I was somewhat pleased to note that the GPC Federal Council has started thinking a little about how next summers leadership convention will be run, and they are also starting to consider the rules for the leadership contest that our constitution requires goes with the convention. I have heard rumours, (and more than just idle speculation), about some pretty exciting potential candidates from across the spectrum. This is really great news for the Green Party of Canada! The membership numbers are in a free fall, and we are in financial straights with a substantial election debt to pay off. An exciting 5 way, or 6 way race will re-invigorate the Party. There will be of thousands of new members added to the rolls, and the Party’s share of leadership fundraising, and directed contributions just might save us from financial embarrasment.
So what’s the conundrum? Well it goes like this; Elizabeth May has a constitutionally mandated term of 4 years as leader. That term expires in August 2010. We are in a minority Government situation, and as we are all aware, the next general election could come any time between now and 2013. The argument might be made that since the Party has given Elizabeth May $60k, plus her leaders salary, and three supporting staff positions to prepare for an election in SGI, (And before that $100k in Central Nova, and before that $70k in London), we cannot possibly hold the Leadership convention next summer in Toronto. After all, there might be a general election in full swing, and we cannot waste all those hundreds of thousands of dollars that we have wagered on getting our Leader elected.
There`s some merit in that argument as well, although I don`t think that we can simply make up the leadership race terms on the fly just like that. So there`s the conundrum. The Green Party of Canada wants to have an enormous, and much needed boost from a much aniticipated Leadership race. This boost cannot be had unless all of the various leadership campaigns have plenty of lead time to build their field organisations, and communications teams. Let`s face it, it takes time to build the team and plan that can win this contest, and in all fairness, our sitting council owes it to the membership to come clean with a fair and impartial rule book for the contest. We just won`t be able to recruit the very best candidates, and will have trouble getting the kind of resources lined up to blow the roof off, if prospective candidates cannot even be certain that a race will happen. Imagine if you will that you are seriously considering taking on the major task of winning the leadership of the GPC. You need to start recruiting, building, and committing a chunk of your life to this contest. I suspect that you will hesitate if 6 months before the contest is theoretically beginning, there was no rule-book, no time frame, no spending limits, in fact absolutely no indication of what the rules will be…
In the last leadership race, which was won by Elizabeth May, council struck an election fairness committee. It was chaired by Sharolyn Vetesse, if memory serves. I can tell you first hand that it was very equitable, and impartial. The spending limits were too low, and the contestants had very restrictive limits on how they could reach the membership, but at least the rules were clear, and applied to all. It would serve as an adequate model, provided the chair were truly impartial, and the spending limits were increased. It takes quite a bit of money just to travel around the country. It`s OK if you`ve got a book tour, or an EDA training tour to cover your travel costs, but if you are covering expenses to visit hundreds of EDA`s out of a $50,000 campaign chest, then you just don`t have enough money to make all the rest of a viable campaigns infrastructure happen. If the Party takes a tithe from directed contributions to leadership campaigns, then a $500,000 limit will allow proper national campaigns to take shape, without simply handing the Party to the candidate with the deepest pockets. If this sum seems too rich, I beg to differ. Please remember that it takes a lot of money to raise a lot of money, and if there’s a 20% tithe, plus fundraisers, event hall rentals, promotional advertising for events, etc. etc. then it doesn’t leave very much for prosaic things like travel expenses, and telephone bills. If you think it’s no big deal, the winning campaign will have had to make a bare minimum of 15,000 phone calls. And when’s the last time you had to pay for 30 or 40 train trips, hotel bills, and food for two or three people on the candidates tour?
So here`s what I think we need to know: When will the race officially start and conclude? What will the nomination procedures be? What access, and when will the candidates get access to membership, past membership, and supporter lists? What will the spending limits be, and what tithes and or fees will the Party charge for processing directed contributions? Policy regarding staffers involvement in the race; Will candidates have to resign from existing duties in appointed, or elected roles in the Party hierarchy? I for one will not be impressed to see a deputy leader drawing a salary, and gadding about the country on training tours while actively campaigning. (Neither would some candidates legal council I suspect). Here`s a biggie: Does the Party appoint an interim leader during the race? There`s lots to think about, and it should be done in a timely way. I hope I’m not alone in hoping for a vigorous, and strongly contested race next year. It could be the saviour of the Party in more than one respect.