It’s getting pretty obvious now that Frank De Jong, the long time leader of the Green Party of Ontario is thinking about the Leadership slot in the Green Party of Canada. According to Chris Tindal, Frank announced his intention not to run for the GPO leadership again, so there will be a leadership vote at the GPO convention in London in November of 2009. That’s interesting enough in and of itself, but to cap it all, Frank went on to say, in French, that he would like to be the Leader of the GPC. Sure he backpedalled a little, mouthing that the doesn’t want to take on Elizabeth May, and only if the job is open, blah blah blah. It all adds up to: Frank wants the top job, and he’s got the French that is a pre-requisite.
This is an interesting development, for a whole bunch of reasons. In the
couple of months after Elizabeth May won the leadership race against David Chernushenko, she systematically replaced staffers and functionaries with her own loyalists from the Sierra club. She didn’t reach out to her defeated opponent, and as a result of these actions, there was a large out-flux of relatively skilled and experienced Green Party of Canada volunteers. The main beneficiaries of this were the Green Party of Ontario, and the Liberal Party where they were more than welcome. Since then we’ve been in the peculiar position of having the Provincial Party being run more effectively than the federal party, despite
the fact that the GPO budget is less than 10% of the federal Party.
The Green Party of Ontario has a much smaller membership base in Ontario than the GPC, but it can safely be assumed that Frank De Jong will retain the loyalty of the majority of the Provincial Party membership. This will be especially true with a Provincial leadership run going all out, as no-one will want to cross Frank under that scenario. In addition, the GPO Leadership bid will take all of those skilled, and hard working GPO types, and train them intensively in contested leadership battles. That is very important, because Frank will need to be recruiting a lot of new members to launch a successful challenge, and will need people around him who know how to recruit and organise.
The timing is very relevant indeed. Frank needed to make his intentions clear right now because he is certain that there are a lot of activists and organizers in Ontario that will be looking for a leadership candidate to replace Elizabeth May. It’s not only Ontario, Alberta is lock stock and barrel opposed to Elizabeth, and that Province is potentially extremely rich hunting grounds for a bluegreen candidate. British Columbia is pretty ripe as well, and although Adrian Carr is one of the most competent Elizabeth May supporters in Canada, her own influence in BC has declined over the past two years. Frank is probably counting on his early ‘declaration’ to scare off any local contenders from these arenas.
So what are Franks’ odds? I’d have to say that at this moment, they look pretty good. Elizabeth May has enormous name recognition, and the fact is that a large chunk of the existing membership was attracted to HER green party. It is still potential, not on-the-ground facts, but Frank can draw on Alberta and Ontario to win over a strong minority of existing members. British Columbia will be more of an even battle, but there will be a good response to Frank out there. The Maritime, for what it’s worth has been pretty thoroughly coddled by Elizabeth, but there are so few members that I question the value of this. Provided Frank starts organizing immediately, his team can start recruiting new members, and setting up the national infrastructure that will be needed to win in this battle.
There is of course the ten ton elephant in the room, that being the next Federal election. Much will depend upon how well Elizabeth performs in her next outing to the polls. If Elizabeth wins a By-Election, or wins a seat in the intervening general election, then all bets are off. No-one will be too keen on dumping the leader if she makes history by being the first federally elected Green in Canada. Conversely, if she fails to win a seat, then the knives will come out for sure. In that scenario, Greens will likely decide that they need to renew the Party infrastructure, and that Team Elizabeth is not up to the job. It will be very hard for Elizabeth May to spin anything less than a seat in Parliament into a victory, and she will lose most of the Party establishment that she hasn’t yet alienated.
Then there’s the question of the actual Leadership campaign team. Who is there available to Elizabeth to manage her re-election? Sharon Labchuk again? No offense to Sharon, but she cannot run a campaign. She doesn’t have the basic skills required. Her team has proved itself unable to recruit large numbers of members during their tenure in charge of the GPC, so why should we think they could do any better during a leadership run? Adrian Carr? Genest in Quebec? Adrian is the obvious choice, but Quebec is a complete write-off for Elizabeth so long as Genest wears the deputy leaders crown.
Whatever way it shakes out, I am really looking forward to a good race. Since the only way to unseat Elizabeth is to out recruit her, I expect that there will be a lot of new members recruited. In all probability, Alberta and Ontario memberships will be revitalised, and drawn back into the Party. This has to be a good thing, and provided Elizabeth doesn’t crap all over her opponents, and actually makes an effort to engage and reconcile in the event of a victory, then these Provinces can contribute loads of talent and skilled partisans for the GPC ongoing. Whichever way it goes, I encourage every one of my readers to renew their memberships, and get involved in the upcoming race. Just please, please, keep your’ cool, and don’t get caught up in mud-slinging like the contestants in the last race. Never forget that today’s opponent is tomorrows ally. Elizabeth’s current predicament is a direct result of castigating her opponent, and if you don’t learn from past mistakes, you will be doomed to repeat them.