Time for a leadership race?

Elizabeth May

A great deal is on the blogs on the Green Party site and elsewhere that presumes a few things about current leadership questions.

I have been trying to stay out of the discussion of leadership issues ever since the question of when we should have a leadership race was first raised last fall.

Here’s how I see it.  I ran to be leader in 2006 for a two year term.  The vast constitutional change proposed at that BGM included doubling the fixed term to four years.  I was against the whole constitutional set of changes and said so publicly.  The changes seemed rushed and poorly conceived.  They passed anyway, and, winning leadership, I had a four year term, ending at the end of August 2010.  As for “job security,” the Constitution allows the leader to be removed at any meeting of council by a 2/3 vote.  

There has been some discussion on line that presumed I made some effort to extend my term.  That is just not the case.  I have absented myself from the debate on council about what to do at the end of this term on the doorstep of a possible fall election.  Elections Canada rule changes related to leadership campaign financing presented practical issues.  Council sought legal advice and was told that, to be prudent, a leader would have to step down in order to run for leadership due to changes made in 2003.  Council did its best, working through a range of options.  What the majority of council has put forward to the membership is a fair and sensible effort.  Accepting it would solve issues not only for the immediate future, but for future leaders and unforeseeable elections.

What if members opt to have a leadership race?  I, for one, am open to whatever the membership decides and will welcome the decision, whichever way it is decided.  This amazing Green Party movement is a work in progress.  We are charting a new way and if our members decide that a leadership race every four years, no matter what the circumstance, is healthy then I will throw myself into taking this party forward again.

Politics in this country needs to change and we in the Green Party are fiercely committed to openness and democracy.  We lack party bosses --  and we like that.  We debate openly and that is why we are growing  --  and growing.

I am proud of what I have accomplished as leader of this party.  We are the only party that increased its vote in 2008.  And we increased it a lot, from 4% to nearly 7%.  Such an accomplishment is even more impressive given that the total Canadian vote dropped to historic lows.  Traditional wisdom is that we do better with high voter turn out.  We had over 40 ridings achieve over 10% of the vote  -- well beyond anything in 2006.

I pledged when I ran for leader to increase the ethnic diversity of the party and of our candidates.    I committed to increase the involvement of youth (when I ran for leadership, the party had no youth wing.)  Now we have a far more diverse and inclusive group of candidates and we have a vital youth wing, Young Greens.

I promised we would have a fuller set of policy prescriptions with better research supporting them.  We produced Vision Green.  We have, for the first time ever, produced fully budgeted campaign platforms and updated them.  

I promised to run at my first opportunity in a by-election, so the party would be taken more seriously.  That I did, increasing the vote in London North Centre from 5% to 26% between January and November 2006.  That we nearly won the seat changed everything for the party.

There is much to discuss about the party and its purpose.  A leadership renewal is not a bad thing and I welcome it.  I have no doubt that I will lead the party into the next election and that we will win seats.

The bigger question is “why would that matter?”   That is the question we have to answer for ourselves and for Canadians.  It cannot just be the same self-serving partisanship voters hear from the other parties.  It cannot be a hollow “because we are better .. or smarter” at politics.  It must be because we will change politics.

We must be so committed to changing the culture of Canadian politics that today’s hyper-partisanship itself will be out of date.  It must be because we are committed to working with like-minded people in all the other parties to make the changes most urgently required.  

The top of that list is responding to the climate crisis.  The fact that the climate crisis is a top priority is not a messaging problem.  It is not a strategy. It is the reality.  We have very little time to make the dramatic changes humanity must make to end our fossil fuel addiction.  Greens must lead that change.

Greens recognize that ending our addiction to fossil fuels is an economic platform.  It requires an energy policy.  We know that core Green values require social justice and equity, so the economic shift to renewables and greater energy efficiency does not occur in a land where too few people have meaningful work, or where too many live in poverty.

We have developed a fully integrated and accessible set of policies in Vision Green.  A leadership contest can help us explain that vision to Canadians.
Just so you know where I stand before the BGM, I am not trying to extend my term.  If a leadership race is on, I will step down at the end of August and run for and win a renewed leadership mandate.    

The Green Party is the only party in the country to have a steadily improved standing across the country.  We have far more in common than in our differences.  Our BGM will be a great and positive event, revitalizing and refreshing our energies, regardless of the outcomes on various motions.   I look forward to seeing you there!