The questions, and issues facing the Green Party of Canada at this summer’s convention are actually pretty simple. It is not a popularity contest, or a referendum on Elizabeth Mays leadership, although some people on BOTH sides of the debate are characterising it as such. The question is far more fundamental than that. The actions of the Leadership and council have cast it as a much starker choice. Do you want to eliminate provisions for leadership contests, and replace them with an indefinite term for the current, AND FUTURE leaders or not?
I have been through a bit of the history behind the current power play by Elizabeth May, and her coterie in previous posts. To encapsulate it, Federal council has been in a constantly renewed state of impending election panic pretty well since the last election. The federal council created a new management body of appointees called the Campaign Committee, which decided that ALL of the GPCs resources were to be dedicated towards electing Elizabeth May, somehwere, and they eventually settled on SGI. Council decided that a leadership contest would be inconvenient at this time. So far, it all sounds logical, if undemocratic and secretive, to make these decisions in secret committees on behalf of the whole Party. Hey, it is how politics works, and I am sure it was purely incidental that the inner group would continue to receive salaries while the party organising staff all went to the wall to free up resources for SGI.
But what happens next is where it gets really sticky. The leadership starts to manouver around council and the committees to produce some peculiar outcomes. The Leadership paid lip service to the constitution and by-laws by striking a leadership race fairness committee to draft a set of rules for the mandated contest. Steve Kisby chaired the committee, but guess what? The committee never did a single thing. They did not even review the rules from the last leadership contest, until I pestered and pestered. Finally, I end ran them, and requested a copy from Mike Moreau, then chair of Federal Council, and he was good enough to ensure that I received a copy, and that the leadership election fairness committee received a copy as well. (literally months after the committee had been formed). When the time came to review their work, oh no! We cannot possibly get rules figured out in time!
Emergency mode. After much hand wringing, a couple more resignations from council, and debate about whether an election was going to happen in one week or two weeks, council decided to drag their heels, and yet another appointed committee, the Campaign Committee was tasked to draft a motion to place before the membership that would retro-actively legalise their decision to delay the leadership contest. Red herrings galore were strewn about concerning what the by-laws actually meant. Was 4 years equal to 4 years, or could it be twisted into meaning some time before the end of the fourth calendar year? At one point, according to council meeting minutes, Elizabeth May even argued that her employment contract governed over the constitution, and because her contract was up in August, she was guaranteed the legal authority and prerogatives of the Leadership by her contract! She was the only Lawyer on council you see, and it sounded very official when she said that was her legal opinion. Then there were all the references to so called legal opinions, which were never made public, and how the elections finance act prohibited this and that, again without reference to specific provisions of the act. Classic scare tactics for some of the poor ignorant rubes sitting on council.
Are you with me? The two substantive decisions were tasked respectively to the Fairness committee, and the Campaign committee, which are impenetrable, and directly under you know whos control. Now the manoevering gets pretty clever, and timing becomes all. The Toronto Greens, and Trinity Spadina EDA who had been diligently renting convention space, and preparing for a leadership convention in Toronto are faced with a decision by council to scrap the leadership race. How can they prejudice the will of the membership, when council has decided they are going to scrap the race, and motions will be in front of the mebers to delay the Leadership contest? The membership might actually retroactively endorse their decision, so therefore, scrap the convention budget, and do NOT, repeat NOT prepare any plans for a leadership contest. Now enter stage left: The Campaign committee submits the long awaited council resolution, naturally at the last possible minute, and instead of calling for a Leadership race to be held after the next election, it calls for a leaderhsip REVIEW! You see, that is the masterstroke. By accident, or impeccable timing, council was persuaded to accept a permanent postponement of a leadership contest for the Green Party of Canada.
So there the Party was, and is. But what about all the prospective leadership candidates waiting in the wings? Well what about them, they can go jump in a lake. They do not sit on the Campaign Committee, they do not want to publicly declare due to Leadership contest finance and reporting rules of Elections Canada. Force majeur had been employed effectively. All except one of the prospective candidates meekly filed off the stage, and went to play tiddly winks somewhere else. One day, they are thinking to themselves, Elizabeth May will decide to quit, and THEN I shall have my chance! But Sylvie Lemieux is a feisty scrapper. She is motivated by the best interests of the Party, and whether she wins or loses, she wants to ensure that there will be an actual contest. So Sylvie drafts a Resolution to put before the membership directing Federal Council to implement the terms of the Constitution currently in effect, and prepare an actual Leadership contest. The motion acknowledges that the Leadership has eliminated the possibility of a race this year, and allows for possible general elections in between, or during the contest, and what is the response of Elizabeth
May? Well, every member of the Green Party received A Note from Elizabeth May, oozing righteous indignation that an attempt to force her resignation was brewing for the BGM! That this was an improper use of Party resources, and the falsehoods DID actually bother a number of councillors. In fact, it prompted another resignation from council in protest, Huguette Allen. While Huguettes resignation was principled, and the correct action for her to take, unfortunately it will only serve to reinforce the Leaders power over the Party machinery.
