Thursday, October 1, 2020

Anti-Semitism and the Green Party of Canada's Leadership Contest

 "I have been subjected to months of antisemitic attacks. The moment it became known that I was Jewish, I was bombarded with questions about my positions on Israel, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, and the proposed annexation of West Bank territories.


--Annamie Paul, Green Party of Canada Leadership Contestant, July 27 2020 (from: "You Can Respond to Hate with Hate or Convert it to a Teaching Moment. We Chose the Latter." Canadian Jewish Record)


Response from Paul after Zoom Meeting
interrupted by racist and anti-Semitic posts

When the only Jewish leadership contestant in a field of eight candidates says she's experienced prejudice that directly targets her Jewish identity, everyone should be listening.  


When the anti-Semitic attacks are coming from members of her own Party, that's egregious.  When that Party is the Green Party of Canada, it's downright unfathomable.  And yet, here we are.


I'm pretty sure that Annamie Paul would rather be discussing issues like the climate emergency and human rights, or how to build stronger Green electoral district associations across the nation.  But so much of her limited oxygen that any leadership contestant gets to expel during a leadership contestant has been taken up dealing with anti-Semitic remarks, claims and false accusations - made by Green Party members or supporters - because of Paul's religious faith.


And that's just not right.


Paul herself has been sounding the alarm bells for months, but it seems to me that she has been a lone voice in the wilderness.  Even though the instances of anti-Semitic attacks on Paul have been well-documented.  The Green Party of Canada itself has taken no actions to address anti-Semitism. And indeed, by ignoring it, the Party has gone out of its way to facilitate anti-Semitism.


And that's just unacceptable.


Look, I get it. Very few of these anti-Semitic statements are being made in places that the Party has any control over.  The Party might have its own sites on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., but that's not where the conversations around the leadership campaigns are taking place.  Those aren't the spaces that some Greens feel comfortable engaging in anti-Semitic speech.

  

Racist and anti-Semitic posts made at 
all-candidates Zoom meeting

If you don't have control of the space, you can't control what goes on there, right?  To a degree that may be true - but the Green Party does have a tool at its disposal that it should be using to ensure that Green Party members abide by a higher standard - one the Members themselves agree to when they pay their fee and sign their membership card. 

 

It's the Members Code of Conduct.  And it applies to members where ever we may go - including those dark places on the internet nominally set aside for Green Party members and supporters, but which have really turned into an echo chamber for promoting a single leadership contestant.  And it's a place where Greens feel free to express anti-Semitic tropes openly - mostly directed at the Party's only Jewish leadership contestant.  They know that little action will be taken by group moderators who should be creating a safe space for Greens to have conversations and dialogue, because the moderators themselves appear to see little problem with the use of anti-Semitic tropes.


And why should the moderators of Facebook groups like Green Party of Canada Supporters be held to a standard that the Party doesn't want to seem to uphold either? Evidence of these attacks has been there for anyone who might have bothered to go and look for it.  The following screencaps were all taken from the Green Party of Canada Supporters Facebook group over the span of about 4 weeks.  I was a member of that group, who engaged periodically. I was eventually removed from the group by moderators because I was calling out anti-Semitic posts like these too often.  


They would rather sweep anti-Semitism under the rug. It's easier to deal with their.  And in that, they are little different from the Green Party of Canada itself.


Special Requirements for Jewish Politicians

When Jewish people are singled out for "special treatment" because the are Jewish, that's anti-Semitic.  When non-Jewish people are calling for Jews to be subject of special requirements - even when those Jews are democratically elected officials - that's egregious.


Look, I get it - colonialism sucks. That's an opinion that I suspect I share with most Green Party members and supporters.  But it's not a universally-held opinion. Calling for all Jewish politicians to condemn colonialism - rather than calling for everyone to condemn it - is anti-Semitic.


As I indicated earlier, I suspect that Annamie Paul would rather be talking about the issues over the course of the leadership campaign.  That she has had to talk about what it is like to be Jewish during this campaign has come about largely because of anti-Semitic attacks like this. Keep in mind - Paul can no more deny or repress her faith than she can her gender or her skin colour or her educational experiences.  Her faith is a part of her identity. Wanting to silence her for having a faith identity that is Jewish is anti-Semitic.

Dual Loyalty

Accusing Jews of having divided loyalties - therefore rendering them untrustworthy - can be anti-Semitic.  The "dual loyalty" trope - when used to attack Jewish elected officials or those seeking public office, is anti-Semitic.







The dual loyalty trope remains anti-Semitic even in circumstances where someone uses it points out that Israel gives free land to Jews, and therefore....divided loyalties.  It's almost as if to say that a Jewish Member of Parliament can never be completely loyal to Canada, because they might receive a benefit from Israel at some point in their lives, so....don't trust them, they've got a "conflict of interest" or divided loyalties!




Annamie Paul, although Jewish, is not an Agent of the State of Israel. She is only being accused of being a "foreign government agent" or "shill with citizenship" in another country because she is Jewish. Here, the potential right to citizenship in the state of Israel is conflated with actually having citizenship. 




"Jewish people do not necessarily have Israeli citizenship" also means that Jewish people do not necessarily not have Israeli citizenship. Language like this casts the spectre of doubt of Jewish people's national loyalties, because you never know whether they are citizens of some other foreign country or not.

Debating whether it is fair or not to bar Jewish people from politics is always anti-Semitic.

