The Question for the Green Party is simple. Leadership contests, or Leader for Life?

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

Huguette Allen

Huguette Allen

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.

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10 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chrystal Ocean, Progressive Bloggers. Progressive Bloggers said: #cdnleft #cdnprog The Question for the Green Party is simple. Leadership contests, or Leader for Life? (Not… #cdnpoli […]

  2. […] the rest here: The Question for the Green Party is simple. Leadership contests … This entry was posted in Green Politics and tagged assaults-on-character, Auto Green, […]

  3. Matthew and I don’t always agree, that’s for sure. And although this blog post, like anyone’s blog post, is influenced by personal bias, I think that what Matthew has written above is the most comprehensive telling of this story that I’ve yet seen. It’s important for all of us to be paying attention to these behind-the-scenes goings-on, even when it might be difficult to ever get the whole story. It’s part of our duty as Party Members to help grow the Party, and to ensure that no harm is done to the Party, by either outside or inside forces. In my opinion, over the past 9 months, there has been considerable harm occurring. Matthew clearly shares the same single, over-riding concern that I do: if the harm continues to go unabated, or to grow, the Party is at risk of fracture, from which no one will benefit: not we the Members, not the Leader or leadership contenders. Not Canadians, who I believe need our Party.

    There have been a number of positive things which have happened to our Party in the last several months. While Matthew here does not touch on those positives, let’s not lose sight of them, because I believe that Canadians are coming to expect good things from our Party. We do not want to dissapoint. Our moment of greatness is within our grasp, if we dare to grasp it. Alternatively, as for J. Alfred Prufrock and so many others who have been scared to reach out for the brass ring, our moment of greatness may simply flicker into nothingness if we procrastinate, infight, wait for every little thing to be just right before moving ahead.

    What we need to do now is to figure out a way to begin the healing process. I fear, though, that healing isn’t going to be front and centre on anyone’s mind over the next month. And that saddens me, for like peak oil, we will only recognize the flickering of our greatness in the rear-view mirror. Folks, if you can’t see what Matthew and I are saying when we say that the time is at hand, then somehow bring yourself to believe it. Because it matters so much, whether you take it on fact or on faith, it has to be understood that we need to stop the nonsense and come together in common cause.

    Thank you, Matthew, for this post.

  4. Well no matter what and no matter who ignores me still…I will be turning up in my moms home riding and where I lived in SGI BC in the next election

    No matter what anyone of the hypocrites in the maygreen party do I promise to show that $300,000 given may there far to little in the end

    as one thousand from me will be all it takes to end her sorry sad attempts and her sorry green leader career

    I am no anti semitic this is certain according to the courts
    but I promise to sure show I am definitely something

    I would not miss the coming fight for anything and look forward to seeing her in any and all debates

    Thats the part most do not see
    no matter if the leadership contest is killed or not

    she is still going down in flames in SGI BC

    I have heard she will attempt to show these emails and then try to bar me from running there or attempt to stop this plan…hahaha

    I actually hope that happens because then I can move to the more public and obvious needed move and work directly for the conservative lunn

    We will post publicly her “lied to” and “sworn” BC Supreme Court Affidavits

    Come on betty I just cant wait
    I will show you the same level of kindness you showed all of us now ex green members

    I am still a real green member where it counts just not a betty may green member

    I look forward to ending this battle with all I can muster even if she continues to bamboozle all the sheeple left in the party in Toronto’s joke convention

    Yes the one smaller than Pictous NS’s …can you imagine how poor that makes us look?

    Have a national convention in Toronto and only two hundreds show up…wow

    Make sure you handle that all nicely though elley

    so you and I can tango properly and straighten things out nice and public like soon after

    Go betty !
    You go girl hahahahhaha!

  5. I have the distiction of having sponsored in one way or another all three Motions on this subject. I did so to assist all of us members to have the broadest possible set of choices available, without resorting to emergency Motions and contentious amendments.

    I persoanlly favour, at this time for the GPC, regular, fair and vigorously contested Leadership Contests. I think this is the best way to go until we have a significant caucus of MPs. In a longer analysis, I could lay out why I believe Reviews could actually lead to the disappearance of the GPC in the long term especially after the expected loss of the public subsidy. There must always be hope for people to want to engage, and if the hope of winning seats dropped significantly after the loss of the subsidy, the hope to win the post of Leader would need to be around for the white knight that might come along from time to time and lead us to a breakthrough.

    We have no proxy system, so the decisions at the BGM will be made by the folks that physically attend.

    A political party is like a living organism. Living things can only withstand so much shock, before they shut down. Changing to a Review System is a reckless shock to our party. We’ve seen the disappearnace of the Alberta Greens, and the Nefoundland and Labrador Greens before. Our party is a fragile thing and we shouldn’t subject it to difficult and unnecessary strain at this time.

  6. Steve mentions, “over the past 9 months, there has been considerable harm occurring”. Corresponds pretty much to the very date I let go of GPC, I had been noticing. It was a surprise to see just as I let go that Rivard came aboard. But he quickly did what I probably would have done in his position. (See only partly facetious, ; it’s from babble that I got linked to this blog, too; see also my post at )

    I was warned by a wise friend about certain attributes of the current leader, the friend having had close dealings many years ago. But I saw fit to look past the attributes — and still do. The problems are that she, as far as I detected in several active years among Greens, has had no peer, and still does not appear to; that Greens are self-harmingly pursuing a track of too great assimilation to reigning political methods, a product of the motivation of far too many involved being far too much about just enjoying politics, to the detriment of the deeper thinking Green politics should ever be into or honouring; the egregiously low level of general awareness of vital matters among Canadians, as Greens recruit and attract general public this increasingly being a trait among “Greens” (eg all the goofy talk as if “environment” is not virtually all-encompassing); Order of Canada notwithstanding, a serious misfit between the leader’s self-perception and methods, versus a Canadian mindset at sharp odds with much of that, which especially comes out in this leadership issue barrage (eg in “star” cult vs rule-orientedness, results vs fairness). Those are some main things that come quickly to mind.

