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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Some Good news for the Green Party of Canada!

At last I can put aside my griping and complaints, and tell you all that there is some very good news around the corner. This August, here in Toronto, the Green Party will be voting on a motion to honour our constitution, and hold a leadership race to finally clear the air for the Green Party of Canada. I know, I know, it seems very strange that we have to hold a vote to agree to follow the rules. For those of you who could bear to watch it, the last year has been like a slow motion Constitutional train wreck. Turn back the clock 12 months, and across the country, hundreds of activists were quietly preparing the ground for the mandated Leadership contest. Ambitous and thoughtful politicians were quietly buying memberships, and groups were forming to prepare the grounds for a contest of ideas. You see, the Green Party of Canada has long held the belief that we do politics differently. Leadership races were constitutionally mandated to happen every two years, so that there would be an opportunity to engage the party membership, and to decide on the future direction of the Party through the medium of a hotly contested leadership race. There has never been any fear that the contest would lack for contestants! Oh, no…Not in the Green Party. Like any other Party, there are many competing people, ideas, and visions within our ranks. The sometimes messy process of resolving our differences is guaranteed to bring contestants, and the ideas that they champion out into full and open view for the membership to pass judgement on. Frankly, in the absence of a mandated race, the Green Party of Canada would probably be captured by a governing clique that writes the rules in their favour, and could never be budged from their positions by any legitimate process. There would be no other mechanisms within the Party to channel disaffection into, and the Party would fracture and melt away, one isolated and vilified member at a time….

Some History for you to contemplate:

In the same year that Elizabeth may was elected leader, the Party membership decided to adapt the two year term to match the new elections law that mandated a general election every 4 years. and we revised our Constitution to hold a madatory Leadership contest every 4 years instead of every two. This was a delightful windfall for Elizabeth May, as it enabled her to write an employment contract with a full salary for 4 years, ending this August, instead of the two years she had campaigned for, and won. Was this a mistake? Did we really intend that a ruling clique should be formed, dispensing employment contracts, and spending 4 years cementing their position in charge of the purse strings? I don’t think so, but with the guarantee that the members would have the ultimate authority, we would have the opportunity to correct any mistakes made on this score.

The Context of the current leadership race:

Our constitution is very clear and concise. There shall be a leadership contest in 2010. Period. Council is entrusted with setting the terms and conditions under which the contest shall be held. For this reason, a Leadership Election committee was struck last year by Federal Council, and tasked with drafting the rules of a contest to be presented to, and endorsed by the council in general session. Problem is, that this committee was made up from the ranks of sitting council members. Remember that over a 4 year period, there have been a number of council members (including ex-officio members), with full time salaries dependant upon maintaining the status quo. I cannot say if there was any undue influence exerted, after all, who can say what was said between these 5 or 6 councillors in the convoluted world of Green Party council politics? What I CAN say, is that the committee never held a substantive meeting, and has not put forward a plan of action, should the constitutionally mandated race actually come to pass. With the passage of time, and for subsequent council meetings, varying arguments were put forward that a leadership race would be problematic. After all, a general election was always imminent, and practical considerations trumped any legal niceties like observing the history, and traditional governing mechanisms of our Party. The governing clique decided to channel all of the resources of the party into an effort to get the leader elected, through the medium of our new, unelected governing body, the ‘Campaign Committee’. A plan was hatched to eliminate the Leadership race, by changing it into a review mechanism, and all efforts were turned towards eliminating any formal contest for the forseeable future. For this purpose, council drafted a motion to be presented at the upcoming BGM in Toronto in August that mandated a periodic Leadership Review, instead of an actual contest. The Leadership clique has done their homework well. The

Frank De Jong

lessons of the Green Party of Ontario were there for all to see. There are two reasons why Frank De Jong of the Green Party of Ontario was the longest serving leader of any Green Party in the World. Reason one is that he did not face a Leadership challenge, he faced a periodic review, with miniscule turnouts, which allowed him the comfort of choosing his own fate. Reason two is that Frank is personable, and genial. He just never did anything nasty enough to motivate large numbers of people to organise a massive campaign twice. Once to mobilise the GPO membership for a review vote, and the second time to organise an actual leadership campaign to replace Frank. It was only when Frank decided, under enormous pressure in the backrooms of the GPO to resign and seek the Leadership of the Green Party of Canada that an actual, well a one man contest for a new leader took place in the GPO. If the review motion passes at the BGM, then this is to be the future of the GPC. No more vigorous debate, and open contests. No more airing of our differences, and a decision rendered by the membership. Instead we shall face secretive committees, and very parochial interests setting the terms and conditions of their continued employment, well out of public view.