Calling for Jewish elected officials to recuse themselves from political discussion on matters pertaining to Jews or the state of Israel is always anti-Semitic.










"I want all persons with [the right to return] to recuse from BDS debate" is a call for Jewish politicians not to take part in political discussions because they are Jewish. That's anti-Semitic.  And the author of this piece is in no position to demand Jews do as they are told - why do they think they have the authority to make this demand?


Another poster demands that a Jewish leadership contest do as they are told and answer a certain question (one I note that Paul has answered - again and again - but never to the satisfaction of some). Demanding Paul answer a question is not anti-Semitic. Demanding that she must answer a question because she is Jewish is anti-Semitic.

Susceptible to Bribery

Accusing Jews of putting money over anything and everything is a long-enduring anti-Semitic trope. When coupled with the dual loyalty trope, aspersions have been cast on Jews throughout history who would sell their allegiance to the highest bidder.  This is anti-Semitic.


For the record, Greens - along with everybody else - should not be asking Jewish politicians about their loyalty just because you think Jewish politicians are more susceptible to taking bribes. No one should be asking questions about loyalty and bribery because doing so is anti-Semitic.
Annamie Paul is not being bribed by the State of Israel. 

And for the record, I am not an Agent of the State of Israel either.

And finally, it is not an open question as to whether this post is anti-Semitic. 

Speaking to Jewish Organizations, Synagogues

If I were running for leadership of the Green Party, you can bet that I would try to get in front of as many people as I can, to introduce myself. I would do this at community centres, sporting events, churches, etc. This is what politicians do when they are running for election.

But Annamie Paul - a Jewish politician - needs to make sure that she visits only the right kind of synagogue - as determined by non-Jewish people.

That's anti-Semitism.








Beth Israel is a synagogue in Vancouver.  It is a Conservative - fairly mainstream - synagogue. It is not an arm of the Israeli government. It's a synagogue.  But even if it were an Orthodox synagogue, why should Paul have been blocked from attending it?  The answer appears to be "because Paul is Jewish" - and that's anti-Semitic.



Annamie Paul can't be trusted to attend a Jewish faith service because she might fiddle with membership roles or do something funny with the money. It is not clear whether Paul would require a shadow if she attended a friend's wedding at a Catholic church. Calls for following Jewish politicians to synagogues because they may do something wrong with signing up members and taking their money is, well, frankly it's really out there.  And it's clearly anti-Semitic.

Attending a Jewish faith service does not imply that a politician - even one in the midst of a leadership contest - is attempting to bring religion and governance together. People attend religious services because religion is a part of their identity. Non-Jews don't get to decide which synagogues Jewish people are allowed to attend.  Imposing their views of Jewish politicians is anti-Semitic. I wonder if this poster would tell me which churches I should stay away from if I were running for the Party's leadership. I think we know the answer to that question.


Reject BDS = Complicity in Genocide

Here's how extreme some of the posts from the far-left of the Party have become: if you reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement, you are complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people.  This is not necessarily an anti-Semitic position (many non-Jews reject BDS against Israel), but when applied specifically towards the only Jewish leadership contestant in the Green Party's leadership contest, it is anti-Semitic.

Why? The Green Party's Constitution defines the leader in a singular manner: they are to be a "spokesperson" for the Party. This means they don't get to decide what the policies of the Party are. Policy is the exclusive realm of the membership of the Party.  

With regards to BDS, the in 2016, the membership of the Party rejected a policy that would have seen the Party endorse the BDS movement (yes, it was more complicated than that - but the outcome was a rejection of affiliating the Party with BDS). Paul, in her pursuit of the leadership of the Party, has no say in whether the Party supports BDS or not.  And the same is true for all other leadership contestants. 

And yet Paul, because she is Jewish, is singled out for her complicity in ethnic cleansing and genocide, while all of the other leadership contestants get a pass.



Racist Nazi Zionist Infiltrators & Hasbara Trolls

When party members state that "only racists" support Israel ("zion Jews"), and wildly claim that "Zionist Infiltrators" are overwhelming the Green Party, and Jews are equated with Nazis - there is a problem in our Party. 




And when other Greens point out the racism, anti-Semitism and absurdity of these allegations are labelled "Hasbara" ("in the pay of Israel"), there's really no hope for working things out through conversation and dialogue. 


Sweeping Anti-Semitism Under the Rug

Sometimes, moderators for the Green Party of Canada Supporters group would remove specific anti-Semitic comments.  But posters were allowed to remain in the group. Instead of ejecting the posters making anti-Semitic statements, the moderators found it easier to rid themselves of Green Party members who called out the anti-Semitism - essentially sweeping it all under the rug. Sometimes this was done in the name of fair comment (made about the Party's only Jewish leadership contestant). Other times because the moderators implied that they were ok with all viewpoints being shared in the group - presumably even those informed by hate.


A fairly typical response by group moderators to criticism about the proliferation of anti-Semitic posts.

This screencap (below) is of the a post I made shortly before being booted from the group by one of the moderators.  This post was eventually removed by group moderators.



Paul Isn't Here on Her Own Merits

The following two screencaps come from a different Facebook group.  They describe Paul as a "token" who only appears to be in the leadership race because of Elizabeth May, and is not deserving of being there based on her own accomplishments.  This may not be anti-Semitic, but it is certainly misogynistic for a male poster to claim that a black female candidate couldn't make it on her own.  These posts were removed by the group moderator.





