Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 8: Derailed!

I've got some catching up to do.  It's March, 2019 - and between you and me, I was really enjoying my little blog-reprieve from writing about my experiences with the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) on a matter arising from a decision made by the City of Greater Sudbury to approve a zoning amendment for an arena/event centre on lands located on the Kingsway on the City's urban fringe.  

Let's face facts here: I've been living with all of this for almost two years now.  It was in February, 2017 that PricewaterhouseCoopers (pwc) released its first report to Council about an arena/events centre, “Proposed Sports and EntertainmentCentre Feasibility and Business Case Assessment”. In March of 2017 I first wrote about how a new events centre in Greater Sudbury should act as a catalyst for green economic development (see: "Sudbury Events Centre Should Drive Creative Class Economy," Sudbury Steve May, March 17, 2017).  Shortly thereafter, the PricewaterhouseCoopers (pwc) report about the arena was made available to the public.  

And later, in June 2017, City Council made a decision to build a new arena on the Kingsway - rather than in the downtown core (which would have been in keeping with the City's planning and economic development documents - and which was the first choice of pwc for a location, as per their “Greater Sudbury Event Centre Site Evaluation").  Prior to the meeting, I wrote a letter to my Councillor, urging him to support a downtown location (see: "An Open Letter to My Ward Councillor, Fern Cormier, Regarding the Events Centre," Sudbury Steve May, June 23, 2017) - which he did do on the night of June 27, 2017 when the matter came up for a vote - a vote that I predicted would be a defeat via a tie vote for the downtown in a post made earlier that day (see: "Crystal Ball Gazing: How Sudbury Gets a New Kingsway Event Centre - Not on Merit, but on a Technicality," Sudbury Steve May, June 27, 2017). 

I followed Council's decision up with two more posts about how I believed the City should now try to make the "Kingsway Entertainment District" work (see: "Mapping the Way Forward for a Kingsway Entertainment District," Sudbury Steve May, June 30, 2017; and, "An Open Letter to Greater Sudbury Council Regarding a Kingsway Entertainment District," Sudbury Steve May, July 11, 2017) despite my opposition to the inclusion of a motorsports facility at the KED (see: "Motorsports in a Time of Climate Crisis: Sustainability Must Be Our Focus," Sudbury Steve May, June 7, 2017).  My comments about process were ignored by the City.

I participated fully in the City's so-called public engagement around the "Integrated Site Plan" (remember the online survey that accompanied the whrilwind public sessions: "Are you excited about the future?") and called for transparency in the design process (see: "Site Design for the Kingsway Entertainment District Must be Unfettered by Constraints, Include Public Engagement," Sudbury Steve May, August 14, 2017; and, "Open Letter to Greater Sudbury Council re: Kingsway Entertainment District Site and Building Design and the Need for Public Engagement," Sudbury Steve May, August 15, 2017).  And I provided the City with my own thoughts about how the Kingsway site should be designed with climate change and sustainability in mind (see: "An Open Letter to Greater Sudbury Council Regarding the Draft Integrated Site Plan for the Kingsway Entertainment District," Sudbury Steve May, November 7, 2017), even though I was clearly not on board at that time with the direction that Council had chosen to take (see: "The Kingsway Entertainment District - How Council's Vision Fails Greater Sudburians," Sudbury Steve May, November 6, 2017). 

After development applications for an arena and a casino were filed by the landowner in December, 2017, I provided my written comments to the City on the arena rezoning (see: "My Comments to the City of Greater Sudbury re: Zoning Amendment to Permit an Arena/Events Centre on the Kingsway," Sudbury Steve May, March 15, 2018) and on the casino official plan amendment/rezoning (see: "A Casino is No 'Place of Amusement'," Sudbury Steve May, April 10, 2018).  These comments were not given any heed by the City prior to decisions being made by Council on April 10, 2018.

Throughout the public process between the time that applications were filed by the developer and the end of the appeal period for Council's decisions of April 10, 2018, I documented an  on-going smear campaign directed at members of the public by some municipal councillors (see: "Dangerous Myths and Public Intimidation – Where Greater Sudbury is at with the “Kingsway Entertainment District”," Sudbury Steve May, January 17, 2018; "Sudbury Councillor Threatens Punitive Measures Against the Downtown Over the Public's Participation in Planning Processes," Sudbury Steve May, January 18, 2018; "Standing Up for a Sustainable Long-Term Vision for Community Development," Sudbury Steve May, January 19, 2018; "More Public Intimidation and Misrepresentation of Facts from Greater Sudbury Councillor Kirwan Over Upcoming Arena & Casino Public Meeting," Sudbury Steve May, January 20, 2018; "Greater Sudbury Councillors Dismisses Public Participation in Land Use Process - Equates Public Participants with Saboteurs," Sudbury Steve May, March 26, 2018; and, "Councillor's Accusation that Downtown BIA is Engaging in 'Illegal' Activities Should be the Last Straw for Sudburians," Sudbury Steve May, May 1, 2018).

After Council made its decisions to approve the land use applications, I speculated about what might happen after that - and ended up having a lengthy conversation with myself regarding the new LPAT and the potential timelines for resolution to any appeals (see: "Council Made Its Decisions on the Kingsway Projects - What Happens Next?" Sudbury Steve May, April 11, 2018).  I realize now that it was here that I fell into a trap of my own making, as I rationalized to myself and to the few readers who stuck with that post until the very end that a first decision of the LPAT would likely be made in December, 2018 - and after the matter was returned to Council, appealed to the LPAT again, and went through a full hearing process, it would all wrap up by the end of December, 2019.  And that was the timeframe that I had in my own mind when I filed my appeal of the arena rezoning (see: "My Letter Appealing the City of Greater Sudbury's Decision to Adopt By-law 2018-63Z to Permit an Arena on the Kingsway," Sudbury Steve May, April 25, 2018).

I then started documenting my adventure at the LPAT - in part because I thought that it would be a good idea to provide residents of the City with "the other side" of the story - and partly because the LPAT process is very new, so I thought that others who might be entertaining filing their own appeals (especially unrepresented individuals, like me) might derive some benefit from this blogseries.  

And here's where I've taken the story so far.  I gave readers some background information about the KED decisions in "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 1: In the Beginning."  In "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 2: For the Record," I wrote about the appeals, and my experiences trying to obtain the "Enhanced Municipal Record" from the City.

I had a bit of fun with, "18 Whacky Things About the Kingsway Entertainment District Land Use Appeals – Number 12 Will Blow Your Mind!" where I explored a few under-appreciated elements of the KED decisions, and the LPAT.

In, "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 3: Valid Appeals and Municipal Contempt for a Public Process", I wrote about the how the LPAT determined the appeals to be valid - and their strange interpretation of the meaning of '10 days'.  I also updated readers on the on-going smear campaign and contempt for land use planning processes being demonstrated by some municipal council members. The topic of 'secret agreements' between the municipality and the land use developer also came up.

In "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 4: The Strong Case Against a Casino," I explored materials filed by Casino-Free Sudbury, the Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area, and Dr. Christopher Duncanson-Hales (the casino appellants) that they used to support their appeal.  I concluded that the casino appellants have a strong case - but questioned whether the new LPAT was equipped via legislation and its own Rules to hear some of the matters being raised.

