The recent announcement by Jim Harris, longtime leader of the Green Party of Canada, that he is taking a ‘sabbatical’ from the GPC has garnered little attention in the media, and Green Party circles. I will try not to make this post sound like an obituary, because I am convinced that we haven’t seen the last of Jim.
Jim Harris served as Leader of the Green Party of Canada, after years of activism with the Green Party that started many years ago when he was employed as a staffer with the Green Party in the UK. I first met Jim at a garden party at his house in East York, in the days after the 2004 election. He was always a bit of an odd bird, and his strength was derived from superior organizing, and fundraising ability, less than from a magnetic personality. All Greens acknowledge the hard work, and his, (at the time), extraordinary ability to induce supporters to part with their money. Fewer Greens, (and I am amongst them), credit Jim with a fundamental breakthrough. He single handedly changed the image of the Green Party of Canada from that of a looney left wing Party, to a party was ‘neither left, nor right, BUT forward’. By espousing fiscal conservatism, social progressivism, and environmental sustainability, he broadened the appeal of the GPC to welcome in throngs of disaffected Red Tories, and Liberals.
Having known Jim for 5 years, I can tell you there is more to his departure than can be read in his gentlemanly ‘sabbatical’ announcement. He has served recently as the chair of the 18 member Federal Campaign Committee. It is interesting to note that in the wake of the recent election this committee has suffered a rash of resignations, that some have characterized as a coup. The resignation of 7 members left a clear majority of 100% Elizabeth May loyalists. It seems that responsibility for the organizational problems in the last election is not to be laid at the Leaders
door, but on the small number of experienced Campaigners on the committee. I will not point fingers, but some of the people on the committee are, frankly, not competent to plan a campaign, while some of those resigning are amongst the best campaigners who stuck around after David Chernushenko’s defeat, and subsequent retreat from GPC politics.
This development is not a good sign for the future of the GPC. I will suspend judgement until we see if the new and improved committee is able to start marshaling the resources of the GPC. I frankly do not care what they want to blame the failures in the last election on. I will reserve judgement for a few months. Until I start seeing them recruiting quality candidates, reaching out and teaching the EDA’s how to campaign, and driving membership numbers back up, I will assume that this housecleaning had nothing to do with Election readiness, and everything to do with???