The Leadership race is publicly ON.

On June 29, an email publicly launching Elizabeth May’s bid to retain the leadership, without an actual contest was sent on Green party letterhead to the mailing list of the Green Party of Canada. A Note from Elizabeth May, and I quote Elizabeth May from the letter:

” This time there is no misunderstanding how fundamental the issues are. Some resolutions would cause an immediate leadership race, forcing me to
resign — even before the next election.”

Wow! Sounds like a coup d’Etat doesn’t it? The resolution which she claims will force her to resign, is quite simply a resolution to enforce the current, and legally binding constitution of the Green Party of Canada. She knew when she was elected leader that she had 2 years at the helm. By a fortuitous turn of events, she was granted an additionlal 2 years employment by the extension the leadership term. She has had not one, but TWO elections, including the London North Centre by-election fiasco. And now malcontents, and trouble makers dare to put resolutions forward that would limit her freedom of action? I agree with Elizabeth May, this time there IS NO MISUNDERSTANDING how fundamental the issues are. Either we are governed by our Constitution, or at the convenience of the entrenched leadership clique. And kindly tell me why the Green party of Canada is handing over the membership lists, and sending emails on behalf of a presumed candidate for the Leadership? Am I the only one to take umbrage with this misuse of party resources? Yes, we are definitely in the throes of, and I guess I will have to coin the phrase, a PRE-leadership race, and this email is misleading, and inappropriately dirty politics. Enough on that, I had the firm intention of focussing on the positive in this post, and just look where my temper is taking me.

On the other hand, there is in fact a resolution to enforce the current constitution on the table at the BGM. It is sponsored by Sylvie Lemieux, and as an aside, I would say that she will make an excellent manager, and leader

Sylvie Lemieux: The next Leader?

of the Green Party of Canada, provided we can ensure an actual race happens. Hey don’t take my word for it, check out this youtube video, and be sure to visit her site and volunteer! So you can understand more fully why a positive re-affirmation is needed to enforce our constitution, you need only consider what I have written above. Every effort has been expended by the current leadership to avoid a race. Council has refused to execute their constitutionally mandated duties, and prepare the Party for a race. There can be no argument that a race was impossible, and impractical if there is a positive re-affirmatiion by the membership. You see what our party is reduced to? Having to play at politics to ensure that there is no escape hatch for an embattled leadership, should they actually have to do the unthinkable, and surrender their positions in a fair and open contest. Yes, exactly, LET THERE BE NO MISUNDERSTANDINGS! Federal council is now forced to plan for the contingency that the constitution may be enforced. They will face legal sanctions if they fail to plan now, and no sympathy for the argument that a leadership race was impossible.

Why YOU should vote for a Leadership race:

For all of us old Party hands, the reasons why a Leadership race is an incredible boon for the Green Party of Canada are blatantly obvious.  For those of my readers who have never been involved in a political Party, I will re-iterate them here.

1) A leadership race draws a plethora of Party activists out of the woodwork. It is a rare opportunity for real honest to goodness contact between the wider membership. The membership lists are thrown open to the candidates teams, and these people are actually willing and able to reach out to the members, and engage them in political work and debate. If you are a member, ask yourself when was the last time that somebody from head office called you to actually ask you what you thought of the issues of the day, and actively encourage your input and energy? How often do you make contact with Greens outside your own narrow circles, and actually discuss what direction YOU would like to see the party moving in? A leadership race engages, and motivates the membership to participate, and to remember that it isn’t for some faction or other to decide behind closed doors, it is for YOU the members to decide the question: Where are we going?