In "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 5: Wasn't That a Party?" I considerably explored the question of just who can be a party to matters at the LPAT, after having received notice that both the developer and Gateway Casinos wanted to be added as a Party to the proceedings.  I realize now that a lot of what I observed and concluded has not held up to the test of time - so if you're going to skip any one of my posts, this might be the one to target!

I had a crisis of, well not sure what - when I wrote "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 6: The City Strikes Back!". I explored how the City's response to my Case Synopsis led me to question my own understanding of the issues.  But by writing this difficult piece, which included a serious analysis of one of the Big 3 issues I raised with my appeal, I learned that in fact my paradigm hadn't shifted, and ultimately concluded that the City's arguments against my appeal are actually very weak.

In "The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 7: So Much for the Downtown," I continued with my analysis of another of the Big 3 issues I raised in my appeal - and concluded with a promise to write about the third of the Big 3 issues.  I wrote Part 7 back in October, 2018 - but I have not yet returned to that third big issue.  And I won't for some time yet - but the promise to do so remains.

I last wrote about the KED and the LPAT on December 12, 2018, in "More Misinformation About the KED Coming From City Hall," a piece that is not a part of this blogseries.  Rather it explores the on-going campaign of misinformation being now primarily waged by a single member of Council, Ward 5's Robert Kirwan.  I have to admit that Councillor Kirwan's on-going threats, denigration, humiliation, bullying and his pushing of information that is factually incorrect has made engaging in this appeal process rather tiresome.  When confronted with 17 incorrect items of information before breakfast every day, I suspect not even Douglas Adams would retain the willpower to correct the record on all of them. 

And perhaps that's why I've laid off writing about my experiences for the last little while.  But although this mental and emotional break might have been advantageous for me personally, the fact that I have been falling down on the job of providing my readers with the updates that I set out today when I first started writing this blogseries has weighed heavily on my mind.  Just not heavy enough to actually see me do anything - until now.

Fact is, there has been a fair bit happening with the appeals.  So let's see if I can start getting everyone caught up.

Case Management Conference

Back on November 6, 2018, the LPAT - comprised of 3 Tribunal members - held the first and only hearing event (so far) on the appeals.  It was the Case Management Conference that is prescribed by the LPAT's Rules.  And for the most part, it was an administrative affair.  Given the emotions in the public realm with regards to the matters being adjudicated, after the fact I found out that members of the media and others who were present at the CMC were a little let down that there weren't more fireworks, or that any of the issues were resolved.  But that's not the idea of a CMC - and I don't think any of the Parties were expecting more than what happened - with maybe one exception.

The 'Added Parties'

At the outset of the CMC, lawyers for both 1916596 Ontario Ltd. (the numbered company owned by developer Dario Zulich) and Gateway Casinos petitioned the LPAT to become 'parties'.  This was kind of interesting in that in the past, at the OMB, Zulich would have been accorded party status automatically as the landowner.  If you think about it, any decision ultimately made by the LPAT is going to impact the landowner - so why should the landowner have to approach LPAT on bended knee and request party status?

All of the parties (the 5 appellants and the City) seemed to feel the same way about Zulich's inclusion, and the request for party status was granted by the LPAT with no opposition from any of the other parties.

Gateway Casinos, however, is a bit of a different story.  They are not a landowner, but they have an expressed interest in part of the property.  And they have spent money as one of the 3 development partners (Zulich and the City being the other two) for the Integrated Site Plan - and, perhaps more importantly for this matter, on the Traffic Impact Study.  Originally I had indicated that I would oppose the inclusion of Gateway as a party - but once I learned that they really had engaged in the planning process via their financial commitment to the Traffic Impact Study, I decided not to oppose their inclusion.  Clearly, Gateway has a lot more at stake, financially speaking, than I do so.  So why not?

Taking Issues with the Issues List (or lack there-of)

What came as a bit of a surprise to the parties was the LPAT's admonishment to all of us for not getting together pre-CMC to develop an issues list (see paragraph 21 of the decision - but trust me, it was actually a lot worse in person. I seem to think all of the parties were staring at the floor during this 'discussion').  That was an awkward moment for us all - as I don't think that any of us had ever really given a thought to doing that before the LPAT put the idea in our head that it might have been something that we had taken the initiative to do on our own.  

In retrospect, I'm not sure that I agree with the LPAT's position on this.  Fact is, there were two parties who had just been added at the CMC - both of these parties are now in the process of making certain motions that ultimately might have bearing on any issues list that the appellants and the City might come up with.  I think that's important - and I think the LPAT overlooked it.

We were also asked about the possibility of mediation by the LPAT.  And that's another thing.  Had we all agreed to mediation, any mediation exercise would likely impact the issues list.  That said, though, there wasn't a lot of interest in mediation from any of the parties - at least not until motions have been disposed of.  But even then - the new LPAT process upfronts the adversarial-ness of the hearing.  At this point, there's not a lot of chance to find common ground - not when the serious parties are hundreds of thousands of dollars deep in the process (and that's where they are).

Playing in the Big Leagues

So again, LPAT, if you're reading this - consider these factors when it comes to issues lists.  And I know that you know that under the old OMB process, Issues Lists were usually developed until after a Pre-Hearing Conference (similar to a CMC, although not mandatory) - because it was at the PHC that new parties and participants would be added.  So cut us folks here in Sudbury some slack - we're participating in a brand new process and have only the milestones from the old process to go by.  We're doing the best we can to get all of this resolved.

And I guess that's the one last observation that I have about the CMC that I'll share here.  All of the people involved in the CMC are professionals - save for myself and the other unrepresented party, the Minnow Lake Restoration Group as represented by citizen John Lindsay.  And when professional are involved, no matter how adversarial things get, things do tend to remain calm.  And since John and I aren't known for our rabble-rousing (ok, maybe John is...), I don't expect that we're going to see any actual fireworks at the upcoming hearings.  

But there are sure to be plenty of procedural fireworks!

One of the things that the LPAT did do was allow for some of the parties to bring forward motions, within a certain specified timeframe.  All of those motions are filed, and I'll go through them in more detail in the next blogpost in this series.  Suffice it to say, though, the outcome of these motions is going to materially effect how the LPAT hears the appeals - and quite likely it's going to impact on the level of my own participation - which up until now has been significantly more involved than I thought it would be, to say the least.  I thought I could keep up with everyone, even though I'm unrepresented.  The truth is I'm falling behind, and if it was just me making my own case to the Tribunal, you can bet that I would be dead in the water.

All the more reason that anyone who is thinking of going to the LPAT should take my advice: If you want to win, hire a lawyer. 

Experts and Valid Appeals

Perhaps a little more surprisingly, the LPAT identified a list of 'experts' that it wants to hear from.  The LPAT indicated that the hearing will be an oral one, and the decision that issued identifies in paragraph 28 that there will be 8 experts called to give evidence.  Two are planners for Casino-Free Sudbury/DBIA/Duncanson-Hales appeal; three are municipal planners; one is the developer's planners.  There's also a traffic engineer in there and - here's the kicker - a man by the name of Alexander (Brad) Bowman whom the Minnow Lake Restoration Group identified as its in-house expert and who provided affidavit evidence to Minnow Lake's Case Synopsis.

