The Green Party of Canada’s three-day long convention in Sidney, B.C. has just wrapped up. Here is an account of the major decisions taken, from one of the nearly 300 delegates who were in attendance.
This year’s convention saw discussion of 27 policy motions, six constitutional motions, eight directive motions and three emergency motions.
All of the policy, constitutional and directive motions were subjected to an online vote prior to the convention. Emergency motions were first presented at the convention itself and thus had not previously been voted on. All resolutions will be subjected to a final and conclusive vote by the membership after the convention.
The floor decided that all motions receiving more than two-thirds support would be green-lighted and passed through the convention without further debate. Motions to rescind a number of old policies, some of which were in conflict with newer policies or outside of federal domain were green-lighted, as were motions to co-operate with the NDP and Liberal Parties.
Cooperative politics on display
The cooperative form of politics championed by Ms. May and the Green Party were quite evident this weekend. Former Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and independent MP Bruce Hyer (formerly NDP) were present as guest speakers. This convention made history by including two sitting MPs not affiliated with the party in question.
Stéphane Dion spoke about proportional representation, specifically his proposal for the Proportional-Preferential-Personalized-Vote, or P3. Bruce Hyer’s address was titled “How the Greens can Save Parliament.”
Given his environmental priorities, close association with Elizabeth May and the subject of his speech, many of the delegates were hoping that he was going to join the Greens at the convention. No such announcement was made. However, he did publicly donate the maximum political contribution to the Greens and spoke extremely positively of Green Party policy. This left many delegates hopeful for a second Green MP in the coming years.
Seal hunt sparks debate
Resolutions receiving less than two-thirds support went to workshop, where many of them were then modified by amendments. Two of the most contentious motions related to the seal hunt. Motion G12-P18 would have removed the Green Party’s current policy of moderate opposition to the commercial seal hunt and Motion G12-P19 would have replaced it with a policy which is supportive of the seal hunt. These motions received 60.7 per cent and 52.7 per cent support respectively in the online voting but were overwhelmingly rejected at both the workshop and the plenary meeting.
The Young Greens were quite active at this convention, having put forward a number of policy resolutions and having networked amongst themselves and other Greens. One of their policy motions, G12-P14, calls for the implementation of an online forum as part of the House of Commons website that would facilitate the use of online petitions. In discussing this motion, the Young Greens Council’s Communications Co-Chair, Justin Reist, said, “It fits into the Young Greens’ mandate of making politics more accessible.”
One of the emergency motions passed called for the Green Party to officially request that the Queen launch an investigation into the allegations of electoral fraud in the 2011 federal election, another affirmed the Green’s opposition to the Enbridge pipeline, and a third went further in declaring the Greens openness to cooperation.
An international panel of Green parliamentarians from the UK, France, Finland and New Zealand was held on the morning of the 19th. They discussed the difficulties of growing out of the single-issue party label many voters still attribute to Green parties and also discussed how to increase the capacity of their parties to engage youth.
Saturday night’s Gumboot Gala was hosted by comedian Arthur Black and included live entertainment as well as an impassioned speech by Elizabeth May. This event was attended both by members of the community and by convention goers alike. It featured a successful fundraiser that managed to raise more than $40,000 for the Green Party.
Spirits were flying high and it felt hard to believe that the next federal election was not until 2015, given the amount of excitement in the room. Despite the heated debate surrounding the seal hunt, the majority of delegates came out of the convention feeling unified and ready to work to keep Harper in check.
Prior to the convention, online voting saw the election of several positions on the Green Party’s federal council. Mark MacKenzie, the Green’s newly elected president, is looking forward to harnessing this energy in an attempt to elect more Green MPs:
“The next one is Calgary Center…We are going to need people from around the country to help us call into that riding, to help us donate in that situation. It’s going to be a very exciting by-election and that’s our next target.”
For delegates at the convention, hope certainly is high that more Green MPs will be elected in Canada. When Greens from across the country worked together in Elizabeth May’s riding of the Saanich-Gulf Islands, they managed to elect their first MP. At least under our current First-Past-The-Post voting system, such concentrated electoral efforts may be the most effective option for parties like the Greens.
Bringing in a proportional electoral system was one of the most commonly discussed and universally shared goals at this convention. This should come as no surprise as Green Parties tend to wield far more power under proportional electoral systems than under First-Past-The-Post systems like Canada.
However, with three separate motions just approved in support of cooperation, there may also be great potential to accomplish Green values through co-operation with other progressive parties or independents.
In light of the actions of the Harper government the Green membership has decided that, as Elizabeth May stated: “We want to find a way to co-operate and defeat Harper in 2015…actually I want to defeat Harper before 2015.”
Nathan Grills is from Brandon, Manitoba. He is a student at the University of Victoria and a political activist, having volunteered on a number of campaigns for both political parties and for advocacy groups including Elizabeth May’s campaign in the Saanich-Gulf Islands and Nathan Cullen’s leadership campaign. He served as a Green Party delegate at the 2012 convention in Sidney, B.C.