2) A Leadership race creates a big surge in memberships. And to put it bluntly, the Party needs that more than ever right now.  The number of active members is significantly lower today than at any time since the last leadership race. We are in a financial tailspin, and the root cause is that membership is losing its appeal. I will not get into pointing fingers, or laying the blame for it. The time is long past for criticism like that. What we really need is a choice of strong positive visions for where we should be going. We need to reach out to ALL Canadians who share our ideas, ask them to join our Party, and help us to make our shared visions a reality! We need to generate the excitement, and interest that comes with vigorous debate, grow our membership lists, and get about the business of preparing on the ground for the next election.

3) The media loves nothing like a leadership race. For years now, the Green party of Canada has been synonomous with Elizabeth May in the broadcast medias eyes. It is time to remind the electorate, through the media that there is far more to the Green party than a leadership cult. Assuming all the teams that have been organising for a year or more actually field their candidates, there will be a gratifying choice of competing visions to tempt the electorate with.  Men and Women, Francophone, and Anglophones. Representing Eastern, Western, and Central canada. Surely a great opportunity to spread our positive mesages to all Canadians, irrespective of their gender, or regional bias.

On July 13, all paid up members received an email with online voting instructions. Please go dig up the email right now, and go and vote on this resolution (note: You must be a member to access the members zone) to hold a leadership race, and go to this resolution and vote AGAINST a leadership review. Please do not be deceived that you are throwing Elizabeth May out. She will have exactly the same opportunities that all the other candidates will have. To face the membership, and convince you that she is the best choice for the Green Party. If you want to vote for her, by all means! Just do not give up your chance to make that choice in the first place. It may be a very long time before you get another chance to make your opinions, and ideas known.

I guess I should come clean here too, I am not disinterested in the outcome of this race. (Surprise surprise!) A year ago I even expected to play an important part in the upcoming contest, but now I have found my personal commitments, and the pressures of a new business enterprise will not leave me with sufficient time to play the role I had envisioned. It won’t stop me from cheering from the sidelines though, and while I have a favoured Candidate, there are at last count three very engaging candidates in the wings, and I will happily pledge my loyalty to whichever of them emerges as the winner.

And in conclusion, I have a plea to make to our Leader. Set aside your fear of facing a contest, and do the right thing for the Party. It will not be the end of the world if you have to face the membership, and really start organising for a national campaign. You have complained of having to give up your salary for the 6 or 8 week duration of a race, but you weren’t promised a job for life. The Party does not owe you a living, it owes you a fair chance, and an open contest. Why can you not simply bite the bullet and put your best foot forward?

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Some depressing Green Party Canada News…

John Fryer SGI Campaign Manager

Oh no! John Fryer just quit as Elizabeth May`s campaign manager in SGI. I won`t bother going into the endless list of people who have been briefly associated on a professional basis with Elizabeth May and the current leadership of the Party who have quit, been fired, or just shunted aside. So why do I start tapping at my keyboard over this latest head to roll? Because it makes a mockery of everything that the Leadership and Federal council have done since the writ dropped in the last election.

After the last election, the Party didn`t move as quickly as possible to repay election loans. The election plan had envisioned re-paying election loans with the election expenses rebate, as sound management would dictate. The leadership ignored sound management, and started spending like crazy. Never mind that there were known payments to be planned for, the money would somehow come from somewhere. Well, the money didn`t come from anywhere. Only when the situation became critical did anything happen. The response to the realisation that the money was not there was that the majority of the organisers were laid off. So there we were, and here we are. A National Party with full slate of directors, leader, deputy-leader, and communications staffers on the payroll, but NO FIELD ORGANISERS!

So why have we got no organisers left? The Federal council decided that electing Elizabeth May to the house of commons was, and is the overaching priority of the Party. This required an immediate infusion into SGI coffers of $60,000, and a re-direction of staff towards meeting this goal. The Salaries of the leaders political allies are sacrosanct, so Elizabeth May, Adriane Carr, and Sharon Labchuk need to continue to be paid. Communications needs to continue, so Elizabeths assistant contuinues to be paid. Ralph Benmurgei is in a communications consulting role as Party spokesperson, so his salary is continued. There are legal compliance issues, like financial reporting to Elections Canada which requires staff. The website cannot be permitted to collapse, so ther are another one or two staff slots retained.  With large bank loans scheduled for repayment over the next 3 months or so, those salaries, plus the SGI campaign are the only thing that the Party can afford.