Paul is Just Too Jewish

Not sure what to make of this. The poster seems to be saying that he's not against Black women politicians - only those who identify as Black, Jewish woman.  And that somehow a Black, Jewish woman is going to fail at promoting Party policy about the climate crisis because she is a Black, Jewish woman.



Other Examples of Online Racism from Greens

I wish I could say that the Green Party of Canada only has a problem with anti-Semitism - but that wouldn't be truthful. Racism, homo- and transphobia are also serious issues that the Party will have to tackle.  They may not have been as apparent to me in the leadership campaign, but they did rear their heads a few times.

Here is an exchange between several Green members, the first of whom is Black. Another member, who is white, feels compelled to tell the Black member that they outright don't believe him after he had shared his lived experiences as a Black man with the group.




Homophobia

*Sigh* From a Green Party member or supporter:


This next set of screenshots was appended to a post that I made wherein I had good things to say about Green Party leadership contestant Glen Murray - who is gay.  These posts were ultimately removed by group moderators after my constant pestering.  They were available to be read in the group for approximately a week, even though the Green Party member clearly conflates homosexuality with pedophilia.





Commonalities

Thank you for getting this far. I know this was a hard slog - especially if you are a long-time Green Party member like myself.  I know I don't like to think that my fellow members could hold dear these sorts of positions.  But it's best not to kid ourselves - just because we are Greens, we are not immune from racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, homo- and transphobia.  They are as much a part of our political culture as they are a part of Canadian society.
 
But I will say one final thing.  These few posts that I screencapped over the course of several weeks of the leadership campaign all appear to come from existing and new members of the Green Party.  Only in one case could I not confirm or intuit membership (and in that one case, it was apparent that the poster had at one time been a member of the Party).  Besides sharing membership in our Party, it was also apparent to me that all of these posters were also supporting candidate Dimitri Lascaris for leadership. To not comment on this point of commonality would be an egregious omission. 

That's not to say that Green members supporting other leadership contestants haven't also made some questionable posts. But with specific regards to anti-Semitism, I can tell you that if those posts are out there, I haven't seen them.  I know I'm not infallible, and that my eyes aren't on the internet 24/7.  But I'm probably as engaged as the most engaged Green, at least on Facebook (not so much on Twitter).

If you want to read more about the Green Party's issues with anti-Semitism stemming from the Lascaris campaign, you may wish to read this important column by David Akin, "On eve of leadership choice, Canada’s Greens confront anti-Semitism in their ranks," Global News, October 1 2020. 
 
Last Word

Greens, we have to be better than this. We can't stand by idly and do nothing while anti-Semitism tears our party apart.  We certainly can't ignore it, hoping it will go away. If this leadership contest has revealed anything, it's that the Party that we love has been seriously infected with anti-Semitism. If we're not careful, and if we don't take better care of the Party, this disgusting condition could be fatal to our hopes and dreams for electoral success.

(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)

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Paths to Glory: Green Party Leadership Contestants' Paths to Ranked Ballot Victory

With 9 opitions on the Green Party of Canada's leadership ballot, what's it going to take for one of the 8 leadership contestants to emerge victorious on Saturday, October 3 2020?


For some, there just is no path to victory.  For just about everyone else, the Ranked Ballot is going to get a serious workout before anyone will emerge victorious on Saturday.  While it could be that a single individual will reach the 50% threshold within the first 3 rounds of counting, that scenario seems incredibly unlikely to me, and it has everything to do with the apparent strengths of each of the campaigns of the more serious contenders.




By way of background, the Green Party of Canada uses a one-voter one-vote model, so every member's vote carries the same weight - as long as their ballots remain in play.  The Ranked ballot allows you to rank all 9 options - or as many or as few as you want to.  There are 9 options on the ballot because the Green Party of Canada always includes a "None of the Above" (NOTA) option on all ballots in every vote that it holds (not just for leadership).


Barriers for Pundits


There has been no polling released to the public that could help voters figure out who the frontrunners are.  That leaves pundits like me with a lack of viable information to form our opinions.  As you are reading this blogpost, please keep in mind that my opinions are just that - opinions.  I have used some metrics to help inform those opinions, including fundraising data, which has been published by the Party monthly since July. Fundraising data published by Elections Canada at the end of Q2 also includes the names of donors who contributed, so there is an opportunity there to figure out how many people are contributing to each of the campaigns at that point in time.  So even knowing how much each contestant raised at the end of August, and the number of contributors to each campaign at the end of July - well, you can see that fundraising data is a limited metric.  Limited, yes - but not useless.


Some have suggested that social media posts are a good bellwether of voter intention.  I mostly disagree, because of the limited number of social media engagements that are available, as well as their overlap.  Posts on social media represent a small fraction of voters - but they do say a little something about the intentions of engaged Greens, and for me, that says something about which contestants might have momentum, and those that don't.


Unfortunately, due to the high caliber of each of the campaigns, it has been seriously hard to determine momentum.  I can say with a degree of certainty only this: there are two sets of contestants - those that can win, and those that can't.  And the former group is more than twice the size of the latter group.


Going forward, you need to know that this post is going to be seriously informed by my own hunches - hunches that I've developed after over a decade of membership in the Green Party, sure.  But they're still hunches.  I'll try to explain myself as best I can where some additional explanation might help shed light on my opinion.  But I have to say, predicting an outcome for this leadership contest has been one of the more difficult political tasks that I've set for myself.


Membership - Who Votes


Membership in the Party was estimated at around 23,000 at the end of the 2019 election.  This leadership contest has apparently seen a striking 12,000 new members sign up.  Let's break this down a little bit.


