lavoie said he recognized the federal leader could still keep the marijuana resolution from being included in the platform and that some members have concerns with it, but hoped the party will follow the will of the members.
“The next election is four years down the road, so there’s lot of room for debate,” he said. “It will be difficult for anyone to just ignore the result and the will of the membership.”
An attempt to adopt a U.S.-style process of choosing the party’s leaders was also narrowly rejected on Sunday.
The primary system proposal would have had leadership candidates elected on a staggered province-by-province, region-by-region campaign spread out over several days or weeks to generate interest and ensure Liberals in all parts of the country get a say.
Delegates worried such a selection process would be extremely divisive and see candidates rip each other apart, much like Republicans are turning on each other in an effort to secure the presidential nomination.
Liberals vote to retain ties to monarchy, legalize marijuana