At the CMC, the solicitor for Zulich indicated that he may bring forward a challenge to Mr. Bowman's participation in the hearing as an expert - or seek to have the appeal filed by Minnow Lake (John Lindsay) declared invalid.  The LPAT remained silent on this, as it seemed a little speculative at the time - but shortly after the CMC, John Lindsay was served with a notice of motion filed by 1916596 Ontario Ltd. to have the LPAT declare his appeal not to be valid on the grounds that the appeal did not disclose any planning reasons.

But instead of doing anything with the motion, the LPAT ruled that the motion itself was out of order.  As the January 4, 2019 decision indicates in paragraph 12, the LPAT gave its permission to hear only certain motions - the Minnow Lake excommunication wasn't one of them!  I hear from John that he spent a couple of sleepless nights trying to meet the tight timeframes for filing a motion response and had finally come up with a 15-page 75-paragraph response to the Zulich motion. 

So that's the kind of stuff you're in for, you Unrepresented Parties, if you want to play in the big leagues.  

Anyway, the LPAT will likely hear the motion orally at some point - and at least John has some notes now that he'll be able to read from.  But given a recent decision of the LPAT involving a motion to over-turn the LPAT's validity screening (Gravelle v Stone Mills (Town), 2018 CanLII 110126 (ON LPAT),) which is already being quoted by other appellants in validity determination matters (Weinhardt v Cambridge (City), 2019 CanLII 16510 (ON LPAT)), I think Zulich should just abandon the motion to remove John - and instead focus on whether it would be appropriate for the LPAT to hear from Bowman - even thought it was the LPAT that said specifically he was a person they wanted to hear from.

Hitting the Pause Button - Rail Deck

Finally, the LPAT advised all parties that they were stopping the hearings clock and putting everything on hold.  This didn't come as a surprise to the parties, who were all familiar with the Toronto Rail Deck Park matter - but it did appear to come as a bit of a shock to the media, who were looking for something tangible to report.  But the story the media took away from the CMC was that everything was going to be up in the air until such a time that the Divisional Court had to hear and rule on matters referred to the Court by the LPAT with permission of the parties in the Rail Deck matter.  

This stated case to the courts will resolve a fundamental matter of natural law that the LPAT's legislation and Rules appears to infringe on: whether witnesses can be cross-examined.  Clearly, the Divisional Court's ruling is going to have an impact on our hearing - and more specifically for me, on me!  Potentially, rather than just getting up and saying my piece about the appeal - which is what I signed up for - if the Divisional Court says that cross-examination can take place, I might be facing down three lawyers who are going to be looking at tearing holes in every bit of oral evidence that I can squeeze into my 75 minutes.  That's not what I expected to have to face when I filed the appeal - but I guess if that's what I've got to do, that's what I'll have to do.

Anyway, based on this column about a preliminary matter in the Rail Deck Park court case, it looks like the Court might also be wrestling with some of the same issues regarding jurisdiction that have arisen here in Greater Sudbury - specifically whether or not new evidence can be adduced or all parties have to rely on what was in front of Council at the time of a decision (see: "Coleman’s Notes: Watching the LPAT at Divisional Court to Figure Out How The LPAT Will Work," Joey Coleman, the Public Record, March 4, 2019).

In the next post in this blogseries, I'll explore the motions that have been filed.  And in the following post, I'll take a look at some of the other interesting matters that have been happening related to the KED appeals.

Thanks for reading.  I'll try not to be such a stranger!

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Waiting for #Elxn2019 - This Ain't No Green Godot

When we last visited our intrepid Green Party heroes, May Green and Green May (MG and GM for short), they were nestled beneath a baobab tree, waiting.....thinking of Samuel Beckett and....just waiting for the next election to come along and change their lives.

May Green: When is the next election, Green May?
Green May: Soon, May Green, soon.
MG: They always seem to come around.
GM: That they do.
MG: They do.
GM: Every four years or so.
MG: Sometimes less.
GM: Less so?
MG: Less – when there is a minority government.
GM: Minorities? We need to be careful when we talk about minorities nowadays.
MG: How so, GM?
GM: Well, people will think we're Liberals, MG?
MG: Liberals, GM?
GM: Yes, Liberals MG. Or some might call us 'Libtards'
MG: What's a Libtard?
GM: A Libtard?
MG: Yes, a Libtard.
GM: It's someone who likes minorities.
MG: I like minorities.
GM: Me too.
MG: If there were a minority government, the election would have been here by now, GM.
GM: Come and gone, MG.
MG: Come and gone indeed.
GM: And we might not still be waiting.
MG: And waiting.
GM: And waiting. But the next election – it WILL come.
MG: Come soon, I hope.
GM: And change things for us.
MG: Yes, change things for us. We've been waiting.
GM: But the next election will change things for us. It will be different.
MG: Different, GM?
GM: Different, MG. They say that this will be the one for us. For Greens, MG.
MG: They said that about the last one, GM.
GM: And the one before it. And the one before that. But this one...They say that this one will be different. This one will be for us.
MG: I hope so GM. I so desperately hope so.
GM: Things are different this time, MG.
MG: How so, GM?
GM: Because of the Liberals, MG.
MG: The Liberals, GM?
GM: Yes, the Liberals. This time they're different.
MG: The Liberals are different, GM?
GM: Yes, they're different. Last time they were warm and fuzzy.
MG: What will they be this time, GM?
GM: This time they'll be corrupt and interested in only helping their cronies, MG.
MG: Cronies, GM?
GM: Cronies. Like SNC-Lavalin, MG.
MG: Oh those cronies. The ones that give them all of their money.
GM: Yes, those cronies.
MG: Why will it be different this time, GM? It all sounds the same to me. SNC Lavalin. The sponsorship scandal. The gas plants.
GM: The gas plants were provincial MG.
MG: Federal. Provincial. Liberals all seem the same to me.
GM: Mm-hmmm...and to everyone else too, MG.
MG: But this time those same Liberals are going to be different.
GM: Yes, different.
MG: Do they have a new leader?
GM: No, it's the same man. The one with the hair.
MG: Oh, but he looks so good in photographs.
GM: And he's got a great collection of socks.
MG: So how is he different, GM?
GM: He had his sunny ways before. But now he's the captain of a leaky ship.
MG: He's a sailor too, GM?
GM: Probably MG. But that's not the point.

MG: What is the point, GM?
GM: I was getting to the point, MG.