23,000 members at the end of the 2019 election likely include a fair number of single-purpose members.  Those who signed up to support a certain election candidate, for example.  Many of these members are not engaged members, and many will not be voting in the leadership contest.


In contrast, those members who have recently signed up are far more likely to be motivated to vote in the contest - likely that was the reason they've signed up in the first place - because they want to vote for a particular candidate. 


What membership numbers can't tell us, though, is which candidates are more likely to be supported by which group of members. There may be a few factors that shed a little light on this - for example, Elections Canada Q2 fundraising numbers showed that Annamie Paul had the highest fundraising total, and that it was distributed among the most individuals, making her funds raised per person amount the lowest out of any contestant's. That suggests to me that she received a lot of small donations - sometimes just $10 - enough to cover the Party's membership fee.


That's one thing.  Another is the reported surge in new members - many disgruntled former New Democrats (or even existing New Democrats, if you believe what you read on Twitter and Facebook - and I do - there's nothing really preventing someone to have membership in another party vote in the Green Party's leadership contest, even though it is against the rules, other than maybe one's personal ethics) are apparently joining the party to support one of several leadership contestants (more on that below).  


Long story short: new member are likely to vote, but there are likely fewer of them (12,000) than existing members (23,000).  But if only half the existing members vote, it's likely that the decision will be made almost equally by new and existing members. This becomes important when we examine a few of the campaigns in more detail - for the path to victory for some of the candidates lies through existing members, while others will be heavily counting on new members to push them above 50%.


Let's now look at the ballot options.


None of the Above


None of the Above ran a truly lackluster campaign. That said, after 8 long months of robocalls, Zoom meetings, flyers, "debates" where nothing is actually debated, and did I mention endless Zoom meetings - I think None of the Above's chances have improved somewhat.  That said, only a cynical contrarian like me would ever think of ranking None of the Above first on their ballots.  But keep in mind - the Green Party is filled with cynical contrarians like me (and for the record, while I might have thought about doing it, I didn't actually do it).


Still, None of the Above is likely to be the first casualty of the ranked ballot.  And I don't expect to see any preferences being redistributed to the other contestants (because...None of the Above!).


The Party can anticipate fairly static results for the first two rounds of voting.  Really, it's the relative placement of each contestant towards one another (or at least for the top 6 who might have a chance at winning) that will matter most in these first two rounds.


But before we get into that, let's discuss the two no-hope contestants, and why even their preferences aren't likely going to have much of an impact on the race when they drop off the ballot.


Andrew West


Andrew West will be the first leadership contestant to be eliminated from the race.  His campaign never caught on, and those that might have considered ranking him high probably realize that there are other candidates out there like Glen Murray, Courtney Howard and Paul who would have a better chance of reaching 50%.  I'm not knocking West here (I think he's a great guy and an asset to the Party), but his campaign was never big enough or ambitious enough to challenge his rivals. West will be eliminated after Round 2, and his elimination will have little impact on standings, as less than 5% of voters will have ranked him as their first choice.


Meryam Haddad

One of the other few things that I am relatively certain of in this leadership contest is that Meryam Haddad will be the second contestant to be eliminated from the ballot.  Haddad's campaign suffered from two significant problems, one of which was out of her control, the other which was of her making. Throughout the contest, and especially in the week leading up to voting, Haddad found herself in hot water with voters and the Party over several public comments she made - about wanting to make the Green Party more hostile; about endorsing the provincial B.C. Ecosocialist Party (although she denies she endorsed that party); and about making accusations against former Green Party leader Elizabeth May being part of a "pattern of harassment".


While some have clearly been energized by Haddad - especially her attacks on the Party and Elizabeth May - I think it's fair to say that most Greens, including those new to the Party, have pretty serious affection and respect for May.  Attacking the Party for what amounts to doing its job (the Party ejected Haddad from the leadership contest over what it refers to as Haddad's bringing disrepute on the Party for endorsing the BC Ecosocialists over our provincial cousins, the BC Greens; Haddad appealed, and was reinstated), and May for agreeing with many Greens that her support for the Ecoscialists was entirely unbecoming for a Green Party of Canada leadership contestant will have cost her support up and down the ballot.


Note that these weren't rookie errors on Haddad's part - at least I don't think they were.  Haddad's actions, looked at her from point of view, might even be considered principled.  Haddad, a member of Quebec Solidaire, is a self-described socialist.  She is running for leadership of the Green Party so that she can lead the Green Party into becoming a socialist party - something that is no longer recognizably a Green Party.  Haddad is part of an insurgency being waged against the Green Party by outside forces who would transform the Green Party.


And that's the other reason why Haddad never really had a chance.  Although her actions might resonate with this insurgent group - whom many of the new members and a few of our original members clearly belong to - she was never their figurehead, their chosen one.  She may garner some top rank support from the socialists, safe with the knowledge that they can then rank Dimitri Lascaris No. 2 and still keep him in the game. This might count for as much as 5% of top ranked support, but likely little more.


Glen Murray


And now we get into that part of the ballot where I am seriously going on hunches, as just about anybody from here on in can win the leadership.


Glen Murray should have been able to leverage his serious past advantages as Mayor of Winnipeg and a cabinet Minister in Ontario's government led by former Premier Kathleen Wynne.  He's the only leadership contestant in the race to ever have been elected to, well, pretty much anything.  His resume is deep, and his understanding of the issues are second to none. 


