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On February 12, provincial Liberal constituency association delegates will vote on whether to change the party's leadership selection process to one that gives more of a say to rural ridings. But, like former energy minister Bill Bennett, leadership candidate George Abbott is worried rural delegates might not be able to participate in that vote - which is scheduled to take place at a party convention in Vancouver. In an open letter sent today to Liberal president Mickey Patryluk, Mr. Abbott wrote there are "grave concerns" this "model significantly disadvantaging ridings outside of the Lower Mainland due to the costs, time, and seasonal risk associated with delegate travel."

As a result, the candidate stated he was, "very concerned to learn" the party's executive doesn't intended to change that model - urging them to "immediately review and give serious reconsideration to their current position, and endorse and implement an alternative voting approach."

The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned letter. Mr. Abbott is seen as the principal beneficiary of a change to the Liberals' present one-member, one-vote system.

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December 13, 2010

Mickey Patryluk
President, BC Liberal Party
PO Box 21014, Waterfront Centre
Vancouver, BC V6C 3K3

Dear Mickey,

I am writing today to lend my support to the growing number of MLAs, riding presidents, and BC Liberal Party members who are expressing concern about the current approach to extraordinary constitutional convention being held on February 12, 2011. As you well know, the most important item of business at this extraordinary convention is a vote on a constitutional change allowing for the adoption of a riding-weighted voting model to be used in the upcoming leadership selection vote.

This new weighted model has been endorsed by the Party Executive, and has been supported by every current candidate seeking the leadership, because it is seen as the best way to ensure fair and balanced regional representation in selecting a leader.

I believe this constitutional vote on how we select our leader to be just as important as the leadership selection vote itself when it comes to pursuing the democratic renewal and rejuvenation of our Party.

Therefore, like many other MLAs and riding presidents, I was very concerned to learn during Saturday's meeting of the Provincial Council that it was the position of the Party Executive that the constitutional vote itself may be conducted under status quo practices, whereby ridings would have to send voting delegates to physically cast their votes at a singular convention location in Vancouver.

Several members stood up on Saturday and voiced their grave concerns about this model significantly disadvantaging ridings outside of the Lower Mainland due to the costs, time, and seasonal risk associated with delegate travel.

I am writing today to say that I wholly support these concerns raised by fellow colleagues and members.

The decision to proceed with the status quo approach will result in a number of ridings and delegates being inadvertently excluded from exercising their democratic rights in the Party - a scenario that is completely unnecessary when 21st century technologies clearly offer valid and legitimate mechanisms to conduct such votes from remote locations. As a Party, we cannot afford to have a single party member feel like they cannot be part of decision-making. To accept a status quo approach that even unintentionally restricts any riding from participating in a fundamental constitutional vote is simply wrong, and it is a step backwards for our Party at a time when we need to move forwards.

Therefore, I am urgently requesting that the Party Executive immediately review and give serious reconsideration to their current position, and endorse and implement an alternative voting approach that can be utilized on February 12.

I have no doubt that a reasonable accommodation for our rural and regional delegates can be achieved that will remain consistent with our obligations under the Party constitution. In closing, let me just that I believe February 12th and February 26th will be two of the most important days in our party's history.

They will be days that we, as a party, stand up and say that we value every riding and every region of this province and that everyone in our party deserves an equal voice. We have the opportunity to see our members and our Party through these historic times with the utmost integrity and inclusiveness.

Thank you,

George Abbott
MLA, Shuswap and Candidate for Leader of the BC Liberal Party

CC: BC Liberal Party Executive

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