This is an appealing idea for some obvious reasons and clearly popular among rank and file Liberal party members as a means to weaken the tight grip of the national leadership on the party. I fear this takes the Liberal party toward US style party-primary elections. I have two major problems with this, based on what I've seen watching US politics:
- Small, local elections are the easiest ones to buy or rig. They get almost zero media coverage, and in that environment, sheer name recognition will usually carry the day. Rather than being meaningful representations of true voter desires, the person whose name they recognize from ads or direct mail will usually win.
- The people who win can be widely divergent from the National party's positions, and in particular the Leader's positions. This sounds much better than it works in practice. The US Parties, and the Democratic Party in particular are often incoherent and poorly coordinated affairs. Voters frequently are confused over what the parties stand for, and the reason is at least partly because the Democratic party has elected officials who call themselves "conservative" and others "moderate" and a few that admit to being "liberal." Some are pro-gun control, others against. Some pro-choice, others pro-life. At some point a Big Tent becomes so big as to be just a circus, with the leader reduced to ringleader.
I am all for giving ordinary members stronger input into the party's positions and ideology. Having a set of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson style gadflies who delight in spiting the leadership to side with other parties as splashy shows of independence is not an effective way to do that. Parties need coherence in order to remain meaningful organizations that actually stand for something. Reducing the Liberal Party to a 338 member confederacy may leave it an incoherent mess, and easy prey for the other parties that do not follow suit in immunizing their riding nominees from national control.