MG: I wish you would, GM.
GM: I was getting there.
MG: Please do. I've been waiting.
GM: I've been waiting too.
MG: Waiting for a breakthrough.
GM: They say that this next election will be for us.
MG: They said that about the last one.
GM: And the one before that. But this one will be different. The Liberals are different. They're not going to be trusted, MG.
MG: How does that help us, GM?
GM: It doesn't, MG. Not really. It helps the Conservatives.
MG: The Conservatives, GM? Bah! Why would anyone want to help them?
GM: No one wants to help them, MG.
MG: So why are the Liberals helping them?
GM: They don't want to, MG. But they are.
MG: But what about the NDP, GM?
GM: No one is helping the NDP.
MG: But they're nice people.
GM: They're nice people. But I don't really talk to them.
MG: You try, GM.
GM: I try. But they won't talk to me.
MG: But they're like us, GM.
GM: Mm-hmmm. Like us. Except for LNG.
MG: Except for LNG, GM.
GM: And TransMountain, MG.
MG: TransMountain? But we don't like TransMountain, GM.
GM: No, we don't like TransMountain. And neither do the NDP.
MG: The NDP don't like TransMountain?
GM: Well, some of them do.
MG: So they like pipelines, GM?
GM: Well they say they don't.
MG: Who says they don't?
GM: I don't say that.
MG: Who says that?
GM: They say that.
MG: They say what?
GM: About pipelines.
MG: So that's their position then?
GM: Yes that's their position. Except when it isn't.
MG: So they're like us then.
GM: The NDP.
MG: Yes, the NDP. They're like us. Except for LNG.
GM: And pipelines.
MG: Sometimes.
GM: And Site C in B.C.
MG: Yes. They're like us except for LNG. And pipelines.
GM: And Site C.
MG: And BDS.
GM: Shhh!
MG: So why don't we like them if we're like them?
GM: Well they're not like us, MG.
MG: No, they're not like us. 
GM: And we want their seats. And we'll take them.
MG: What seats, GM?
GM: The NDP's seats in B.C.

MG: In B.C., GM?
GM: Well some in B.C. On the Island.
MG: Oh yes. On the Island. They're very green on the Island.
GM: Except for when they're not.
MG: Except for then, yes. Like last time.
GM: Yes, like last time. The Island was to go Green.
MG: But it went orange instead.
GM: Yes it went orange. But this time they say it will go Green.
MG: That's what they said the last time.
GM: And the time before that. But this time will be different.
MG: Different, GM?
GM: Different, MG.
MG: Why different?
GM: Because of the Liberals, MG.
MG: The Liberals who were all sunny but have now gone all dark?
GM: Yes, those Liberals.

MG: But the nice man who leads them – the one with the hair
GM: The one who looks great in photographs -
MG: He's still there.
GM: And that's the difference.
MG: How is it different?
GM: This time it's different.
MG: Doesn't he still look good in photographs?
GM: Oh yes, he still looks good in photographs. But not as many people want to see them.
MG: Because of the corruption, GM?
GM: And the lies.

MG: The lies, GM?
GM: Well I think they're lies.

MG: Does the nice man think they're lies?
GM: I don't know what the nice man thinks. All I know is that he promised to reform our election system. He said it was unfair. He said the deck was stacked. He promised no more false majorities. And he didn't change the system.

MG: Why not, GM?
GM: He won, MG.
MG: So the deck wasn't stacked after all?
GM: Not for him, MG. Because he won. A false majority.
MG: But surely people can see...
GM: Surely they can. And they do. And they will.
MG: And that's good for us GM?
GM: No, it doesn't matter for us. We're focused on the Island. And there aren't any Liberals on the Island. It's all NDP.
GM: Yes, NDP. And they've got that nice man -

MG: Another nice man?
GM: Yes another nice man – he's a very nice. So very nice.
MG: A very nice man. Who is he?
GM: Who knows? But he's a very nice man.
MG: And he's from B.C.?
GM: He is now, MG.
MG: And how are we going to take the Island in B.C. from this very nice man, GM?
GM: Because of Quebec, MG.
MG: Quebec, GM. But what do we know about Quebec?
GM: Nothing, MG.
MG: Less than nothing.
GM: Less than nothing indeed. But we'll take the Island because of Quebec.
MG: Will they do well in Quebec?
GM: No. They won't do well in Quebec.
MG: Why, GM?
GM: Because of the Liberals, MG.
MG: The Liberals, GM?
GM: Yes, the Liberals MG. They'll do well in Quebec and the NDP won't. And that's how we'll win the Island.

MG: Seems a little byzantine, GM.
GM: Very byzantine, MG. But that's party politics in Canada.
MG: So we'll take the Island and the Liberals will take Quebec -
GM: It's a collapse, MG.
MG: The NDP is going to collapse?
GM: They already have. They just don't know it yet.
MG: Why have they collapsed, GM?
GM: Well it's because of that nice man -
MG: The one who looks good in photographs?
GM: No, not that nice man. The very nice man. But he also looks good in photographs.
MG: I wish we looked good in photographs.
GM: Me too, MG.
MG: So what about this very nice man that's leading the NDP to collapse, GM?
GM: Well, it's the Liberals MG.
MG: The Liberals, GM?
GM: Yes, the Liberals MG. For the past 10 years, the NDP have wanted to become the Liberals. And the Liberals have pretended to become the NDP.
MG: It's hard to keep track of who's who.
GM: It's very hard to keep track of who's who. But that's party politics in Canada.
MG: But we like the NDP, GM.
GM: We like them all right. But we want to burn down their house, MG.
MG: Why don't we just work with them, GM?
GM: We would work with them.

MG: Why don't we?
GM: They won't work with us.
MG: So we'll burn down their house?
GM: Well, on the Island. This time. They say that this time will be our time.
MG: They said that the last time.
GM: And the time before that. But this time will be different.
MG: Different, GM? We didn't work with the NDP the last time -
GM: Or the time before that. And we won't work with them now. But this time will be different.
MG: So how will this time be different?
GM: Because of the Island. This time we'll take the Island. Because the NDP doesn't know who it wants to be any more.
MG: But you said they wanted to be the Liberals.
GM: They do, MG.
MG: Then why aren't they, GM?
GM: Oh because they don't want to be the Liberals!

MG: Then do they want to be like us?
GM: Oh yes.
MG: And we want to be like them?
GM: Oh yes.
MG: And we're already a lot alike -
GM: Except the NDP wants to be the Liberals.
MG: But you said they want to be like us -
GM: They do, MG, they do.
MG: The NDP seems to want to be everything -
GM: To everybody.
MG: Why can't they just be themselves?
GM: Like us?
MG: Yes, like us. Why can't they just be themselves?
GM: They want to win, MG.
MG: Oh yes. I forgot about that. So the very nice man – he thinks he can win?
GM: He says he can win.
MG: So he can win?
GM: He can't win. His party is collapsing. And that's bad for Canada, MG.
MG: Shouldn't we help him, GM? If it's bad for Canada...
GM: We should help him.
MG: Well let's help him.
GM: He doesn't want us to help him. He barely acknowledges we're here.
MG: He's not alone in that.
GM: No. But we'll burn down his house on the Island. This time.
MG: They said that the last time.
GM: And the time before that. But if we burn his house down he won't be able to ignore us any more. And then maybe we can help him.
MG: But that would be bad for Canada, GM?
GM: Bad for Canada. But good for us. If it's our time.
MG: They say it's our time.
GM: And they said that the last time. But this time it will be different.
MG: Because of the Liberals, GM?
GM: Because of the Liberals. They're different.
MG: So who will win, GM?
GM: The Conservatives will win.

