Updated: Sep 30, 2020
For the first time in many years, many of the members of the GPC started paying attention to how the party is governed during the 2020 Leadership Contest. With eight contestants, it
clearly going to be competitive. But what was revealed is how secretive the party is about how it conducts its business of running the party.
Without going into the laundry list of questionable decisions, I will highlight the one that caused most of the problems, and that was Federal Council members allowing themselves to campaign for any candidate of their choice. This one decision was more typical of a fringe party than a party with seats. The conflicts of interest as a result were many and the most significant example was that Elizabeth May was allowed to fundraise for the candidate of her choice, which was not anywhere to be found in the published rules. It was claimed that this was allowed in order to level the playing field for candidates who represented diversity. A noble goal but the rules were definitely unclear and the effect of the perceived endorsement by the former leader was powerful. When I sent an open letter to Council about this, there was no response as to the procedure that was followed.
Who are these people in general who are on Federal Council?
Most Councillors over the last decade or so have been asked to run by others who wished to maintain a control over Council and most of those people were loyal to Elizabeth May. Over the years, there were typically multiple candidates for Provincial rep from provinces like Ontario and BC but many positions were virtually acclaimed and all they had to do was to defeat the pesky NOTA (none of the above). As of the time of this writing, there are three vacant positions on Council and when I have been paying attention, that seems to be about typical.
Occasionally, Councillors were elected who resisted the top-down, leader-centric policies of governance and if they strayed too far from the inner group, there were ways to discredit them, frustrate them and if necessary, trump up false charges to neutralize their opposition.
Elizabeth did politics differently in the House of Commons which constantly made me proud to be a Green but behind the scenes, the shenanigans were typical of Canadian power politics and some would say, even worse.
Many Councillors do not complete their two year term as they often can’t stand to watch and sanction what they see going on. Others hang on, attend meetings and barely say a peep as the voting system is usually ‘does anybody object’.
On a side note, the position of President is extremely taxing and currently unpaid and should be limited to a one year term. Only one President, Ken Melamed, has completed a two year term since the position was changed from a chair about 10 years ago (I finished a one year term. It was a one year term since the previous President, John Streicker, resigned after one year to pursue a Municipal Council position in Whitehorse.)
Most Councillors pop into the job well intentioned but with little or no understanding of how the party actually works. A big part of the problem is that the group that really runs Federal Council ignores what is written down as procedures and pressures the wheels to turn according to their whims. This was my experience and that of many who have contacted me over the years since. This generally happens because members are not paying attention. On the plus side, there are a lot more observers at FC meetings than eight years ago but ironically that seems to mean that Federal Council spends most of its time lately in camera.
Ok…enough complaining about the current state of affairs Mark lol. What is the best path forward?
For me, the key comes back to what I think should be the most important unit in the party, the Electoral District Association (EDA). That’s a riding association for those not familiar with the term. Organized into regional groups of mentorship and collaboration, they can become a very powerful force in Canadian politics.
If we make a mandatory monthly meeting for all regional reps of Federal Council to have a zoom meeting with all EDA executives in their region, we would begin the process of literacy of the governance of the GPC to a group that would be most likely to produce the most competent, active and enthusiastic candidates for Federal Council from that province. Maybe quarterly or bi-monthly would be OK. What do you think?
Nationally elected positions which are President, English VP, Francophone VP, and Fund Representative should all be holding open zoom meetings with members on a regular basis where members can ask openly about what decisions are being made and why. There is virtually no accountability currently and that is not what democracy is all about. If you think that ‘vote them out in two years’ is accountability, I would strongly argue against that.
How can we pine for Proportional Representation when we practice such poor democracy right now? I know that most members want that improved so I am hopeful that with a new leader we can begin the transition to a more democratically participatory party.
If there are regular meetings with elected reps of Federal Council with EDA executives, this will be a major step towards ending up with Councillors who will carry on this important activity and understand that there will be accountability for their tenure, and will keep their constituents informed as to party governance and functioning. This can all be done in a very positive and productive fashion, as long as there are not the current power struggles and games being played by a few who know how to manipulate the system (had to slip that in again….).
How do you think that Federal Council can be filled with more qualified individuals who will increase the transparency of the party, make it massively more inclusive than it is for the abundance of talent available with volunteers, and support local EDAs?