Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: Open Letter - May & Dion - Democratic Nonpartisan Politics

April 15, 2007

Open Letter - May & Dion - Democratic Nonpartisan Politics

First, a link to a video clip of May being interviewed on this.

Click on the 'watch this video' link next to the picture of Elizabeth May.
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Here is my letter, written in reply to a concerned GPC member in Alberta.

Thank you for your very well written and engaging letter.

I respect your opinion, and want to share with you that I don't see May's actions as treachery, as you put it. The specifics of this arrangement are that the Green Party will not be running a candidate in Dion's riding - a riding where there is no Green Party EDA or nominated candidate. Dion (someone that is not too popular in my neck of the woods) has agreed to not run a Liberal candidate in the riding of Central Nova where Elizabeth May is the nominated Green Party candidate. This has been called treachery and back-room dealing some wishing to label it that way. It has been called admirable, courageous and an effort towards co-operative teamwork by many others. Dion's decision to support May has been made because the Liberal Party wants May to be elected. Interestingly, many Greens, who are understandably shaken up, are asking 'why not just vote Liberal?' At the same time many Liberals are asking 'why not just vote Green?' To be clear, this is an agreement involving two ridings, and two leaders of federal political parties. This is not a wholesale endorsement of either party, by either leader, nor should it be.

A point of interest: Apparently the Liberal riding association is supportive of this arrangement.

Another point of interest: A number of very prominent members of the now dead Progressive Conservative Party were instrumental in helping May achieve a respectable second place in the London North Center byelection with 25% of the vote, ahead of the NDP and Conservative candidates. Last time I checked, those green conservatives and blue conservationists were fine with the Green Party's efforts to work above partisan lines.

In my short time with the Green Party I've come to realize that running 308 candidates in 308 ridings was nothing short of a miracle. For the Green Party to do this in two elections in a row was unbelievable! Here is the Green Party, a national party, with over 600,000 votes, 30% of Canadians supporting the Green Party and considering to vote Green, polls putting the Greens in the double digits, and no elected MP's. Then I hear that some might say the Green Party is a 'fringe party', but with a platform and policies that cover all issues, the ability to organize 308 candidates, and this level of support, one has to acknowledge that the Green Party is a force to be reckoned with.

I believe that it is our dysfunctional electoral system that has failed us through the years. While the other national parties have claimed to support some kind of electoral reform in the past, once in power they quickly forgot about fairness and equality. Elizabeth May managed to arrange a very high profile agreement, and the message it sends to me is that the old-line parties will have to change their ways or face the Greens head on. We will not be denied!

I am a spiritual person. In my life I live by principles that are very important to me. They include honesty, open-mindedness, patience, tolerance and hope, to name a few. I've found that if something doesn't fit with these principles it's probably not worth doing. I've looked long and hard at this decision, as well as the six key values and the constitution of the Green Party of Canada, and I cannot agree that this was the wrong thing to do.

Under Article 4 - Purpose, from the GPC Constitution, 4.1 reads "fielding and electing candidates in federal elections." This action is made in an effort to ensure that the Green Party elects a candidate in the next election. It is not made in lieu of continuing to work hard at the grassroots level. It is not a short cut. It is acting in accordance with the Party's constitution. Rest assured, the Green Party is working to have candidates running (no, not literally 'running', although one Liberal-loathing fellow had me on the 'run' today ;-) in the 307 remaining ridings.

Under Article 6 - Accountability, it reads: "All units and individuals within The Party are accountable to:
6.1) the membership in general meetings of members, and
6.2) the Federal Council when the membership is not in general meetings
To me this is very important. It means that I, as the Alberta Provincial Representative, must represent the federal members within the province of Alberta. I take this volunteer position very seriously, and since I've been elected by the members in Alberta to represent them and make decisions on their behalf, I must listen to what their thoughts and opinions are. I wouldn't have it any other way, and I will continue to bring the comments, questions and concerns of members in Alberta to Federal Council and the entire Federal Green Party.

From our Key Value of Social Justice it is stated that "there is no social justice without environmental justice, and no environmental justice without social justice", and that this requires "a new vision of citizenship built on equal rights for all individuals regardless of gender, race, age, religion, class, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, disability, wealth or health." This reminds us all that we can never discount a persons value, nor can we elevate a persons status based on any of the points from the list above. Green Party members within the two ridings, non members in those ridings, Green Party members across Canada and Canadians of all political leanings will be heard equally by my party. I will make sure of it. Whether or not there is an electoral district association formed, the members of the Green Party of Canada are on equal footing with the Leader of the Green Party of Canada. They are no greater or lesser that any other member of this party.

From our Key Value of Participatory Democracy it is stated that "building grassroots institutions that enable decisions to be made directly at the appropriate level by those affected, based on systems which encourage civic vitality, voluntary action and community responsibility." Will this agreement facilitate this value? How can we judge if this value has been upheld? Will this deal encourage civic vitality, voluntary action and community responsibility, or will it discourage it? Has this deal been made in contradiction of this value? How does it apply to each riding that it directly affects, and how does it apply to the big picture of Canadian politics? I'm certainly no political strategist, but I can comment on the relevancy of this value to this arrangement. I believe it will lead to the fulfillment of this value, and I believe that the actions of Dion and May are examples of real participatory democracy.