MG: Bah! Who wants the Conservatives to win?
GM: No one wants the Conservatives to win. But they'll win. Because of the Liberals.
MG: Because of the Liberals, GM?
GM: Because of the Liberals. The Liberals are different you see.
MG: But why can't we win -
GM: We can't win.
MG: Well how about the NDP? They're like us.
GM: Except for LNG.
MG: And pipelines.
GM: Sometimes.
MG: And Site C in B.C. Why can't the NDP win?
GM: Because they don't know who they want to be. They just want to win. So they won't.
MG: I understand now.
GM: That's party politics in Canada.
MG: So the nice man -
GM: The one who looks good in photographs, or the other one who looks good in photographs?
MG: The one who looks good in photographs.
GM: What about him?
MG: He's the Prime Minister.
GM: Yes he is. At the moment.
MG: At the moment? What do you mean? That he might not be?
GM: Well, he shouldn't be.
MG: But he won.
GM: But he's different.
MG: But he still looks good in photographs.
GM: But people are saying very bad things about him when they see his photographs.
MG: Bad things?
GM: Like treason.
MG: Treason?
GM: They want to hang him.
MG: Who wants to hang him?
GM: People in yellow vests want to hang him.
MG: Yellow vests.
GM: And in big trucks.
MG: Big trucks?
GM: And maybe now too some in his own party.
MG: The Liberals, GM? But why?
GM: Seems he did a bad thing.

MG: What did he do? He's a nice man. Did he commit treason?
GM: Oh no. People just made that up.
MG: Why on earth would you make something like that up?
GM: Because they want to hang him.
MG: Who wants to hang him?
GM: The Conservatives, MG.
MG: Bah! They want to take him out then?
GM: They do. But it may be the Liberals that do.
MG: The Liberals, GM?
GM: The Liberals, MG. Because he did a bad thing. He asked the Attorney General to go easy on his pals at SNC Lavalin. And then when she wouldn't he got rid of her.
MG: Got rid of her, GM? How?
GM: He shuffled her to another portfolio.
MG: He got rid of the cabinet minister by making her a cabinet minister?
GM: That's exactly what he did.
MG: He didn't hang her?
GM: No, these are Liberals MG. He made her the Minister of Veteran's Affairs.
MG: Oh no! What did she do to deserve that?
GM: Her job, MG.
MG: Oh my.
GM: Oh my indeed. And now she's gone and went and done a job on the nice man.
MG: Oh my.
GM: Oh my indeed. She's left the nice man with only one option out two.
MG: The nice man has only one option of two?
GM: That's right, MG. And he'll choose the wrong option because it's the only one he can choose.
MG: What will he do, GM?
GM: He'll do a job on her, MG. He will say that he's sorry she felt pressured, but it wasn't him. It was the first time he had heard about that you see. She didn't tell me, he'll say. Not until today. And he made her the Minister of Veteran's Affairs after she was the Minister of the A-G -
MG: He's a wicked man for giving her a cabinet posting
GM: He is a wicked man for doing that indeed. And he'll say she should have told me. And then he'll ask what kind of person doesn't tell the Prime Minister something like that? And then he won't be Prime Minister, MG.
MG: But he will still be Prime Minister.
GM: But not for much longer.
MG: No, not for much longer.
GM: How could he be Prime Minister for much longer after saying a thing like that?
MG: And after having giving her a cabinet position as Minister of Veteran's Affairs.
GM: Yes, and after that. He won't be. Not much longer.
MG: So why will he say it, GM?
GM: He has to say it, MG. He only has one option.

MG: Of two.
GM: Yes, of two. He could resign now.
MG: Resign now.
GM: Yes, rather than later. But that's not an option he'll choose because he only has the one.
MG: But either way he won't be Prime Minister. For much longer.
GM: No, not for much longer. If his caucus doesn't revolt first, though, the voters will.
MG: A caucus revolt, GM?
GM: A caucus revolt. The Liberals want to get re-elected. So they might try to get rid of the Liberals.
MG: But aren't they the Liberals?
GM: They sure are, but who would be better to get rid of than the Liberals?
MG: I hadn't thought of that, GM. Of course the Liberals should do that.
GM: If they want to get elected. They'll need to burn down the house.
MG: Their own house, GM?
GM: Of course, MG.

MG: But that will be good for the NDP?
GM: No, the NDP wants to be like the Liberals.
MG: Except for when they don't.
GM: That's right. But they do.
MG: So it will be good for the Conservatives?
GM: Yes. And maybe for us. That's why they say this could be our time.
MG: But they said that the last time, GM.
GM: And the time before that. But this time it could be our time.
MG: Because of the Liberals?
GM: Because of the Liberals. And the NDP.
MG: When is the next election, Green May?
GM: Soon, May Green. They always come along very soon.
MG: Except when the don't.
GM: But the next time should be our time.
MG: So they say.

(Opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be considered consistent with the views and policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

Andrew Scheer’s Shameful Support for Truck Convoy Riddled with Racists

Climate change-denying conspiracy theorists in big trucks and yellow vests rallied in Ottawa earlier this week* to demand Canada build more pipelines and shut the doors on immigration.  They also called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s arrest for treason.  You can’t make this stuff up. Parliament Hill has never seen a protest more disconnected from reality.

Now it may be that the pro-carbon pollution Yellow Vest convoy was conceived at a time when the Canadian version of the French anti-establishment ‘gilets jaunes’ movement hadn’t been completely hijacked by what some in the media refer to as ‘white nationalists’ (see: "Yellow Vests, United We Roll Aren't Just A Pipeline Movement: Experts,”, February 19, 2019), but whom I will call by their proper name: racists. Yellow Vest Canada’s flirtation with alt-right racists has turned into what appears to be a long-term marriage, birthing last week’s protest (see: "Important context about the Yellow Vests Canada (YVC) convoy, aka United We Roll’,” Anti-Hate Canada, February 15, 2019).

That racism has been rampant in the movement is no secret (see: “Yellow Vests Canada: The far right go high visibility,” Ricochet, December 17, 2018).  Convoy organizer Glen Carritt was so concerned about his effort being associated with racism that he rebranded the initiative to remove reference to Yellow Vests.  But a name change appears to be as far as things went. Yellow Vest protesters – some belonging to known anti-Muslim, anti-indigenous and anti-semitic organizations – were all welcomed along the convoy route.  Carritt ultimately showed his true colours by donning a yellow vest himself when the convoy reached the capital (see: “Andrew Scheer Criticized For Support of United We Roll Convoy,” Vice News, February 20, 2019).

Look, I’m a child of the 1980s.  I grew up at a time when we were taught to call out racism whenever we encountered it.  We were told – in retrospect, perhaps naively – that the scourge of the 20th Century – racism – had been met in battle and defeated.  We stood in solidarity with our Prime Minister Brian Mulroney when he demanded an end to South African apartheid (see: “How Brian Mulroney spearheaded Canadian push to end apartheid in South Africa and free Nelson Mandela,” the National Post, December 5, 2013.  We were taught to take the idea of ‘never again’ seriously, with the knowledge that racism leads to genocide (see: "What Does “Never Again” Really Mean?" the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, undated).

All of that seems to have gone out the window over the last several years.  Not only have racists emerged from the dark holes in which they previously resided, but they’ve been embraced by Conservatives and are now a part of the Right’s political calculus.  