It will not be all over and happily dealt with after the bank loans are repaid though. Oh no, not by a long shot. There are still the outstanding private loans raised to fight the last election. Repayment is not currently scheduled, and in fact Adriane Carr is spearheading a campaign to raise large amounts of fresh loans to add to the debt pile. She has already gone back to the EDA executives, and asked that they forego their revenue sharing payments. The terms of these loans are that they will be repaid in full when the writ drops for the next election. This was largely successful, and the Party has taken on a bunch of new obligations that we will have a lot of trouble with at the launch of the next election. I do not know whether or not we are fortunate that Adriane attempts to raise large fresh loans from private lenders have been unsuccesful. It means that we will likely suffer yet another budgetary crisis when planned spending cannot happen due to lack of fresh loans, but at least the Party is not being burdened with yet another tranche of debt.

Adriane Carr: Fundraiser Extraordinaire?

Adraine Carr is apparently the leaderships answer to losing, (or willfully chasing away) the services of Jim Harris. Not only is she to step into his shoes and raise loans, but she is also to spearhead a big fundraising initiative. The Party is going to plug a half million dollar shortfall by setting Adriane loose to raise the funds from fresh sources. I wish her the very best with this. Her fertile imagination has sprouted a plan for innumerable dutch auctions, so the current spending levels can be maintained ongoing. Well I am a long standing proponent of creative fundraising approaches, so I will not disagree with it. I will caution you though, that literally banking on stellar results from untried initiatives is a pretty risky proposition. Cross your fingers that she does not fall on her face.

So to summarise, the current leadership has been exposed as hopelessly incompetent with our finances and Party management. They ramped up hiring and spending, then were forced to 180 and fire everybody. The response to the unfolding woes has been to re-focus the Party from encouraging and supporting local organising at the grassroots level, to making electing Elizabeth May the sole priority of the Party. The means to enable this strategic shift have entailed some very risky shell games with our money and Party. Now here we are, in the midst of this dubious and dangerous situation, and John Fryer, the man entrusted with the task of electing Elizabeth May in SGI up and quits in anger.

I am very discouraged by this latest news. Is it symptomatic of a looming failure in SGI? I can only see the two reasons for John to quit so abruptly. Either John quit because he sees a disaster in the offing, or he cannot stand working with the Leaders coterie. Either way, the large and risky investment our Federal council has made in SGI is in great peril at this moment. Were all the risks that council, and the Leadership took with our Party wasted on a Quioxitic strategy? Are we in the situation of dismembering our Party infrastructure, so that we can gamble on a losing pony? And what will we be left with if SGI is a bust? No Party infrastructure, no Leader, a whack of private loans to retire, and no strategic direction or resources. Without field organisers, there will not be a full slate of candidates, so the votes of GPC supporters from the missing ridings will not be counted. There goes a whack of funding. The attendant bad publicity of a drop in support, and the public humiliation of Elizabeth May might just be something we cannot get over safely. Oh my, what are we to do?

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It’s Official, the Green Party of Canada Membership will decide on Leadership.

Before I start, I just checked my visitor stats, and it’s at 30,008! That’s 10,000 visitors in 3 months and 3 days. Wow, there were a LOT of people very interested in what’s happening with the GPC leadership contest!

It didn’t make sense to have a post with a shelf life of 1 day hanging around on the front page, so I’m bumping it with a post on the outcome of Sunday’s Green Party council debate on the leadership race. I am happy to say that my plea for reason, and my desperate last ditch attempt to ensure that no illegal motions were passed was successful. Council has voted to draft a motion to amend the Part by-laws regarding a leadership race to submit to the membership at the August BGM in Toronto. In the interim, the Leadership race fairness committee has been tasked to prepare the terms and conditions of the race. These terms and conditions will be predicated on the terms and conditions of the last race. For those interested, Steve Kisby chairs that committee, and I’ll publish the names and email addresses of all the members in an upcoming post.