But his campaign has just never really caught on.  Greens outside of Manitoba and Ontario don't know him very well - and Greens in Ontario might be more used to voicing their opposition to him, rather than their support.  Murray's first tactical mistake of the campaign happened before the campaign got under way: he should have run for the Green Party in the 2019 federal election.  He didn't, and that has really hurt his chances, as he now looks like a bit of an opportunist, sweeping in on a leaderless party to take it over. That several other candidates are doing the exact same as Murray, it's likely Murray's past Liberal credentials that make Murray's actions a little more egregious in the eyes of Greens.


And Murray has had a few mis-steps along the way. To me, it's pretty clear that Murray doesn't have a lot of respect for our marquee carbon fee and dividend policy to fight climate change.  And lately he has gone on record saying that there may be times a Green caucus uses a whip on certain votes.  And that's pretty much anathema for Greens.


Does Murray have a path to victory?  If there is one, it's a very dimly lit path.  Murray is going to have to outperform one of the following: Howard, Paul or David Merner, with 1st rank support and the preferences of Andrew West (which won't amount to much, but which still could see a plurality flow to Murray). If he accomplishes this, it'll be Howard, Paul or Merner ejected from the ballot before him, and he might be able to keep building on the basis of preferences from the other two.  He's not going to pick up any support from Lascaris, and he'll get only minimal support from Amita Kuttner.  Murray needs to stay ahead of Howard, Paul and Merner.  If he can pull that off, he just might win this thing.


But I still think that's a longshot, given how the campaigns of Merner, Howard and Paul appear to have had a lot more resonance with Green voters. And with Murray having done himself few favours to dispel the notion that he is an outsider, that's going to cost him support up and down the ballot - and it's why I'm selecting Murray to be eliminated in Round 4.


Amita Kuttner


If there is one leadership contestant for whom I feel unprepared to make an informed guess about, it's Amita Kuttner.  Their campaign has appeared to be a serious enigma for me.  It's generally been a positive campaign, but at the same time, I has been only moderately successful in attracting voters. 


So I've got to judge Kuttner's campaigns relative to that of the other campaigns.  Kuttner's path to victory is, I think, extremely difficult.  It requires Kuttner to stay ahead of one of Merner, Paul, Howard or Murray AND to be ahead of Lascaris on that round that he's eliminated.  I expect that Kuttner can pick up enough of Lascaris' preferences to propel them over the 50% margin, if it comes down to a straight fight between Kuttner and one of Merner/Pau/Howard/Murray.


And if it comes down to a straight fight between Lascaris and Kuttner, I also think Kuttner can likely win, as long as they and Lascaris are fairly close in vote percentage heading into that last round - and especially if it were Paul or Murray who had just been knocked out (because I believe Paul's and Murray's preferences are the least likely to go to Lascaris, while a greater percentage - but not a plurality - of Howard's and Merner's might end up with Lascaris).


Watch for Kuttner's position on the first ballot, relative to Merner/Paul/Howard/Murray.  If Kuttner is ahead of 3 of these, they may have what it takes to make it to the end.  If Kuttner is behind 3 of these, I think they're out.  And I think they will be - behind Merner, Howard and Paul - that's why I'm selecting Amita Kuttner to be eliminated after the 5th round.


Courtney Howard


Howard has run an extremely effective, very positive, if limited campaign.  Greens who are taking the time to check her out are liking what they're seeing.  She hasn't upset any applecarts, and you'd be hard pressed to find any Green who has an axe to grind with her. 


All of this is why just about every voter is going to rank Howard somewhere near the middle or the top of their ballots.  And if a few things in the count break her way, she could win this. Like Murray, though, Howard needs to stay ahead of one of Paul, Merner and Murray on ever round of counting, as we can expect a good deal of their preferences to break to Howard should they be eliminated.  Unlike Murray, Howard is probably well-positioned to pick up a fair number of Kuttner's preferences too.  


But Howard's sure path to victory is the following: if she remains on the ballot after both Kuttner and Lascaris are eliminated, I believe she'll be the next leader of the Green Party of Canada.  Lascaris' preferences - if they don't go to Kuttner - will probably mostly end up with Howard.  


This is a longshot though, as I don't foresee Howard having the staying power to outlast both Kuttner and Lascaris - and that's because I think that as long as one of Kuttner or Lascaris remains in the race, a plurality of their preferences could be expected to go to the other (although I remain very uncertain about whether that's true in the case of Kuttner.


Howard's campaign could have benefited from a little more exposure, a little more money, and a little more familiarity with the Green Party.  Although she has never run for the Party before and has opted to take the plunge in our leadership contest, unlike Murray, Greens just seem to consider her more "one of us".  Which is not to suggest that some aren't troubled by her desire to seek the leadership as her first political action in the Party.

  

I just don't think that Howard will be able to overcome this feeling that I have that Greens still don't really know her.  And it is just a feeling - although it's informed by a number of factors as I've indicated. Yes, I think her campaign has experienced a little momentum in September, and that might be enough to push her above Murray.  But I just don't think she's going to be able to outflank Merner or Paul - and, along with bumping Murray off the ballot, that's where her path to victory has to lead.


I believe Howard will bow out in Round 7.


Annamie Paul


Look, let me be clear about something.  If Paul has signed up a majority of those new members, she could potentially win this thing on the first ballot.  Her campaign was the first to really take off in the spring / early summer, and she's raised a tonne of cash for the party.  She's received the most mainstream media attention of any candidate, and now she's running for the Party in the Toronto Centre by-election.  Without question, Paul has been the "candidate to beat" in this leadership contest.


