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Daniel Tseghay is a writer from Vancouver who has written for the Toronto Star, The Georgia Straight, and THIS Magazine, among others. He is also the B.C. Green candidate for Vancouver-False Creek. http://www.facebook.com/VanFalseCreek

Greens demonstrate power of independent thought in politics

| December 27, 2012

In a packed hall near the southern shore of Vancouver’s False Creek, Elizabeth May, the leader of the federal Green party, detailed what imperils our country and our world. During her speech at the Green party gala on November 16, she touched on the dire threat of climate change -- but it was her depiction of her fellow members of Parliament which might have counted as the most astounding and disillusioning.

In a message she repeated in front of a cheering crowd of 1,300 in Victoria on November 19, she pointed out that many of her colleagues -- NDP, Liberal, and Conservative -- are directed on how to vote on various pieces of legislation. And, in light of that, they simply don’t read much of the legislation which lands on their desks. They don’t have to, they reason -- and, as she suggests, if they did, they might be appalled by what they’re voting for. So they just avoid the trouble and refrain from reading it at all.

Consequently, the Canadian democratic tradition of responsible governance is in peril. Our politicians are not informing themselves about important pieces of legislation. And they’re letting things through which will benefit corporations while hurting many people -- all without their consultation.

This is where the pending ratification of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) enters the picture. This FIPA, a treatise which enforces binding obligations in favour of foreign investors, will not be Canada’s first with another state, but it certainly ranks among the least transparent. It will also do far more to serve the interests of Chinese investors than Canadian citizens.

“Its main role is to protect Chinese-owned assets from legislatures, governments, and courts in Canada, and vice versa,” writes Gus Van Harten, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and author of Investment Treaty Arbitration and Public Law. “Because there is more Chinese investment in Canada than Canadian ownership in China, the treaty’s investor protection mechanism puts disproportionate risks and constraints on Canada.”

There’s far more to this proposed treaty than many of us currently know. And it’s time our leaders communicate this reality to the people. Fortunately, there are some leaders still willing to do just that. Elizabeth May was the first to ring the alarm on FIPA. After Stephen Harper signed the FIPA agreement on September 9 without broad consensus, May asked, 10 days later during question period, when the text of the treaty would be made public. A week later she held a press conference, raising the possibility that Canada would become a “resource colony” if FIPA went through. It was only on October 31 -- nearly two months after Harper’s first move -- when the leaders of the Liberal party and the NDP finally raised the issue during question period.

May’s example speaks to the power of independent thought when many of our elected officials have no real incentive to engage in such a thing themselves. The Green party -- federal, provincial, and municipal -- represents the interests of those engaged in clear and sustained analysis of the issues that will affect us all. In times like these, the people deserve representatives who embody these pivotal practices.

This article was originally co-written with Andrew Weaver for the Georgia Straight.

Check out my website: http://www.facebook.com/VanFalseCreek

You can follow me on Twitter at @dtseghay.

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Comments

I like Mala V's suggestion, that the Green Party firmly entrench itself on the Left.

Thanks for that interesting comment, mala_v.

Even the Green Party of the United States is far to the left of the Canadian one (and far to the left of the NDP, for that matter).

I was a member of the British Green Party (and then of the Green Party of England and Wales) before emigrating to Canada, and I also helped out with two GroenLinks campaigns in the Netherlands.  I've been a card carrying Green for more than half my life!  But I have to say that the Canadian Green Party doesn't inspire any enthusiasm whatsoever. I helped a friend with her signs when she ran, federal election before last, and that was pretty much all I've done.  

I quite like Elizabeth May, but the Canadian Greens have this wierd centrist baggage that really needs to be jettisoned if they're going to be a serious party. Neutrality vis a vis capitalism - 'environment before politics' - is a frankly absurd position for a green party to take.  I suspect May would like to jettison a bit of that baggage as well, but it's entrenched at the level of the general membership.  That's party democracy -- what can you do?  What I did was walk on by.

What distinguishes the best Green parties around the world is that they are firmly of the left, but in a way that embraces a decidedly more libertarian (think Bakunin, not Ayn Rand) perspective than their social democratic or socialist 'competitors'.  That's the essence of Green-ness for me: a version of leftism, socialism even, that recognises that management, bureaucracy and centralisation are problems as real as exploitation -- essentially co-conspirators with exploitation. The Canadian party seem to be neither left nor particularly libertarian.  It could learn a thing or two from the American Greens, even if it doesn;t want to look any farther afield.           

The Green Party is not progressive--they promote flat taxes (consumption taxes and lower income taxes)--just what the Fraser Institute promotes.

 

I think the Green Party is a home for the old progressive conservatives that cared about the environment--but don't like left wing social policies.  EMay never explained what her "profound differences" were with Jack Layton in an Island Tides article--but she obviously dislikes the NDP.

"Those engaged in clear and sustained analysis of the issues" are not, for the most part, supporters of the Green Party.

And the idea that we would get different kinds of laws passed in Parliament if only MPs would actually read the bills they pass and exercise "the power of independent thought" is ludicrous. News flash: most of the MPs in Parliament are supporters of Stephen Harper's hard-right agenda for Canada. The reason for this is that they freely and knowingly choose to support that agenda - not because they are careless in their reading habits (or don't have plenty of staff to do the reading for them and explain it to them) and get tricked by their fellow caucus members into voting for bills.

It's a matter of ideology, not literacy.

...another slow news day at rabble.ca, I reckon.

There is so much wrong with this article I don't know where to begin.  First of all I really hate the way Elizabeth May runs around Canada dissing all other MP's.  She is so divisive all the time.

Take this one for example:

 'They don’t have to, they reason -- and, as she suggests, if they did, they might be appalled by what they’re voting for. So they just avoid the trouble and refrain from reading it at all.'

Does the writer know that she votes along the same lines as the other opposition parties most of the time?  She merely pulls this little tidbit that they are 'told' how to vote, without proof, BTW, but fails to mention that they vote the same as she does!  Naive voters believe in this crap, so it must work for her.

This also puts me off of E. May;

Consequently, the Canadian democratic tradition of responsible governance is in peril. Our politicians are not informing themselves about important pieces of legislation. And they’re letting things through which will benefit corporations while hurting many people -- all without their consultation.

...hmmmmm We are governed now by a Harper Con majority.  The voting part really means that nothing can be done to stop these important pieces of legislation, and are not letting anything 'through'.  That is a blatant opportunistic play by Lizzie.

 

Next;

 

 Elizabeth May was the first to ring the alarm on FIPA.

 

Ms. May parachuted into her riding of Saanich Gulf Islands.  The file on Enbridge was worked on for years before she got here by Nathan Cullen.  I never hear him say he was first on this important file.  Really?  This is child's play and every time I hear it, it makes me cringe that she was 'first'.  Is this a race?

 

The Green party will try really, really hard to get the Liberals re-elected by splitting the vote(like in 2009) and are currently Harper's best friend.  They will not be green if need be to win (Victoria by-election).  They have shown that the fight is not about the environment.

The idealists, like the author of this article, need to consider what their votes actually gets them.  A better government or the same one but seem unable to take it to the next step.  It is all lollipops and rainbows as usual for Green voters and one opportunistic politican.

Me?  I'm a realist and would never vote Green. 

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