The reason that the race terms and conditions have to be updated is because the council motion acknowledges that if the By-Law amendment fails, nominations for the leadership race will commence immediately, and a new leader will be elected before the year end. So now, the die is cast, and the leadership contenders have a sense of the rulebook, and a timeline to plan for.

I have recieved a number of emails with condolences about the outcome of Sundays vote. As I read them, I realised that there is something I simply haven’t made clear, and I’d like to clarify it now. I have NOT advocated an immediate race because I hate Elizabeth May, and want her out at any cost. What I have been argueing for is a consistent application of the rules, and for the clearly expressed intention of the membership, as is written into our By-Laws and constitution, to be respected. It was intolerable to me that the rules should be tinkered with, and disrespected by our governing council. This would be severely unhealthy for our Party, and would store up trouble for the future. The very fact that the membership will be consulted at the BGM, and that their intentions and will are NOT being pre-supposed and manipulated contents me completely. The practical needs of the competing leadership contenders have been partly addressed, and the commitment to flesh out the rulebook allows for the small tweaks that will deliver a great contest. The next Leader of the GPC will be decided by an open, and vigorous contest, that will allow for an airing of our differences, a contest for the hearts and minds of the membership, and a reconciliation of our differences at the conclusion of the race.  Provided the manipulation is over, win or lose, I AM CONTENT.

The paragraph above does not go far enough though. The characterisation that I increasingly see that I am  hater of Elizabeth is not true whatsoever. Elizabeth May has brought a great many benefits to the Green Party. She is an extraordinarily articulate, and intelligent woman. She is a quick thinker, and has a grasp of the effects and impacts of environmental policy second to NO-ONE in Canada, or even anywhere in the world! She IS our star candidate, and has more electoral potential in her pinky than 90% of our candidates in a general election. After this leadership race is over, I will move heaven and earth to help her get elected to Parliament.

Huh! That surprised everybody didn’t it? Well let me make clear the rational basis of my criticisms of the Leadership of the GPC, and WHY I believe it could only be rectified by a leadership race. Unlike any other Party in Canada, the Green Party has no formally elected Chief Administrative, or Chief Executive officer. (Often called the Party President) In theory, the Party machinery is managed by a hired Executive Director, while some various functions are handled by appointed sub committees of council, and the council elected Chair. Well, this really sucks, because the impact is that informal mechanisms actually trump the formal structure. The Leader, whom we all pretend is being elected as the chief communicator, in fact has great moral suasion, and by default, ends up shall we say, strongly influencing hiring, organising principles and structure, budget processes, campaign planning, and who has to clean the teacups after an in-person council meeting. She is not really accountable for failures in this area, because those failures aren’t officially her fault. As for an accountable council, well in practice it isn’t. Council members come and go through a revolving door. When accountability means you may lose a council election, and be spared feeling guilty for not reading all the memorada, and motions before the meetings, and not have to attend a monthly bun-fight, it’s hardly a meaningful sanction for mis-behaviour now, is it? So in effect, there is no accountability for councillors. These are also the reasons for the revolving door to the top staff positions. THEY are accountable for what they don’t control.

While Elizabeth has universally acknowledged skills, and attributes, I do not believe that these skills stretch to all places, and all things. She simply does not have the professional experience in managing processes, budgets, and multi-layered objectives that are essential to the operations of a successful political Party. No one person contains the full skill set, so that’s not a nasty attack. It’s a recitation of facts. When she found herself elected leader of a political party 4 years ago, she didn’t know anybody there very well. She saw levers of power, and she saw staff positions which needed filling. She looked amongst her closest trusted advisors, and allies from the Sierra Club, and from her personal life, and she filled those positions, and she pulled those levers of power. I know full well how many people were jockeying for influence with her at that time, because I was at the heart of her campaign team. Can I blame her for taking the steps she did? Not really, because she didn’t KNOW in her bones that political Party’s are pluralistic, that campaigns happen on multiple levels, and good politics requires good accomodation, and conciliation skills. So in a nutshell, that’s how the bunker mentality started. Our leader had the campaign team needed, but she didn’t have the management team to ‘close the deal’.