Some have suggested that she has benefited unfairly from Elizabeth May, who has appeared at events, and helped her fundraise. I don't think there's any question that appearing at May's side has left an impression with voters that Paul is the real deal - if not the "annointed one". Whether one interprets that impression as a positive or a negative is informed by one's feelings for Elizabeth May.


Therefore, Paul's path to victory seems pretty straightforward: claim the top position on the ballot and pick up enough preferences from Murray/Merner/Howard to propel her above 50%.


What prevents Paul from winning it all are two contestants: Amita Kuttner and Dimitri Lascaris.  If Lascaris is close to her after the first ballot, we're going to be in for a long night.  Lascaris can count on more of Kuttner's preferences that Paul can.  If Kuttner outperforms Murray/Howard/Merner, than Lascaris will probably win it.  If Kuttner drops off before two of Murray/Howard/Merner, Paul may have a much clearer path to victory - as long as she is ahead of Merner at this point.


And here I am back to Kuttner again, and just being uncertain of where their campaign fits in with this contest.  I have a sense that a good number of Kuttner's preferences will break to Lascaris, and to a lesser degree, Merner/Howard.  If Merner and Howard are still in the race when Kuttner drops off, if Kuttner has an unexpectedly high amount of support, that could be the end of Paul.


And that's why I'm selecting Paul for elimination in Round 7.  I do think Kuttner will perform more strongly than suspected, out-performing Murray - and even if they drop off before Howard and Merner, ultimately a good number, if not a majority, of Kuttner's preferences will work their way to Merner - enough to boost him above Paul. 


Dimitri Lascaris


Lascaris is the leadership contestant that everybody seems to love or loathe - at least among engaged members of the party.  Lascaris' path to victory is a simple one on paper: sign up a hell of a lot of new members, and convince enough existing members the he won't be toxic for the Party, as some (like me) have claimed.


Without question, Lascaris has ran a masterful campaign as leader of the insurgency. A good number of those approximately 12,000 new members are likely here for his campaign. He's used his time in the campaign to steer away from the divisive issue of Israel/Palestine and BDS (although his supporters appear to want to talk about nothing but).  He's done a very good job of pretending to be a moderate radical - and it might be enough to convince Greens who aren't paying attention to what's going on to cast their ballot for him, or to rank him high so that he gets their preferences when other contestants like Howard or Merner drop off.


Those paying attention have been sounding the alarm, though.  We realize that Lascaris is here to transform the Green Party into a socialist party, taking us backward, and pretty much killing any hope we have of being electable. Lascaris, a former New Democrat who worked on Niki Ashton's losing leadership campaign (to take the NDP further to the left), has surrounded himself with disgruntled New Democrats and others who refer to themselves as "ecosocialists".  Their objective is to create a confrontational party that champions nationalization and the elimination of capitalism as preconditions for fighting climate change. They sincerely believe that any effort to reduce emissions is doomed to fail under a capitalist economic system.


Thing is, I'm not so sure I disagree with all of that (although nationalization of the fossil fuel industry, just at a time where we can expect it to seriously start losing shrinking due to disappearing demand).  Capitalism is a serious barrier to climate action.


But so is not being at the table - and that's what Lascaris and his followers seem to want to gloss over.  Canadians aren't going to elect a socialist party to power - not now, not for a long while. The NDP has been around for, what? 60 years? And they've never formed government federally. And the NDP isn't socialist enough for these socialists.


Alarms have been sounding about the socialist insurgency, and about Dimitri Lascaris himself. Lascaris was one of the key players in the 2016 Green Party BDS episode, at that time being a member of Elizabeth May's shadow cabinet. Lascaris was later booted from Shadow Cabinet for a critical open letter he wrote to then BC Green leader, Andrew Weaver.  He ultimately left the Party, joined the NDP, and when they rebuffed his candidate, came back to the Green Party just as May announced that she was stepping down. 

 

Without question, a Lascaris victory will lead to an existential crisis for the Green Party.  It's no secret that May is no fan of Lascaris', and others believe that the direction he will take the party in will mean a decade of being lost in the wilderness. I just don't see May staying the in the Party should Lascaris become the next leader.  Greens on social media are already pledging to join May in leaving the Party, not wanting to waste valuable time and energy on a cause that has no hope for a Party whose fundamental values will have shifted with a new leader.


All of that said, Lascaris appears to have a pretty good chance of winning. But a ballot count that goes 8 rounds is probably going to be a problem for him, as his best chances of picking up support will be after the elimination of Haddad and Kuttner (and to a lesser degree, Howard and Merner). He's going to have to be very close to 50% when Howard or Merner come off of the ballot.


A strong showing in first ranked ballots are what Lascaris needs to win (and you might just as well add his first ballot percentage to Haddad's, because her preferences are going to overwhelmingly flow to him).


David Merner


I keep seeing David Merner being referred to as "everybody's second choice", and there appears to be something to that.  Merner has run a solid campaign that has seen him play friendly with just about all of the other candidates.  There is certainly no doubt that Merner would make an excellent leader for our Party.  And he's also the one most likely to find himself being sent to Ottawa after the next election, having finished a close second in the 2019 race to take his home seat of Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.  Merner also benefits from being the Vancouver Island candidate, where Greens are thick on the ground.


