This is a question that I have grappled with personally as someone who has always been a liberal but not a member of the Liberal Party, and as someone who has (successfully) encouraged others to become members as well.
In a country where only 1-2% of the voting population is a registered member of a political party, it is clear that partisan activists in all parties are failing to make a strong case for taking out a membership. With voter turnout reaching historic lows in recent elections, citizens seem less interested in the political process let alone the actors within it. So, in a world were involvement is in decline and partisan support is on an even steeper slope downward, why should someone become a member of the Liberal Party of Canada?
Why I became officially Liberal
I can’t speak to how to get others engaged officially in the party who are liberals but not Liberals. I also can’t speak to how to get people who aren’t very interested in politics to recognize if they are liberals in the first place or to then become officially Liberal.
What I can speak to is why I became a member. I have held liberal views all my life, protested against Mike Harris as a child, and voted liberal in every federal and provincial election I was eligible to cast a ballot in. But it was not until 2009 federally and 2011 provincially that I first became an official member of the Liberal Party.
I have always had some philosophical reservations with political parties of all stripes as well as aligning myself with one no matter how it conducts itself, as happens when holding a membership. But in 2009, I began to feel my reservations were less important than ensuring the liberal values I hold are translated into government. The NDP would not ensure that and neither would the Conservatives.
But the easy alignment of the Liberal Party with my personal values is not why I became an official member. By becoming a member of the Liberal Party, I became able to help facilitate the possibility of the liberalization of our government. That possibility can only occur under a government led by the Liberal Party, elected by the support of its members. Members like me.
As a member, I am able to access professional resources, the professionals behind them, and apply tools and knowledge gained within the party to campaigns to elect Liberals locally. This access, my use of these tools, and the use of these tools by other local Liberals, help make our local liberalism a reality in our parliamentary representation.
For me, being an official member is to be an active citizen. I don’t believe that’s the only way to be active in citizenship, but I feel it is the easiest route to affecting change that makes our democracy and our society more liberal.
I became a member of the Liberal Party because my small, individual efforts are amplified when carried out in concert with other similarly minded citizens. I have chosen to make the Liberal Party headquarters to the pursuit of my convictions because it is already home to my core personal beliefs.