So now we’re going to have a leadership race, and the roots of our governance problems will be right out there on the table. I am working on behalf of a process oriented candidate who is a truly superior manager, trainer, and facilitator. She has a successful career, to which she will return after the job is done of facilitating the renewal of our Party’s governance and operations is completed, or at least well started. She will work to raise the profile of shadow cabinet, and put the media relations tools of the Party at the disposal of our up and coming personalities. She will work to ensure the National Party co-ordinates growth, message, and both strategic and tactical objectives with the EDA’s, and regional organising teams. She will work to ensure that we research effective messages, and systematically grow our support in a TARGETED and deliberate manner. Then she will retire from the position, and happily be our much beloved elder stateswoman, at the side of Elizabeth, and Jim Harris. Elizabeth has made a great contribution, and I really hope she will stay on to continue her career in the Green Party, but we must use the existing processes, and the moral suasion of the leaders position to recraft the operating and management structure of the Green Party.

So I sincerely hope this post will put to bed the silly comments, and half baked characterisations of myself, BGB as a hater of Elizabeth. It’s simply not a worthy criticism, especially now that we have a really serious contest in place for the hearts and MINDS of the Green Party of Canada’s membership. Now have at it with your’ comments! (6 weeks to meet the next 10,00 site visitors?)

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An Open Letter the Green Party of Canada federal council:

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;

Matthew Day
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: bluegreen1965@live.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.


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Green Party Riding Executives: What do you think of revising the Revenue Sharing Agreement?

Follow the Money...

I just read a blog post over at Dave Baglers’ blog. Given that of late, Dave has been unashamedly defending the Central Party status quo against all comers, I have drawn the conclusion that this is a trial balloon being floated by centralising forces, (read: The current Leadership), at the hollowed out Ottawa head office. Dave, if it ain’t so, then by all means respond in the comments.

Here’s a copy of the RSA as enacted. (Thanks Dave): Revenue_Sharing_Implementation_Plan_as_adopted_Nov-20-2005_formatted

I’ll get to my meat and potatoes argument about the viability of the RSA in a minute, but first a little background. The Green Party of Canada is in a financial pickle. In my humble opinion, this is a self-inflicted wound. The GPC has extremely predictable revenues. There is the federal per-vote subsidy, which is shared with Electoral Districts, and Provincial Divisions according to a predictable formulae. There are pretty stable revenues from the central Party’s fundraising. (yes, I’m referring to those emails you get once or twice per month). There are election expense refunds, which are one time shots to re-imburse funds after a general election. That’s it on the Revenue side. On the expenses side of the equation, there are payrolls, rent heat and lights, Insurance, some travel for council purposes, and a plethora of other, predictable period expenses. Then there’s discretionary spending.

A well managed organisation would look at an extremely predictable revenue flow, and then allocate their resources according to a priotised list of things-to-do-that-cost-money. Mandatory processes, like reporting and compliance would be top priority. Why? Because they are legal obligations. Other totally predictable obligations would be funded in descending order of priority. Council would be there to argue with staff over priorities, and to make sure that priorities like team building trips to the Bahama’s don’t get off the ground. Once you get to the point in your list where the money has all been allocated, you have a budget. When you want to argue about additional priorities, you either craft a plan to enhance your’ resources, or you bump something off the list to make way for the new priority.

This process isn’t rocket science. It’s something that the Prussian Civil Service excelled in back in the 1600’s, and it’s called budgeting. The Prussians did it well, which is why they rose from obscurity, and became a Great Power. Now if you fail to follow a process something like this, it doesn’t change the resources you have to dispose of. It doesn’t change the obligitory expenses either. By itself, what it does do is ensure that you don’t have many unexpected surprises.