And I think he's going to have the staying power to take the whole thing.  If it comes down to Merner, Lascaris and Paul, as I am predicting, if it's Paul that ends up existing the ballot, Merner is very likely to win it.  If it's Merner that leaves, depending on how close Paul and Lascaris are to one another, a Paul victory might be a little less certain, as some of Merner's preferences will go to Lascaris. If it's Lascaris that drops off, Merner should be able to take it.


What to Watch For After the Initial Results are Announced


Round 1 will be the most important round for the ballot. We should be able to see some of the trends start to develop at that time, but we probably won't be able to rely on those trends to extrapolate a winner, unless either Lascaris or Paul have captured a serious amount of the vote.  If either are up above 40%, it's probably game over.  If Paul is above 35%, I don't see how anybody is going to catch her.


And frankly, yes, it's only Paul and Lascaris out of the serious contestants (Howard/Kuttner/Lascaris/Merner/Murray/Paul) that I believe could find themselves with such a large percentage of the vote.  But even I don't think that's going to happen.  


If Paul, Merner, Murray, Kuttner or Howard get over 25% in the first round, that's likely going to be enough for them to cruise to victory.  The same is not necessarily so for Lascaris. 


To read Lascaris' chances for success based on first round placement, do the following: add his percentage to Haddad's, and then take 2/3's of Kuttners. If he's at 50% with that, he'll probably win. If he's close, there's a good chance he'll win. If he's at 40-42%, I don't think he's going to do it.

  

If Kuttner/Murray/Merner/Howard are bunched up in the middle, the way that they exit the ballot will matter.  In my scenario above, I have Murray exiting first, followed by Kuttner.  But if the order of exit changes, that might be to to Paul's benefit or detriment, depending on whether Lascaris is in the race on the final ballot. 


Scenario


Scenario Methodology - where "100 Votes" are a stand-in for Actual Votes Cast


(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)

Friday, September 4, 2020

Higgs the Big Winner in New Brunswick Leader's Debate

 Last night's New Brunswick leader's debate was rather interesting - for several reasons.

First, Premier Higgs was under attack from all sides for calling an unnecessary election. Higgs nevertheless handled himself well, although his anger was quite apparent and a little unbecoming.
People's Alliance Party leader Kris Austin appeared to be the most polished, and probably the best versed on the issues. He oozed charm and credibility - although I found some of his statements (like being proud about unilingual emergency services) a little off-putting. But there is no denying that Austin shone on this stage, making a strong pitch to voters to elect his MLA's to parliament.
NDP leader Mackenzie Thomason, just 23 years old (and played up his youth with a sharp Jimmy Olsen bow-tie), was the other stand-out of the debate. He knew his stuff, spoke off-the-cuff very well, hitting all of the high notes on issues from the economy and health care to regional development. Watch this guy - he is going to be a rising star in his party. If anybody was wondering whether a vote for the NDP in New Brunswick would be a "wasted" vote, Thomason firmly answered that question last night with a loud "No Way!"
Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers was probably the most underwhelming. I expected a lot more from Vickers - but largely he stuck to his talking points, and looked very uncomfortable with his wooden delivery. Higgs essentially manhandled him every time there was a confrontation between the two. It didn't help that in certain camera angles, Vickers make-up turned his face the colour of his tie - beet-red. Going on about untested technology (small modular nuclear reactors) made him look scary and fringe. And essentially calling the Moderator a liar at one point really sunk Vickers.
Green Party leader David Coon gave a bit of an unremarkable performance, providing few specifics about what Greens would do to influence the next government. Coon was most at home speaking about environmental issues, like Maritime Iron and the Paris Agreement. Coon's relaxed performance was remarkable (how could he be so cool in such a high pressure situation?) - but he came across as being a indifferent and lacking passion - except during a strange exchange between himself and Vickers where Vickers accused the Greens of walking away from some vote or the other (rich coming from Vickers who actually walked away from the all-Party committee that led to this election, and whose party abstained from voting on the budget). Vickers even made a pitch to Green voters, claiming in defiance of evidence, that the Liberals are "greener than the Greens". But even then, Coon failed to capitalize on this opening.
And finally, what on earth was the "Keep It Simple Solutions" Party leader doing in this debate? They're not even registering in the polls, they don't have any sitting MLAs. And their bewildered leader was completely out of place on that stage. The only thing I learned about KISS is that their leader has an allergy to cattle, and embraces homeopathy (of all things).
I suspect the media will spin this in the following way: Higgs winning the debate, despite being under fire, with Vickers wooden, shakey, and angry - especially when taking on the Moderator. Vickers really doesn't appear ready to be Premier. Possibly the media will also remark on the strong performances for Austin and Thomason.
But whatever the spin is likely to be, last night's debate was not very helpful to David Coon and the Green Party. At this point in the election, it might be too much to expect the NDP to start climbing in the polls. But Thomason's strong performance means that their polling numbers aren't likely to collapse further.
Coon needed to make the case that the Green Party was the only party that could hold the Progressive Conservatives accountable. Kevin Vickers opened the door for that to happen. But Coon just didn't walk through it.
One final note: Who else here is getting sick and tired of political debates where zero questions are asked about the biggest issue of our times - the climate emergency? I am just so fucking fed up that debate organizers at all levels are ignoring this. It's an injustice to the voting public, in my opinion.
(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)

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Here's Why a Letter to the Editor from Ward 2 Councillor's Adviser Published Today in the Sudbury Star is Misleading - and Unhelpful