How else to explain Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer’s shameful display of solidarity with convoy protesters?  “We’re fighting for you. We’re standing with you. We believe in you,” Scheer told the protesters (see: “'We believe in you,' Scheer tells controversial pro-pipeline movement,” CBC News, February 19, 2019) gathered to hear speakers that also included People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier and neo-nazi Faith Goldy (see: “Who is Faith Goldy?” Anti-Hate Canada, October 19, 2018).

Scheer tried to focus only on a slim part of the protester’s agenda – the need for more pipelines and the elimination of carbon taxes.  But by not calling out the significant and known racist elements involved in the planning and execution of the protest, Scheer’s speech was more than a nudge and wink to alt-right racists.  It was a recruitment effort - and reminiscent of U.S. President Donald Trump’s ‘blame on both sides’ response to Charlottesville (see: “Trump lashes out at 'alt-left' in Charlottesville, says 'fine people on both sides',” ABC News, August 15, 2017).

It’s unbelievable to think that Scheer has remained aloof to the fact that the anti-climate change movement has been infused by racists and anti-government conspiracy theorists.  It’s unbelievable because the evidence speaks for itself: Conservatives are actively engaging with Yellow Vests, white supremacists and other extremists as part of an effort to prevent real action on climate change.  It’s been almost two years, and we’re still waiting for Scheer to release his Party’s climate change plan.

Canada’s Conservatives are playing a dangerous game on many fronts.  Conservatives like former leadership contestant Michael Chong (see: “Michael Chong's pro-carbon-tax stance could make for a rocky Tory leadership bid,” the Globe and Mail, April 14, 2017) and others who are seriously concerned about the economic and environmental impacts of climate change ought to be doing some serious soul searching at this point – questioning if they can remain committed to a Party that is giving a nudge and a wink to racism while doing nothing to address the climate crisis. 

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

*Originally published as "May: Scheer's support for truck convoy, riddled with racists, is shameful," in print and online in the Sudbury Star, February 23, 2019.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

By-election Round-Up: A Good Night for the Green Party

One should never try to read too much into by-election results.  Everyone knows that. By-election results are more often representative of local political microcosms as viewed by a generally smaller number of voters at the riding level. And yet pundits like to pore over polling results, dissecting them they were animal entrails that can predict the future (that’s called ‘haruspicy’, by the way – and yes, I had to look it up).  With all of that in mind, let me share my own thoughts on what yesterday’s by-election results mean for the Green Party going forward in 2019.

**Disclaimer** No animals were harmed in the creation of this blogpost.

First, the results.

Burnaby South

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took Burnaby South by a healthy margin.  In what has been described as an electoral gong show, Singh was able to largely avoid controversy and did what he had to do to get elected in a riding where he had no personal history.  

Burnaby South. Source: Wikipedia
Let's not kid ourselves here - the Liberals wanted to win this riding.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally campaigned here several times.  After their first candidate, Karen Wang, bowed out for having made racially provocative comments about Jagmeet Singh (or, as she claims, having had a volunteer make them on her behalf - see: "'I am not racist': Wang blames volunteers for WeChat post, remains undecided on political future," Burnaby Now, January 17, 2019), the Liberals turned to former B.C. MLA Richard Lee.  They could have let the by-election run its course with Want's departure, but they opted instead to come back with a strong candidate in Lee.  That Lee lost by the margin he did might say a little something about the Liberals pro-pipeline stance and whether it's going to be a concern for other Liberals running in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.  Burnaby, after all, has been ground zero for pipeline protests (see: "Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May arrested at anti-pipeline protest," CBC News, March 23 2018).

Notably, the Green Party chose not to run a candidate in Burnaby South, citing "Leader's Courtesy".  I'll link to it again, as I've written in the past that I thought not offering up a candidate would have been a mistake - (see: "Courtesy Shmertecy! Greens are Making a Mistake in Burnaby," Sudbury Steve May, December 30, 2018).  Any "mistake" though, appears to be mine, as the Green Party really couldn't have contemplated a better result than last night's.  A strong Green candidate could have upset this apple-cart, and led to an alternative to yesterday's actual result - a result that might prove to be the most important event for Canadian Greens in our electoral history (at least since the election of Elizabeth May to the House in 2011).  More on that below.


In some respects, the story of the night wasn't the NDP leader finally being able to take a seat in the House and address parliament, but rather the NDP's loss of the Outremount riding formerly held by past-NDP leader Tom Mulcair - the first New Democrat to breakthrough under the NDP banner in Quebec - which eventually led to the 2011 'orange crush' under Jack Layton.  What we probably witnessed happening in Outremount last night was the penultimate nail being driven into the NDP's coffin in Quebec. The final hammer blow will likely come this fall.  And in between now and then, you can bet that the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois and - yes, and the Greens - will all be talking about how the NDP have already lost Quebec.

Outremount. Source: Wikipedia

For the Green Party the vote tally in Outremount appears to be a bit of a surprise, as Green Party Deputy Leader Daniel Green ended up with support in the double-digits - a feat that all Green Party candidates secretly dream of!  More than that, Green actually finished ahead of the Bloc Quebecois, the Conservatives and the People's Party.  No doubt there are some today who are scratching their head about this result, and wondering if Green's third-place finish might signal a potential Parti Vert breakthrough in Quebec.

I'm more inclined to suggest that the local circumstances in Outremount, along with Daniel Green already being a bit of a known quantity in that riding probably had more to do with his strong finish.  Green has been involved with a number of local environmental causes. Green also ran in Stephane Dion's old riding of St-Laurent in the April 2017 by-election which saw Liberal Emmanuella Lambropoulos elected to parliament.  Green raked in almost 8% of the vote in St-Laurent, finishing in third place, beating the NDP's candidate.

But even I'm not completely ready to chalk up Green's achievement to his local popularity alone.  Usually when the New Democrats duke it out with the Liberals, the first casualty of that fight is the Green Party.  That doesn't appear to have happened in Outremount - and the fight between the Liberals and the New Democrats was, by all accounts, a very aggressive one.  Both parties wanted Outremount in order to be able to send a message to their base.  Votes for other progressive parties should have been hard to come by - and yet, Daniel Green still scored 12.5%.


The least surprising result of the three by-elections was found in the York-Simcoe riding formerly held by Conservative stalwart, Peter Van Loan.  Scot Davison held the riding for the Conservatives, finishing with an impressive 53.9% of the vote.  

York-Simcoe. Source: Wikipedia

There really weren't many questions about the outcome in York-Simcoe, but one of the things some were watching for was how well the People's Party might do in this traditionally Conservative riding.  The People's Party had a solid candidate in Robert Guerts, and they have to be disappointed with his 6th place finish behind even the Green Party. 

But we Greens shouldn't get too cocky about our own 5th place finish.  York-Simcoe is the kind of urban/rural riding that the Green Party should do well in.  It's not that far away from the Dufferin-Caledon riding in which Greens have challenged over the last few federal and provincial elections.  Along with a being home to a good chunk of Ontario's protected Greenbelt, York-Simcoe is home to the environmentally sensitive Holland Marsh - and yet we still couldn't beat an Elvis impersonator running for the Progressive Canadian Party (whatever that is), much less the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats.