Last month, the Green Party membership was surprised to discover that there was a fiscal emergency. Organisers had to be sacked, Catherine Johansen ‘resigned’ from the Election Readiness Committee, and a whole bunch of panic started in the Ottawa office. All of a sudden, the election debt had to be retired, and as if by magic, there just isn’t enough money in the darned bank. Now the terms and conditions of the election loans were clear and explicit. The payroll costs were 100% predictable. The discretionary spending? A total grab bag of unprioritised spending. Jobs for friends in Nova Scotia. Toss a whack of money to Adrian Carr’s Provincial Division in BC. Let’s toss $50 grand to the SGI Campaign for Elizabeth. Yes, I know that the last item was supposedly the top priority for the Party, but where were the cuts to the budget to accomodate it? Did council even consider that this brand new top priority meant that organisers had to be fired? Were YOU aware that you were going to lose your’ Provincial organiser because of it?

Remember folks, within ten minutes of the electoral returns being publicised, our Leader and her council knew within 5% what their resources would be. If they knew what one was, they could have created a Schedule of Receipts and Disbursements that nailed cash flows by date, within a very narrow band. Did they do so? NO. Did they prioritise and exercise their fiduciary duty to the membership? NO. This so-called crisis was created by our Federal Council, and it was created by Elizabeth May, plain and simple. Now some will accuse me of a biased, and unbalanced attack, because I have posted this blog. That is untrue. I would lambaste anybody who mismanaged my Party’s operations so badly. Some people would encourage me to refrain from public criticism, because it may spoil the electoral chances of Elizabeth May in SGI. My response is, don’t shoot the messenger. Our finances are pretty public, and there are opposition researchers eagerly awaiting our next public accounting. Better a trickle of negative reporting now to turn it into yesterdays news that much quicker. If we wait until the ‘AHA!’ moment when the finances are public, then timing is outside our control.

So what’s this got to do with the title of this post? By now that’s becoming obvious, no? If council is truly planning to revoke the ‘Sharing’ part of the Revenue Sharing Agreement, then I would like to be on the record before the bunfight begins. Revoking the RSA will be promoted as an ‘Emergency Measure’. The emergency was a product of fiscal incompetence. I would personally prefer to revoke council, and the Leadership, and I suspect that, were the truth known, a substantial portion of the Green Party membership would be upset enough to share this opinion. The root cause of the problem is that our Leadership is not competent to manage our money. The RSA was created out of a huge bruhaha back in the day. It was argued over, negotiated, brokered, debated by the membership, work-shopped, voted on by the membership at large, and finally, grudgingly enacted by Council. Dumping it to grab some more resources will not fix the incompetence in Ottawa. It will simply paper over the cracks. It’s absolutely guaranteed that the Leadership will continue to fritter, and fail to set priorities, so we’ll be back in the hole again immediately. In the meantime, the EDA’s will be boiling mad, and out for the Leaderships blood. Can you spell: Recall Motion? Not very good politics, eh?

The RSA was predicated on several motions passed by the membership in years gone by. It was intended to promote the formation of EDA’s, while still allowing for the Party Hub in Ottawa to have predictable cash flows. There are arguments that could be made that not all EDA’s use the money wisely. There are arguments that could be made that the RSA was created by council, therefore it can be revoked by council. There are also arguments that could be made that Provincial Divisions are really problematic under the Elections Act. While these arguments may have lot of merit, it’s moot. Why? Because the membership has spoken, council was fulfilling their mandated role when they enacted the RSA. The EDA share has definitely promoted EDA formation, and endurance. Even in the lamest EDA, there is a degree of continuity because they don’t want to abandon their bank account, and revenue sharing cheque. Who cares if some of them aren’t picture perfect organisations? The membership mandated that they get a share, this mandate has proven very effective at achieving it’s stated purpose. Just take a look at the last elections results. A growing number of local campaigns are breaking the 10% threshold, and surprise, surprise, they all have EDA’s in place to back them up.

Provincial Divisions are another kettle of fish. The membership, and RSA mandated that Provincial Division formation be promoted as well. That was before it became abundantly clear that the revisions to the Election Finances Act had rendered PD’s obsolete in Canada. Because Provincial Divisions are not legally seperated from the National Party accounts, it is problematic to ask the Party’s financial agent to be responsable for the books and spending decisions, unless thay are as directly under the Agents control as the National Party is. Why go through the cumbersome exercise of transferring money, and then scrutinising it seperately?