    Eliz., if her goal is really above all to get into Parl., should step down as leader & focus all on SGI (if there really is a shot there, which I cannot see is clearly the case, and if the tenor of the party would not change irremediably under someone else, which is a distinct possibility driving me away even further, and surely in part motivating some of the current leader’s moves). Of course I feel that GPC missed a great chance at some great advice I was proferring: esp. re EDA rejuvenation via centring policy (dis-)approvals there, at regular, maybe even monthly, in-person (or close to, involving proxy voting, eg) meetings, policy itself more carefully to be crafted at party central, debated online continuously; re shifting sharply away from leader-centricity, it IS possible in the current media context; acting as a constant super-advocacy group to get the media attention, versus going the crowded tired conventional route; working to establish an extra-political base in at least several ridings, where local co-operation on “green” issues would indirectly create a political base; of course, there is tons more to say, i sure had said a lot of it already (see all my old blog stuff, and on various online forums). I saw I had some influence, but I’m afraid Eliz., with all her influence, maybe underestimated what I was offering, and maybe overestimated a misperceived possible threat from myself.

    I don’t know. But as I said in one of those babble pieces, GPC politico types, don’t be discouraged, internal travails and external inadequacy (in terms of valuable “green” theory) don’t add up to political failure in your country. The brand is sadly what counts, and for all most electors’ vague (mis-)perceptions, it has not
    been damaged, yet anyway.

    If any of you are interested what in what I’ve been up to since, see eg , and if you think I poured out a lot for the Greens, it has been 9 months of far more still for this overarching cause, an utter travesty that Greens can’t get it together to speak to with constant force. (Incidentally , praise fo Huguette, mentioned here (I had voted for her, too), who almost singularly among GPC-ers directly endorsed my efforts in this vein, broadcast to a great many of them, and she has seen but a tiny fraction of what I’ve put out…Not too late to change, Greens, I’m here to help if I see worth and prospect in it.)

  7. “that Greens are self-harmingly pursuing a track of too great assimilation to reigning political methods”

    If other parties operated like the Greens operated internally… the self-inflicted madness would have everyone in electoral politics running for the hills.

    And its not the “dedication to democracy” people like to flatter thenselves is the [unintended] cause of the chaotic nastiness. Its the free wheeling no-holds barred make up rules to favour your faction/interest.

    The problem is lack of control on law of the jungle, not too great a dedication to politics as usual. That indeed COULD be a problem. But you wouldnt know, because it hasnt had a chance to develop yet.

  8. I completely agree with Ken Summers’ assessment in his last two paragraphs above.

    People who believe in the rule of law and civil society make rules and stick to them. They don’t just disregard them because doing do benefits their own faction. Politics as usual would actually be an improvement over the Green Party’s law of the jungle governance.

    Markus Buchart
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    (Not a Green Party member)

  9. I meant more the external aspects of politics that involved pandering & assimilation. I saw what was going on in the inside, it is unfortunate. The aspects where personal drive and ambition exceeded Canadian-tolerable bounds, as they impacted rule-overriding internally, seem also to be fed by inspiration drawn from very non-Canadian sources. But, many Greens are deluded about the structures they created, the party is structurally unwieldy in its current form to step up in importance. Again, when I see the kind of folks who are seeking to replace Eliz. et al, if it were that important to me (it isn’t, or I’d still be there; or it can’t be because of cultural factors, or lack of what I feel should be a “green” (almost anti-)political culture; and of course it is of interest to me, I am an engaged fellow politically, which is why I keep looking & am even moved to comment here), I’d almost be inclined to support creative rule-interpretation to keep out the wrong folks.

    In a way I regret not having felt able to get involved officially on the inside, I could have had more direct influence, would not have thought well of some of the manipulation and some of the attitudes (like eg allergy to speaking at all about Sept 11, carefully & creatively it could be done, .instead there were the crummy Potvin & Shavluk incidents which were revealing to me of some bad inclinations), and would have spoken up. I said openly, it was hard for me, that I did not vote for Eliz. as leader. Yet I stood in the breach for & in support of her stance often enough, again against the uncomprehending folks, e.g. throughout webpage .

    I said on those blogs somewhere I think that the GPC risked going the way of the Australian Democrats, who could not balance the populist aspects in the end. GPC could restructure itself and be a very constructive force, but that would involve a stronger central office, make fuller use of this amazing medium, and require actually the most grassroots activity of all, going regularly to a local place to actually vote on policy (after lengthy online debate). Those types of reforms might allow the populist responsiveness to combine with more professional research and policy proposals.

    And different tactics need to be used outwardly. It might almost be good if they bar that per-vote subsidy thing. Internet, esp. internet radio, community newspapers, local tacks for publicity, that would prepare the ground much better than skimming the national surface like the others. More diffuse public face is needed, some incorporation of others has been done, but way too much reliance on a single leader who unfortunately has no peer and made too many others feel that she knows that all too well, even if misperceived.

    The example of fixed election dates and fixed leadership dates, that does not mesh with Cdn. political reality. A more learned policymaking group might correct that, and a more diffuse leadership would not have people so stuck on this leadership thing. So the current imbroglio has as much to do with populist misconceptions and overweening Cdn. rule-orientedness, as it has to do with resented arrogation.

  10. I just read that the vote was 85% for the G10-d02 Leadership Endorsement Resolution. Maybe not leader for life, but possibly leader until 2013 if this parliament lasts until October 2012.

    Markus Buchart
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    (Not a Green Party member)

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