Take-Aways for Greens

There are a few things which Greens should feel happy about.  With NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh headed to Ottawa, there will be another progressive voice in parliament to challenge the Liberals.  The rise of the right-wing extremist People's Party will certainly create some challenges for Greens, but there may be some unexpected opportunities there too.  And finally, although I can't figure out how Greens can capitalize on it, there's clearly a realignment of political forces underway in Quebec - and Greens might possibly be a part of it in certain parts of the province.

Let's look at three take-aways from last night's by-elections.

1. Jagmeet Singh's Victory

By far the most important thing for the Green Party was the election of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh in Burnaby South.  With Singh now headed to the House, the NDP can put to rest once and for all the simmering rebellion regarding that party's leadership.  MP's were poised to demand Singh's resignation had he lost the by-election.  But a Singh victory is a signal to the Party faithful that, for better or worse, Singh will be leading the NDP into the fall election.

And that's great news for the Green Party.  As much as I like Singh and feel a connection to him, the fact of the matter is he has been a disaster for the New Democrats.  With the behind-the-scenes leadership rebellion now doused, we can expect to see a number of prominent New Democrats bow out of the the election - likely including Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, and Victoria MP Murray Rankin among them. Both have openly been musing about their future - with Cullen saying he wouldn't make a decision public until after the by-elections  (see: "MP Cullen undecided about running again," the Terrace Standard, January 22 2019, and "NDP facing an election without a quarter of its caucus as Rankin ponders retirement," CBC, February 8 2019).
The origin of this flyer is unknown.

Cullen, and many New Democrats, might have secretly (and perhaps not so secretly - see photo) been hoping for Singh to lose the by-election.  Changing the leadership of the Party just a few months before the federal election campaign is set to begin would have created some serious challenges for the party.  But heading into the election with a relatively unknown seat-less leader fresh off a by-election loss would have been too much for many New Democrats.  I think Singh would have likely stepped down on his own, rather than face a mutiny in caucus.  Either way, a more well-known New Democrat likely would have been brought to the fore one way or another, and tapped on the shoulder to lead the Party.  Cullen, or perhaps the fire-brand Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus could have been going toe-to-toe with Justin Trudeau this fall.  Now the NDP is stuck with the lacklustre Singh.

Singh has already been leading the NDP towards national collapse.  Losing the Outremount riding to the Liberals in the by-elections is surely another sign of things to come for New Democrats in la belle province, after having lost every be-election held in Quebec since Trudeau came to power in 2015.  And with two Quebec MP's confirming that they won't be running in the fall election (see: "Two Quebec NDP MPs rule out running for re-election," CBC News, February 21, 2019), this collapse narrative will continue to plague the NDP as more MP's join them in sitting out the general election.  New Democrats lack of belief that they can win has already become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as polls show support for the NDP sagging week after week.

The Liberals are probably quite happy to have lost in Burnaby South for these reasons, as many national political pundits have discussed.  Less well known is how all of this appears to play into the Green Party's electoral calculus - which plays itself out on a far more limited scale.

Let's face it: the Green Party will be only seriously targeting certain ridings.  Most of those are in B.C. - on Vancouver Island, and maybe a few on the Lower Mainland (the latter depending on candidate recruitment).  Many of these seats are presently held by New Democratic MP's, including every single seat on Vancouver Island except for Saanich-Gulf Islands, which Green leader Elizabeth May holds.

With Rankin in Victoria and potentially other prominent New Democrats stepping aside, and with a national narrative of imminent NDP collapse playing out throughout the background of the election, there has never been a better time for Greens to be optimistic about a breakthrough in the West.  Those targeted ridings could, with a strong ground game, potentially all go Green.  

And the Greens will have a strong ground game on the Island.  While the NDP will be sending its troops into national battle, Greens can afford to forego a vigorous national campaign and focus instead on regional and local issues in select winnable ridings. That would have been the strategy anyway, even had Singh gone down in defeat last night.  But Singh's victory makes things a little easier - and potentially expands the number of targeted ridings for the Green Party.

2. The People's Party Potential

The result in Burnaby South for the People's Party is no doubt surprising - and unnerving - for some politicos today.  Bernier has to be pretty satisfied with the 10+% that People's Party candidate Laura-Lynn Thompson obtained, even if his candidate in York-Simcoe faired very poorly.  The take-away message here is that if the People's Party can find candidates with a bit of a local profile, they should do well in certain ridings.  Maybe not well enough to win anywhere - but certainly well enough to effect the outcomes of a number of ridings.

Burnaby South was an interesting case.  The Conservatives ran a strong candidate in Jay Shin, but the final results saw a 4% drop in Conservative support over the 2015 federal election.  This suggests that not all of the People's Party support came from the Conservatives - and that Liberal voters, too, may have been attracted to the PPC.  

Or perhaps it only means that Burnaby voters were relatively confident that Singh was going to win and/or Shin had little chance given the NDP-Liberal dynamic there - and those that wanted to felt confident that a vote for the PPC wasn't going to split the vote and change the outcome - but would rather send a message to the Conservative Party that it needed to get its act together.

And make no mistake: that message has been received loud and clear by Conservatives.  10% of the vote in a riding where Cons usually do well, even if they don't always win - that's a very strong outcome for the PPC.  And you can bet it's one that Max Bernier will be using between now and the federal election to drum up interest in his Party. 
Screencap from Anti-Racist Sudbury

Presuming, of course, his party can weather the controversies that it finds itself in almost daily, like the one here in Sudbury which saw People's Party 'candidate' Jason LaFauci announce that he'd been kicked out of the PPC after it came to light that he had publicly called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be killed.  Seriously.  You can't make this stuff up (and a special shout-out to Anti-Racist Sudbury for keeping an eye on this sort of disgusting nonsense that now appears to be normalized in our political realm). 

It might seem very counter-intuitive to many Greens that the rise of the People's Party could be seen a positive, given the toxic brand of politics Bernier and his ilk bring to the conversation.  I understand that, and I personally wish the People's Party would fade into oblivion, because they are certainly detracting from the conversations that Canada ought to be having with itself at this time.  Hell, Max Bernier doesn't even believe that climate change is real thing (see: "Reality check: Maxime Bernier says CO2 isn’t a pollutant. Climate scientists say he’s wrong," Global News, October 25 2018).  In my opinion, the man has no place in politics - and certainly the media really should stop paying attention to him.

So we Greens should - and will - use his presence to our advantage.  Already I've been noting that Green supporters are telling people that they will be able to vote their conscious this time around, because of the presence of the People's Party.  Far too often, when a Green candidate goes knocking on a door, a voter tells her or him, "I'd vote for you, but I can't. I've got to vote for the Liberals/NDP in order to keep the Conservatives out."  With division on the right-side of the political spectrum likely to handcuff the Conservatives, Greens can make the case that a Green-vote is low risk.

Plus, look at those New Democrats collapse!

Whether the narrative ultimately plays itself out at the ballot box or not is another question. The idea of a Green Surge is a compelling one, though, and it's one that I think Greens will benefit from.  So keep talking up just how well the People's Party did in Burnaby South.  Real or otherwise, the People's Party is both a bogeyman and a gift horse for Greens.