So now we have come full circle. As usual, I have digressed, and tread a tortuous path to my conclusion. We have a Leadership race coming up. Our current Leadership has demonstrated that they are not competent to fulfil their fiduciary, and governance duties. Draw your’ own conclusions, but perhaps you should consider a new Leader? One who can actually demonstrate some competence in the real world? Stay tuned, and soon I’ll be able to table another option for you, and I think you’re gonna like her and her team!

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Not an Official Green Party Site over 20,000 visitors

Bluegreenblogger a.k.a. Matthew Day

In November 2oo8, I got quite irate about the fallout from the 2008 election. Like many other GPC activists, I had become disenchanted with the candidate I had worked so hard to help make leader of the Green Party of Canada. I had lived with my mistake, and quietly withdrawn my services. Having been at the centre of the Leadership team, I had a fair idea that they really didn’t understand politics outside the realm of  communications, and media relations. No huhu I thought, they don’t want my help, and they’ll eventually find their own way.

As an interested outside observer, the 2008 general election was a real eye opener. They hadn’t learned anything! Running Elizabeth in Central Nova? What hubris! David Chernushenko was making dark and gloomy public statements, and the Green Party leadership was in complete denial about the failings of the National Campaign. My blood had boiled when I heard Elizabeth May encouraging strategic voting, which was a gut blow to hundreds of hard working candidates across the country. The very grudging, and half hearted retractions and clarifications from Elizabeth convinced me that the Party was in the hands of the wrong people.

To my thinking, the key missing ingredient was a lack of  training, support, and resources dedicated to building the organisational strength at the grassroots level of the Party. At that time, I had no inkling of anything except to share my experience, and hard won expertise in the actual nuts and bolts mechanics of succesful campaigning. There would be a leadership race in 2010, and in all likelihood, the Party membership would repay the lack of administrative capability, and perceived betrayal by the leadership by replacing it. The important thing would be that the potential candidates, and GPC activists should have some real organisational objectives, strategies, and initiatives to focus on as leadership campaign issues. I frankly don’t remember what conversation, or news report it was that decided me to start blogging on the Green Party of Canada, and political organisation in a Green Party of Canada context, but on November 28, 2008 I trotted off to WordPress, and set up a free blog, which you are patiently struggling through now.

I was, and still am proud of my earliest efforts on this blog. I have extensive experience building my own business, and my 25 years of Sales and Marketing experience has been invaluable in informing me about systematic presentation of a succesful message to a target audience. All the varied initiatives, and tasks I have performed on a volunteer basis since my initiation into the world of Canadian p0litics have taught me what works, and what fails in the real world of politics. There are some commonalities between political activism, and the world of commerce, but it took a lot of partial successes, and sometimes glaring failures to internalise the differences.

So here I am, one week short of 1 year, and this little blog just passed the milestone of 20,000 unique visitors. Many of the most useful lessons I had to present were dealt with in my first 30 posts or so. I have digressed, and faded a bit, (a lot actually) in recent months. Firstly, because I earn my living in a seas0nal marketplace, and I’ve been too busy. Secondly, much of the best advice I have to offer has already been written up as posts. I am seeking the advice of my readers now. Please go back to my December 08 – March 09 archived posts, and check them out. Contrast them with recent posts. I am puzzled about what direction to go in. Should I simply start re-posting past blogs, with a little editing? There is the possibility of re-formatting, and compiling this into a comprehensive ‘Campaign and Organising Manual’. I could dish a ton of scanadlous dirt on the GPC, or I could turn to my policy interests of Tax Policy, and Urban Transportation( a.k.a. location and urban economics). Another option would be to seek more input from some of the gifted organisers and campaigners within Green Party ranks. I for one would love to interview Bill Hulet about the Guelph experience in community organising, or get a complete Obama campaign field manual review with Rob Routledge. What do YOU think? (I just edited to read Bill Hulet, not Bill Hewitt. I make this mistake very often, and I sincerely apologise to both the Bill’s for my own impending senility)

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