Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Elizabeth May in Saanich-Gulf Islands

Within the federal Green Party there is a growing debate about whether leader Elizabeth May has the moral credentials to "parachute" into the riding to become the Green candidate in the next election. Another Green Party member--Stuart Hertzog, also not from the riding--is contesting the nomination based on his assertion that the Green Party is a grassroots party and thus the decision to have Ms May run in the riding came from the top and is thus not "green."

The following is a slightly modified version of what I wrote as a comment on a blog discussion about the issue. It has been modified to read as a stand alone piece for the benefit of anyone who is not acquainted with the original debate or the discussion in general.

I am one of the “blue-greens” people talk about when they try to distinguish differing points of views within the Green Party. I’m a middle-aged farmer trying to take care of my little piece of the planet, and having an ever increasingly difficult time. I used to consider myself a Progressive Conservative, but when issues of the environment led me to change priorities (and the PCs disappeared), I became a Green supporter.

I was first welcomed into the "Green" fold by people who were happy I'd become a 'convert' but later told (and often) that I am not “green” enough by long-term “fundis” (not my choice of words). Often, "fundis" believe that the objective of getting elected and thus having to work within a political system they see as tainted is offensive, and that it is better to simply advocate for the change they see as necessary to save the planet. "Realos" tend to be more pragmatic and recognise the necessity of getting "down and dirty" within the process and scrapping with those in power to get a seat at the table. To us (cause I guess I am a "Realo"), this seems logical.

This schism now has Greens divided about whether Elizabeth May's style of leadership is too "top-down" and thus unworthy of the label Green and that it is simply selfish for her to lead the party in the direction of getting her elected to Parliament.

While I think Mr. Hertzog has every right to challenge Ms. May for the Green candidacy in Saanich-Gulf Islands, I am perplexed by the notion of some Greens who become involved with the Green Party as a political party yet are un-fussed about electing MPs/MLAs/MNAs. The idea of being a movement over a political party leaves me scratching my head.

I see this as politically dishonest: asking voters for support… and especially for money. The call, “Vote for me… I’m happy not to be elected because I believe I am morally superior to the whole dirty business of politics” is simply asking for failure. Taking money for that endeavour, or asking people to volunteer their lives to the effort is just dumb to me… but then again, I’m not an academic or a philosopher.

I cannot believe that people like myself… who still believe individuals have enough integrity to make a positive difference in our political system are somehow simply naive, or that we miss the point of the scale of change necessary to “save the planet.”

I believe getting elected is a first step in our system. Ignoring this fact will not get us the chance to participate in the system, and we will never get a chance to explain our perspectives in the halls of political power. By not getting elected, we cast ourselves into oblivion.

The idea that enough of the electorate would vote for a party that does not see getting elected as the first priority is “pie-in-the-sky” and without integrity to support the ideas we believe in.

This seems more like the same partisan politics that has become the Canadian reality. Greens are fond of saying this party is not about left vs right. It is an attractive motto, however, this party is taking on the shades of “realo” vs “fundi” which is simply the same crap, re-branded, and what is worse, it will hurt the Green cause politically.

I see Elizabeth May as one step in a process to get a Green voice in the House of Commons. She has brought the Green Party a certain cache and certainly more visibility among a larger group of Canadians. I see her as a bridge between the “fundis” and the “realos.”

All arguments aside about the wisdom of running against Peter McKay last time, I am certain Ms. May will run to win in the next election. Win or lose, she will face a leadership review in 2010. That is the time for challengers to mount arguments to replace her. Of course those arguments need to be heard. If someone comes around to inspire more confidence then we will get the chance to choose a new leader.

Until then (and as a “blue-green”) I think it is acceptable for the leader of a political party to run in a winnable riding. Indeed, I think it is an obligation. For my own part, what I find rather mystifying is this continuing idea that the Green Party is above winning or losing. If one believes that, wouldn’t it be better (and more honest) to stay totally engaged in activist activity?


  1. Well-reasoned post, and I couldn't agree more that it's imperative we win seats and begin to shape policy from inside Parliament.

    Nice to see you blogging!

  2. Bill, re "...this party is taking on the shades of “realo” vs “fundi” which is simply the same crap, re-branded, and what is worse, it will hurt the Green cause politically."


    "For my own part, what I find rather mystifying is this continuing idea that the Green Party is above winning or losing. If one believes that, wouldn’t it be better (and more honest) to stay totally engaged in activist activity?"

    When you write about "the Green Party" in the context that you do, please remember that you are commenting about the federalist Green Party of Canada. There are also provincial Green parties.

    I would hardly call a Fundi resurgence and coming-of-age "crap." Odd as it may seem, within our current historical context, the Fundi's are about to become the legitimate realo's. That it has taken 25 years to finally arrive at this stage is beside the point.

    Relative to true Green politics, as opposed to Green-lite as has been regurgitated by the GPC, the federalist GPC is a political impostor and fraud. As was made clear during last year's federal election, the GPC is nothing more than the Green wing of the LPC.

    The philosophy of Green politics, and resultant policy directions, was always meant to be applied at the regional (bioregional, if you will) level. A cursory, knee-jerk nod to the principles of decentralization is nothing more than an empty gesture if it is not concretely owned by relative political action.

    Stuart Hertzog has drawn a line in the sand, as I believe have I with my candidacy for the leadership of the Green Party of Nova Scotia. I propose that this coming federal election will be not only the last kick at the can for Elizabeth May, but also for the GPC. True Greens can only wish for a quick demise of the GPC so that we can finally get on from where things were left off at 25 years ago with the proper political Green representatives: Green provincial parties.

  3. I think that it is important to understand a little of the nuance around the debate vis-a-vis May and the Party. Most of the opposition to May comes from what you would call the "realos". The question isn't whether or not we should elect people to Parliament, but rather what strategy will give us the greatest chance of doing so. The GPC is an incredibly anemic institution. It desperately needs to invest in building stronger EDAs, yet the head office instead puts all its effort into trying to get one person elected.

    Moreover, the feeling is that May is not someone who sees internal Green politics as an exercise in consensus building so much as one of a sort of absolute Monarchy. Again, this is dangerous in a strongly built party, but suicidal in one as loosey-goosey as the GPC.

  4. Nice post. Nice blog, nice to find another 'bluegreen' ;-)

  5. Holy cow, Batman! Someone commented on my blog.

    What the heck do I do now?

    Well... thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    While I respect your comment Sebastian, it would take some more convincing for me to accede to your points. However, I regret the use of the word "crap" to describe the dialogue between Greens. I will be more careful.

  6. B.
    I would support your candidacy if I lived in your riding.

    Hopefully the party will get a boost with the leadership review and subsequent departure of Ms. May.

    PS I would support your kick at the leadership!!!!!