3. The Green Party in Quebec - Challenges and Opportunities

Year End 2018. Source: Abacus Data
Put aside Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland for a moment - along with one or two other ridings in places like Guelph, Fredericton and Charlottetown. Pundits like Chantal Hebert have started talking about the Green Party in Quebec almost as if we might have a shot to shake-up the political landscape there (see: "Little to celebrate for any party in Monday’s byelections," the Toronto Star, February 26 2019).  Hebert believes that the Green's environmental messaging plays well in Quebec.  Certainly the Green Party's stance on pipelines and pollution pricing might resonate with a good number of voters there.
Voter Impressions of Elizabeth May, September 2018. Source: Abacus Data

And the polls also seem to suggest that the Green Party might be resonating with certain voters there.  At Year End 2018, Abacus found that 9% of voters in Quebec supported the Greens - almost 2% more than the national average.  And Abacus also earlier found that voter's impressions of Elizabeth May were second highest in Quebec, behind only British Columbia.

Quebec has long been known for a volatile political scene that has been more than willing to give non-traditional parties a chance.  The recent election of Francois Legault's  Coalition Avenir de Quebec (the CAQ) to power in last year's provincial election - along with a strong showing for the left-wing Quebec Solidaire is case in point.  This volatility could work to the Green Party's advantage in Quebec, particularly if the Bloc Quebecois under new leader Yves-Francois Blanchet (yes, I had to look that up, too) continues to under-perform.  Find the right riding to split 5-ways, and a strong, locally-known Green candidate might just come up through the middle.

But while Quebec might appear to create some opportunities for the Green Party in the upcoming general election, there are also some significant barriers which Greens will have to overcome.  Unlike in B.C., where there has always been a strong Green provincial party in place (well, "strong" relative to other Canadian Green parties), the Green Party of Quebec has been a bit of a non-entity - especially since present leader Alex Tyrrell (who is no friend of Elizabeth May's - see: "Elizabeth May ordered deputies not to associate with leader of Quebec Greens," Ricochet, September 25 2016) has been fishing in the same pond for voters as Quebec Solidaire.  Tyrrell's "eco-socialist" brand of Green has been a hard-sell in Quebec, and in the last provincial election, Greens finished dismally in 5th place with just 1.68% of the popular vote.

Not that having a friendly provincial party in the wings is a pre-requisite for a breakthrough in Quebec.  The NDP certainly didn't have many provincial friends when the Orange Crush rolled through Quebec in 2011.  But Jack Layton's NDP had an ingredient that is largely absent from the Green Party: French-speaking volunteers with a strong ground game in key ridings, and who could engage in the air war on equal footing with the other parties.  We Greens just don't have that kind of base from which to draw assistance.  And the federal party's historic lack of emphasis on materials and supports for francophone volunteers is no secret.  Even our leader Elizabeth May, who has significantly improved her French-language speaking skills, remains far from bilingual in the same way that every other national party leader is.

And that stuff matters in Quebec.

The NDP in 2011 also had the advantage of a truly national campaign on which to fall back on.  That won't be the case for Greens in 2019.  Even if the Greens wanted to compete with the 4 big parties in Quebec, Green voices are still apt to get themselves lost in the 6-party melee.

I get that Quebec does appear to be ripe for the Green Party's picking in 2019.  But I fear that we just don't have our act together enough to be a serious contender there.  Perhaps one or two ridings where big-name Greens could be persuaded to run (Hello? does anybody still have Georges Laraque's phone number?) could be put in play.  But a breakthrough in Quebec, even with a collapsing NDP, a lacklsutre Bloc, and an electorate looking for something different and willing to try things out - Quebec still seems just out of reach to me.  And that really is too bad - for had the Party given Quebec just a little more attention since 2015, we might have been able to capitalize on this political alignment of the stars.

One Last Thought

If you're a long-time reader of my blog, you might have noted that my posts tend to be tinged with a touch of cynicism.  And although this post surely has to qualify as one of my more optimistic offerings, I still can't help but feel troubled by one critical concern.  Yes, 2019 might prove to be the year the the Green Party of Canada seriously breaks through in a general election.  I really do think that we're going to be sending at least a half-dozen Greens to Ottawa in the fall.  

But for all of that I can't help but wonder whether what's good for the Green Party at this time in Canadian history might ultimately be bad for Canada.  I'm reminded of Elizabeth May's 2008, "I’d rather have no Green seats and Stephen Harper lose, than a full caucus that stares across the floor at Stephen Harper as prime minister.” (see: "Elizabeth May’s strategic voting dilemma," the Tyee, October 8 2008). I get that there is a real possibility that the People's Party might play spoiler for Andrew Scheer's Conservatives - but what might that leave Canada with?

4 more years of Justin Trudeau's Liberal government.  And while I get that Trudeau seems like a much nicer guy that Stephen Harper ever did, I'm not sure how the Liberals signature policies are going to take Canada in the direction that it needs to go now in 2019 - and I fear that the Liberals will continue to take us backward instead.

What troubles me most about a potential Green breakthrough is that it appears that it's going to largely be at the expense of the NDP.  And say what you want about the NDP, but the fact is that their politics most closely align with the Green Party's.  I still hold out hope that green New Democrats like Svend Robinson can overcome the browns in their party like Rachel Notley who are, in my opinion, hold the NDP back from being a truly progressive party.  At a time when climate scientists are telling us we have only until 2030 to get our act together and seriously begin the difficult process of weaning our economy off of fossil fuels, there really isn't any place at all for Notley, B.C. Premier John Horgan and Singh's championship of bitumen and/or LNG pipelines.  Until the NDP abandons these positions and gets serious about climate change, they will continue to fail that 'progressive' test in my books.

But even after saying all of that, there's no real way of denying that I'd much rather see Jagmeet Singh as Canada's next Prime Minister.  But that's....not going to happen.  And we Greens are going to be one of the reasons why it doesn't.

I can't help but wonder if Green success at the expense of the NDP is really worth it.  If the Green Party has aspirations of absorbing and/or replacing the NDP as Canada's third Party, well, maybe there's something there - but I'm not sure that's either a) likely, or b) worth the fight.  As long as we are creatures of the First Past The Post electoral system, Green success to me appears to be similar to emerging the victor in a left-wing shooting gallery. 

I wish there were a way to work with the NDP on a riding-by-riding basis.  But there isn't.  The NDP still barely acknowledge the existence of the Green Party.  Rather than potnetial allies, Greens are viewed as political competitors by New Democrats - and why wouldn't we be just that when we're eyeing almost exclusively ridings with sitting NDP MP's as places where we're going to be the most aggressive?

We've got to do better than this. Whether Canada's next government is Conservative or Liberal, it will matter very little to the global climate.  Neither the Cons or the Libs have demonstrated any desire to get serious about climate change.  Neither have demonstrated any commitment to reforming our archaic electoral system so that every vote will count.  Neither the Conservatives or the Liberals deserve to form government at this time in Canada's history, in my opinion.  

But it looks like we'll be stuck with one or the other after all votes are counted in 2019.  So New Democrats and Greens really need to get our collective acts together before we face off in the election after this one.  In the meantime, woe be to Canada.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)