I just read this letter to the Editor of the Sudbury Star from Tom Price, who is an adviser to Ward 2 Councillor Michael Vagnini. I have serious concerns about this letter due to a number of things in it that are simply not true.
As some here know, I am an appellant to the Kingsway Entertainment District matter presently before the LPAT. I am also a blogger and Star columnist who writes about the environment. I believe it's important to get one's facts right when calling for measures to be taken to address important issues. I'd say that's important for any member of the public.
It's doubly so when one has some kind of official capacity in government. I understand that people who have political agendas don't always tell the whole truth, in order to further their agendas. But this letter from Tom Price goes much further than that. He is simply not telling the truth on a few significant matters here.
Water Quality - An Important Municipal Issue
Water quality - especially for drinking water sources - is a serious issue in our City. In my opinion, it's one that isn't being addressed adequately by our elected officials and city managers who rely on dated minimum standards. I have called for freezing development around Ramsey Lake until the completion of the Ramsey Lake Watershed Study, and until its recommendations can be worked into municipal policy documents like the official plan. That would be one way for the city to demonstrate a more serious commitment to protecting at risk lakes from the impacts of development.
What is not helpful in these sorts of discussions is to make claims that are not supported by facts and evidence. Price does this in a number of locations in his letter. It's almost as if he wants to present a distorted picture to the public to further his own (or if not his own, than someone's) narrative.
Source Water Protection and the KED
In this letter, Price concludes that the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) "deemed source water protection not important to decisions regarding" the KED and "taxpayers need an explanation of why source water protection is not part of considerations by LPAT" for the KED. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is true that the LPAT dismissed the Minnow Lake Restoration Group's appeal of the parking lot zoning by-law, but it was not because LPAT believed source water protection was unimportant. It was actually the complete opposite. LPAT sided with the developer (not the City) who initiated the motion to dismiss Minnow Lake's appeal BECAUSE the proponent had undertaken studies to demonstrate that impacts of salt migration on Ramsey Lake (a drinking water source) could be mitigated, and that Minnow Lake - not coming to the table with its own technical studies to back up its opinion those mitigation methods called for in the developer's Plan wouldn't be enough, was raising apprehension instead of addressing an issue on which the LPAT could adjudicate. In other words, the LPAT decided it wasn't good enough to just say "we don't believe the technical studies are good enough" without presenting actual evidence to the contrary.
That said, there are some serious flaws to the Source Water Protection process, in my opinion. But rather than identify that the KED developer undertook technical studies, developed a Plan to identify potential harmful substances (including road salt) and measures to mitigate impacts from those substances, and that the City reviewed and approved this plan n compliance with our Source Water Protection Plan, Price simply provides a throw-away statement the LPAT didn't care about protecting water quality.
Valley East Twin Pad
Similarly, Price claims that Council isn't doing its due diligence with regards to the Valley East Twin Pad. Here he goes so far as to claim that the Valley East Twin Pad will "present a major risk to the municipal water supply" - a drinking water source that Price says "already exceeds Public Health recommendations" and that Council was "not following the advice of" municipal technical experts.
None of this is actually true in any meaningful way. While it is true that there is a drinking water source (a municipal well) in proximity to the proposed Twin Pad arena in the Valley, and that drinking water source - along with other municipal wells in the Valley - is under stress due to the presence of contamination - the well is still being used to provide safe, clean drinking water to Valley residents. Public Health has not recommended that use be discontinued.
It is also true that the well is expected to be impacted by the Twin Pad. And that's why the City followed its Source Water Protection Plan and developed a strategy to mitigate those potential impacts. As with the KED, no strategy is going to mitigate every single expected impact. But mitigation here was deemed possible and appropriate by City staff - those technical experts whose advice Price insists Council did not follow. Again, the opposite is actually true.
Lake Nepahwin
And finally, Price raises the matter of Lake Nepahwin and a recent study that shows that lake as being in serious trouble. What Price doesn't do, however, is identify Lake Nepahwin as not being a drinking water source. Instead he lumps it in with Ramsey Lake and a municipal well in the Valley. This is an important omission, because the level of protection for water quality for drinking water sources is much higher than for surface water features that are not the sources of potable water.
Price also fails to identify that the Lake Nepahwin report concluded that the majority of the damage that we can expect to see in the Lake has already been done, and little further opportunity exists to do more damage, due to the fact that there are few available places on the lake for more development, and due to the fact that the City has been paying closer attention to things like road salt and phosphorous run-off into all urban lakes.
The Sudbury Star
I often call the Sudbury Star out for publishing letters that offer opinions that are clearly based on nonsense or that are unsupported by facts and evidence. I can't do so here for two reasons. First, a lot of this is very technical and easily misrepresented by those who either don't care about the nuances of how policy, regulation and reports interact to better protect our natural environment. It's a lot easier to claim that something lakes aren't being protected than to explain how they're not being protected. And let's face it, I agree with Price's thesis that the City should be doing more to protect vulnerable lakes. But it's unhelpful when conclusions are distorted and facts are invented to support that thesis.
Second, Price is a political animal. He advises a municipal Councillor - one whom many believe has ambitions beyond Ward 2. By publishing this letter, the Star is contributing to the political discussion in our community - if not helpfully advancing concerns of citizens who have long been involved with trying to push the City towards more protection for vulnerable lakes. Those people (and I am not one of them) have experienced considerable success over the years - and have made our City a better place for everyone to live.
(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)