The other wheels started turning, and the Friends of Elizabeth May started in on their campaign to stack council, and ensure that an Indefinite term for the leader was adopted by the membership. That is not hyperbole on my part. A copy of the email being circulated to green party mailing lists came into my hands, and you can see for yourself here: Friends of Elizabeth May.
The vilification and dirty tricks campaign swung into gear, with accusations from anonymous Elizabeth May supporters, and not so anonymous ones. So far, the accusations have included one of the oldest trick in Elizabeth Mays bag. Sylvie is the tool of misogynists, and dark forces. This is an accusation that can, and has been quietly levelled against any male critics of Elizabeth May, and Adrianne Carr for years now. Another current false accusation has been that a recent email broadcast made to EDA executives and candidates by Slvie Lemieux’ team was actually made to a membership list stolen from the Party. This was initially published on a list serve of all EDA executives in the Green Party of Canada, and then picked up and publicly repeated by some more open May loyalists in public blogs. This is completely false of course, as all EDA executives and candidates have their contact information published on Elections Canada websites, and the Green Party websites for all to see. But in politics, assaults on character do not need to be true to be effective. Decidedly NOT the Green way of doing things, but I guess I have been calling for greens to borrow professional tactics from the other party’s , so who am I to complain? lol
And do you want to know the saddest thing of all? All these slanders and vitriol being spilled are completely unneccessary. The whole Leader for Life thing is based on a failed analysis by the Campaign committee that the Party needed to ensure Elizabeth May was an unchallengable leader for the expected 2010 general election. So far, Federal Council has formally transferred $275,000 to the SGI campaign for pre-writ spending! That figure is the direct transfers, and does not include the costs of re-assigning all the Party salaried organisers left on the books to support the SGI campaign. $30,000 per month were being transferred, and no contingency plans exist for the current situation. No plans for the Party anyway, although clearly there is a well conceived plan to ensure the unchallenged, and indefinite contunuance of Elizabeth May’s tenure as leader.
All of this while the sprirt of the constitution is pretty clear. If council numbers weren’t filled out with place servers, they would have recognised that a leadership contest was not the end of the world. It would have been a very good thing for the Party to be hosting a leadership convention in 3 weeks in Toronto. A well run, and honest campaign by Elizabeth May, highlighting her strengths might have breathed new life into her campaign to win a seat in SGI. The GPC would have honoured it’s constitution, the Party would have registered perhaps a thousand delegates for the Toronto BGM, instead of the paltry figure now being bandied about of less than 200. The BGM will now be a financial albatross around the Party’s neck, and a failed media event, instead of the much needed boost anticipated by the Party and BGM organisers a year ago.
And all of this is to ensure that Elizabeth May need never face a challenger for the leadership again? No wonder the membership has now dropped below 8,000. No wonder Candidates are quitting in droves, and EDA’s are failing for lack of activists to run them. Even paper activists are just not bothering to file their returns, and dozens of EDA’s are being de-registered by EC with every passing filing deadline. The GPC does not exist in Quebec any more. The bulk of Ontario is following, with the notable exception of the Ottawa region. Alberta? Formerly one of the strongest electoral region for the GPC? I don’t even want to talk about it. It is gone, gone, gone.
BC is a relatively good story. About 75% of the BC Greens have latched on to the SGI candidacy as a magic rejuvenating potion. There is a ton of resentment towards the leadership there, but it is tempered with a healthy dose of self interest. The East Coast Greens? What east coast Greens is all I can say. Elizabeth’s attempt to build a regional base in Central Nova is last weeks news. It never happened, so change the channel quick. A couple of hundred new members, who are not renewing their membership is all the Party has to show for it’s huge investments ‘down east’.
As you may have gathered from the above, I have been working the phones, and canvassing Greens across the country. These comments are purely anecdotal in nature, and I will not be publishing the tabulated results of my work. They are pretty representative of what I am hearing though. Over the course of this year, the last gasp of breath will have been drawn in about 100 EDA’s in Canada. It is not too late yet for 25% of the Party, Sept 1 will either mark their re-engagement, or their final departure. And that will be the end result of all the hyperbole, and seat of the pants management of our affairs.
So I ask you, will YOU be voting for an indefinite extension of the status quo? Cast you E-Vote by monday. Do not vote for Sylvie Lemieux, and do not vote for Elizabeth May. Vote to ensure there will be future leadership contests, and think about the big picture for a change.