I’ll apologise if the letter below, and this blog post is not as cogent as it should have been. I am writing this post standing up, buzzed out on percosets. My Kidneys are acting up again, and I cannot sit down, pee, or think straight, but I could not let the opportunity to influence the decisions council must make today pass me by because of a little pain. Incidentally, I know I should have been returning calls, answering emails, and meeting my commitments better this week, but I have been stumped by my hopefully soon to be forgotten bloody damned kidneys!
First the context, then the text of the letter.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll know that the Green Party of Canada’s federal council has been consumed by some strange, and untimely debates of late. More importantly, there has been an enormous amount of manoevering, and negotiations between the three more or less openly campaigning leadership candidates, and the current leader. I believe that the by-laws are being subverted in order to serve the purposes of these back room operators. The public spin has no realtionship with the underlying purposes and intent of some of the participants. Like many GPC members, one of the reasons I support the GPC is the commitment to doing politics differently, and in an open manner. That is actually the reason for the very existence of this blog. To shine a light into darkened corners, and seperate spin from reality to enable members to make informed decisions on the management, and governance of OUR Party.
Federal council will be debating 5 or 6 motions to delay, obstruct, eliminate, or enforce the provisions in our by-laws, and constitution which mandate a leadership contest this year. I am upset that my hand has been forced, and that it is even neccessary that council be chivvied into performing their duties. I’ll return the favour today, and force some other positions into the open. Jim Harris gracefully stepped aside before the last race, and council did their very best to ensure the ensuing race delivered huge benefits to the GPC. I fear, and am working to prevent a situation whereby our current council, leadership, and the three other known candidates can create an environment where the next leader of the Green Party of Canada will be determined in secret, by shaping the terms of the contest behind closed doors.
It does not surprise me that Adrian Carr should be supporting a quiet deal to support Elizabeth May and delay the race. Adrian and Elizabeth are as thick as .. I was going to say thieves, but that isn’t very nice, so instead I’ll say they are extremely close. Adrian has staked her career on being the loyal, and natural successor to Elizabeth, and will be enjoying the support of staff, and Elizabeth when the time comes. As Elizabeth’s appointee to the Deputy Leader position, she draws a salary, receives support from the Party, for example when she tours the EDA’s building support for her leadership, er, I mean, training the EDA’s. She is granted many opportunities for public exposure that the other candidates will never, ever be granted by this council and leader, so it’s fair to say that every years delay is a free lunch and paycheque. Why should she jeopardise these fantastic perk’s by allowing a leadership race?
If Frank’s supporting a quiet deal, it’s a little more surprising. It’s obvious that he has made a strategic calculation that Elizabeth May cannot be beaten in a direct contest. Therefore he is desirous of a delay so that Elizabeth can get clobbered in SGI, and will be dumped with all her baggage. While I think these strategic considerations are partially valid, it is a mistake to be party to a backroom deal to ‘handle’ the leadership races terms and conditions. The Green Party membership will not react kindly to this whole fiasco. I can be frank, and confess that I was very close to joining Frank’s team last year. His candidacy is important, and brings value for the Party as a whole, so I’ll offer some advice, at no-charge. Either commit your campaign to running against Elizabeth, or step back and wait to contest against the field in the next one. Frank , you are ideally positioned to prepare for, introduce motions to, and organise to pass those motions at the BGM in Toronto. If you want to influence the terms and condidtions of the race, do so in a Green, and legitimate way in the place and time designated for that purpose. Continuing to play at influencing the backrooms risks making you a patsy, and will definitely wrong-foot you with those whose support you will need the most. Just a friendly heads up about the freight train coming down the tracks at you ;-)
I will extend a proper courtesy to the third candidate, based in Toronto. Unlike Frank and Adrian, he has made no public moves to tip his hand. He has the same right as my candidate to control the timing and method of launching his campaign. He is however quite new to the Party, and so has been very busy raising his profile in Ontario at least. There is one very big banana peel lying right at his feet though. The Green Party membership is allergic to backroom politics, and he hasn’t been here long enough to understand that deep in his bones. In politics, as in the field of marketing, perception has a way of turning into reality. Because his candidacy is the best thing that could possibly happen for Adrian Carr, he risks being branded as a status quo candidate, or even a patsy of Adrian and Elizabeth. I have faith that this is not the case, and that his purpose is not simply to split the Ontario vote. My advice to him would be to stay the course. Continue to build a constituency within the Party, and use this campaign to meet and understand the incredibly diverse constituencies within the Green Party. Keep it real, and don’t get caught up in negative campaigning, and mud slinging. Be a part of the reconciliation after the race is done. You will be well positioned for a responsible position after the election, and I don’t think that you run a real risk of being cast aside and villified when the race is over, the way Chernushenko was after the last race.