It could be wonderful if Canadians had a right to vote for every registered federal party, a right that could be enshrined in the Canadian constitution, but there is no such right. Like driving in our vehicles, being able to vote for the party of our choice in the riding where we reside is a privilege that we must never take for granted. We must participate in supporting our party of choice in ways above and beyond offering our vote. We must work to ensure that our local ridings are organized and able to elect candidates. I want to see this done more at the grassroots level in the ridings by the riding associations, and less by Ottawa through the National Office.

While we all have a right to vote, we must recognize that our vote is burdened by our electoral system. So much so, in fact, that many people speak of so-called 'strategic voting', as if there's any strategy or even measurable logic to our electoral system. Many Canadians are stuck with whoever has the overwhelming majority of support in their riding, and no matter what other party they vote for, it will only be effective as a protest vote. That voter can do their best to organize, support their underdog party, assist in any way they can to help grow their party, but in the end, election after election, in that particular riding, nothing will change. The old-line parties will continue to see their support bleed to the other party, they will read the polls, they will message accordingly in order to re-attract their support, but in the end nothing will change. For how many decades are we willing to subject ourselves to this?

Then there are the close ridings, the ones where every vote 'matters' (the system is bizarre in that it puts more or less value on your vote, based on your riding stats), or at least they 'matter' until the results are in, and the parties that lost have to lick their wounds and tell their voters "sorry, we tried, but your votes were cast for naught". In those ridings Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system has caused extreme partisanship and Canada's federal parties have focused their efforts time and time again on strategy rather than on people. I say if nothing changes, nothing changes! If we allow the old-line parties to continue to be so negatively affected by this electoral system, we are selling ourselves short and giving up on our hopes for positive change in Canada. Things need to change and they need to change now.

I ask myself how my country came to this point and I look back on recent political developments in Canada. What has happened to the Right? It became 'united', meaning that Harper and Mackay destroyed a Canadian institution by dissolving the Progressive Conservative Party and reducing voter options. Talk about back room deals and a loss of voter choice!!!

What has happened to the Left? This is now the Green party's dilemma. They could risk being possibly seen as the Party that split the Left (after it's already been split previously) and caused the election of a Harper majority. No, that would not be a good thing, but really neither would a majority under any other party right now. Alternatively the Greens, along with other progressive parties, can work together to ensure that progressive values, a healthy environment, healthy Canadians and a sustainable economy are made a reality. We are the electorate choosing our representatives - in some cases nonpartisan selections based on the strengths the candidate possesses. I want to stress that this is democratic nonpartisan politics.

While the Greens are neither Left nor Right, they do have to show Canadians why it's worth voting for them. There are so many reasons that we need the Green Parties in all of the countries around the world to continue to fight for real positive change. The Left, as well as the Right, must continue to welcome the Green Party as the new progressive and responsible option. I see so many ex-Progressive Conservative supporters joining the Green Party, as well as disillusioned NDPers fed up with a lack of real progress, that I stand in amazement. I've seen people with no previous partisan leanings join the Green Party, as well as long time Liberals who know that the greenwashing of the old line parties isn't going to bring about real action. The Green Party is a national party that appeals to Canadians from across the political spectrum. This is now the new face of Canadian politics.

This was an open and transparent agreement, not a back-room deal. It was proudly announced with no effort to conceal or otherwise deny the agreement. This was a leap of faith in the spirit of kindness & hope, not a sin. Collaboration is not a sin, although some people including NDP's one time research and communications director Jamie Heath would have you think that working together isn't what Canadians want their elected representatives to do.

This agreement takes our dysfunctional first past the post electoral system and throws it back in the face of the political parties who've been unable to fix it. It allows Greens across Canada a better chance of representation in parliament. Democratic values have remained uncompromised. We've now realized the next logical step to the electoral system that our country uses. Unless some kind of electoral reform takes place, we will only continue to see more frustrated Canadians voting in long shot riding for a party with little chance, and more frustrated Canadians voting in neck-and-neck ridings where the fight to win power continues to take on ever more ugly form of partisanship that, in May's own words, "exceeds sense". Until Canada's democracy is reformed to become a truly fair and equal democratic government, I will continue to fight for real change, and I will do so through my efforts within the Green Party of Canada.


The Anonymous Green said...

Dion (someone that is not too popular in my neck of the woods)

Why do you suppose that is the case? His personality? His party? His policies? His province of origin?

Just curious.

Cameron W said...

His personality?
Dion has been described by a few people I've spoken with as being 'mild mannered' or 'not a leader type'. This is what some say is a problem and reasons to dislike him. I disagree, but that's what has been said to me.

His party?
Definitely. At over 80% of the vote, the incumbent Conservative candidate in this riding has the dubious distinction of winning with the highest level of support in Canada. There are a lot of people in rural southern Alberta that really dislike the Liberal Party, and so as leader of the Liberal Party many of those people automatically dislike Dion.

His policies?
I don't think so.

His province of origin?
Maybe. A few people in my riding have said this is a problem for them.

I'm still learning why people dislike Dion so much out here. It's a different reason for every person. David Suzuki is another person who is even despised by some out here. When he traveled through Alberta recently I was shocked by the words used by some people here to describe him.

This isn't the case for everyone, but there are a lot of people who don't like Dion. Some people here think Dion would make a great Prime Minister.

I think he'd make a better Prime Minister than Harper.

I think a Green PM - perhaps Elizabeth May - would be the best thing for this country for many, many reasons.