So now that I have pissed off pretty well everybody, and without further ado, here is the text of the letter I forwarded to council this morning.
February 21, 2010. 11:00 AM
It is with regret that I am draughting this open letter to council.
Just under a year ago, I agreed to offer my services to a wonderful francophone woman, and a very skilled manager, who has been actively organising a campaign to become the next leader of the Green Party of Canada. Whether or not there would be a race in 2010 was not in question, because it is mandated, with strict language, by the Constitution and By-Laws of the Party. Naturally, the final decision, and any public announcement of the intent to run cannot be made until the terms and condidtions of this years Leadership contest have been publicised. I am not writing this letter as a casual observer, I am extremely familiar with the context in which this debate is occurring.
I think by now, you are all familiar with your’ roles and duties, which are to support, and enforce the Constitution, and By-Laws of the Party. The authority of council is established by the constitution, and by running for, and accepting the offices which you now hold, you accepted the legal obligations to enforce the by-laws. The intent, and purpose of the By-Laws that you are now debating are clear, that there should be a Leadership contest in 2010. Not a Review, not a plebiscite, but a proper contest, with all the trimmings. The authority to change the pertinent By-Laws rest with the membership, not council. A number of the council motions that you are debating today are plain and simply illegal. In some cases, they pre-judge the will of the membership by assuming a change in the By-Laws will be passed at the August BGM. In other cases, they simply arrogate authority to council which council does not have.
“In Knox v. Conservative Party of Canada (Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, 2006), Justice Sulatyky wrote:
“10 If the political party must control and regulate its internal affairs, it must, in my view, also do it in accordance with their own rules and constitution.
“11 A political party of course is free to leave to its leader the appointment of all of its candidates, but once it chooses to adopt a different process for selection of candidates, even though in the end the leader might have the ultimate authority, it must follow the process that it itself sets up for choosing those candidates.
“12 And because the process is given the blessing of the statute, as enunciated in the Ahenakew decision, the process is subject to judicial review. That is the inevitable consequence of generous election funding of parties and their candidates from public coffers.
“13 So while my inclination and my belief was that Courts should not interfere in nomination processes, I find that the law as it has evolved gives the Courts jurisdiction as a result of the statutory constitution of political parties and constituency associations to review decisions of those parties and associations.””
While this is a ways from a formally bought and paid for legal opinion, the language is clear enough that there is a legal case to be made, and a competent court to hear the case. This case pertained to nominated candidates at the EDA level, for a general election, but the language of Justice Sulatyky leaves little doubt that this would apply far more widely. There are other supporting precedents as well. While the campaign I am working on does not at this moment anticipate launching a legal challenge, this option is generally available to anybody who could demonstrate they intended to launch a leadership bid, and were quashed by an illegal act of council. Any disgruntled EDA, member, campaign, candidate, or their nominees could spend a few hundred dollars, and cause the GPC, and our current leadership severe financial, and public embarrasment. My greatest fear is that operatives from a certain right wing party will use this issue as a tool to justify the elimination of the per vote public subsidy to political Party’s. I’m afraid it would make for a compelling media story. It will be no surprise to any on council that there are armies of well funded ConBots that would revel in such a campaign.
I have called on council, both via my public blog, and more directly by lobbying some individual council members, and a letter to council in late 2009, requesting clarity on the terms of the leadership race. While some of you may be of the opinion that there are only the current leaderships, and several other undeclared candidates opinions that need to be accomodated, please take this letter as due notice that there are other interested Party’s, with a direct interest in the outcome of todays vote on leadership motions, and those other interested Party’s will vigorously, and publicly defend their rights and prerogatives.
I will be more than pleased to make formal representations to the leadership fairness committee regarding how to control the risks of a conflict between the leadership race, and a potential general election. This can easily be acheived with consensus provisions to delay the vote in the event of a general election. I would respectfully submit that establishing a fair and balanced contest, most importantly in a timely manner that respects both the intent of the membership, and the practical considerations is the proper business of council at this late date. I await the results of councils deliberations with interest, and remain cordially yours;
GPC member in good standing
If you are interested in serving our Party, and our great country by volunteering your support to our campaign, please send me an email with your contact information including a phone number and best time to contact you to: email@example.com. I can give you a lot more information directly, but would prefer not to publicise in print until the legal spending limits, and conditions of the campaign are known.