Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Putin's Invasion of Ukraine is Unconscionable. It's Time for NATO and the World to Do What We Must.

This is very difficult for me to write. Like many Canadians – and indeed, like many around the world, I’ve watched in horror as Russian President Vladimir Putin commanded Russia’s armed forces to invade Ukraine. I’ve seen the response – from Canada, and from the world. Certainly, the nations and peoples of our planet have come together in a completely unprecedented way to condemn Putin’s abominable aggression towards his neighbour.

Sudbury Steve May

And yet, I feel it deep inside of me that the response, as extraordinary as it has been, is not living up to the moment of this crisis. 

Look, although I’ve always been interested in history and war, the fact is I hate war with an unrivaled passion. Carl von Clauswitz might have famously called war, “merely the continuation of politics with other means,” but for me, war is an obscenity. It ought to be considered an archaic remnant of a violent past that our species long ago left behind. But like Clauswitz, I’m also a realist, and I know war and politics today continue to go hand in hand, as war, politics and morality often have little to do with one another, to our collective shame.

Putin has manufactured a crisis, and under the guise of lies, he’s launched a military invasion of a neighbouring nation. It is plain and clear to the rest of the world that this attack is both illegal and immoral. Nation after nation has condemned Putin. Corporations, churches, charities, all levels of government, sports organizations – all are doing their part to isolate Putin. And common people across the globe have taken to the streets to send a message to the Russian people that Putin’s act of naked aggression against Ukraine is unacceptable. Even in Russia itself, where protesting the government means putting one’s health and well-being at risk, we have seen masses of people in public squares demanding an end to war.

And yet, it is not enough. Yes, at some point global economic sanctions might start to have a measurable impact and force Putin to call off the invasion. But how long does the world wait? Until Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa are smoldering ruins? 

We are showing our support for Ukraine, an embattled democratic nation that is fighting tenaciously for its life. We do this not because we believe Ukraine to be unflawed and worthy of our unconditional support. We show our support because we know that despite whatever imperfections Ukraine’s government may harbor, Ukraine and its people are victims of a bully’s aggression. 

We teach our children to stand up to bullies. That doesn’t mean we teach them to pick fights. Or to fight bullies on behalf of those being bullied. When an individual stands up to a bully on the schoolgrounds, there is always a chance that the bully will lash out in violence. Our children instinctively know that a bully can only be shamed when they stand together even as the threat of violence hangs over their heads.

Yes, it’s easy and inappropriate to compare Putin to a schoolyard bully, given that Putin has nuclear missiles. Yet the comparison resonates on other levels. Without question, we know that it is moral and just to pick a side in this conflict – because just as bullying is an unacceptable practice in the schoolyard, so to is the violation of the international order that we are watching unfold on our devices in real time. 

Putin’s invasion is wrong, and we all know it. So, are we going to stand up for Ukraine or just continue to watch it being knocked around by Putin, time and again, until at last it is no longer able to stand on its feet? What kind of friend to Ukraine would that make us?  What kind of person stands by and shouts from the sidelines when they see such an injustice?

There are those that say we risk nuclear annihilation should NATO’s military and Putin’s cross swords. I agree that there would be significant risk, and that the outcome of nuclear war is simply unthinkable. It is Putin – and not Ukraine or NATO – who set these events in motion, believing that might makes right – or at least that might can prevail as long as Putin threatens intervenors with nuclear destruction. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time accepting that Putin or any other nuclear armed power can extort the world to sit back and watch as their militaries lay waste to whichever people or nation they’ve added to their personal enemies list.

I’m glad that Canada has been playing an important role in rallying the international community to take action against Putin. I hate war, and I long for peace. And yet I fear that peace will only come when NATO stands up for Ukraine with more than words and sanctions. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked NATO to create a no-fly zone over his nation. NATO has said it will not do so, because that would be interpreted as an act of war by Putin. 

I understand the consequences of implementing a no fly zone very well. The risks are grave. But the outcome of allowing a nuclear-armed bully to succeed in subjugating its neighbour simply because it can is unfathomable. It is just, right and moral to stand up to Putin. It’s time NATO and other nations did so, collectively. Not to start a war, but rather to finish one. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Killing the KED is the Low-Hanging Fruit for Fiscal and Environmental Sustainability in Greater Sudbury

I have been a part of several recent online discussions on the subject of the costs of urban sprawl to taxpayers. I've seen this come up in response to recent media about municipal tax increases (and what's driving the need for higher taxes - see: "Keeping Sudbury's tax hike to three per cent will be a challenge: city staff," the Sudbury Star, October 15 2021). And I've seen it come up in response to an article from Sudbury dot com about how some rich land-owning developers and one municipal councilor are eagerly encouraging sprawl development along the Kingsway, due to the KED (see: "Business owners anticipate boom around Kingsway Entertainment District," Sudbury dot com, October 19, 2021). 

A recent report on the costs of sprawl in the City of Ottawa is being cited by urban activists and taxpayers groups. This report, by Hemson Consulting, pegged the costs of servicing new residential sprawl development as being $465 per resident per year - costs beyond what are collected by homeowners in the form of taxes and fees. That means that every single resident of the City of Ottawa is subsidizing generally well-to-do homeowners living in sprawling suburbs (see: "Suburban expansion costs increase to $465 per person per year in Ottawa," CBC, September 29 2021). 

In contrast, high density infill development was found to contribute over $600 per resident, annually, to the City's coffers. Meaning, residents living in high-density buildings, often renters, are paying more than their fair share for the costs of servicing development. This is, of course, the opposite of equity - those who can pay more are paying the least - actually receiving a subsidy for their profligate lifestyle choices - while those with the least disposable income to spare are asked to subsidize the rich - generally speaking, of course. 

Some will write off the study as being specific to Ottawa. And it is. Others will claim that it only looked at residential development, so it's not right to think that the same might be true for other forms of development, like commercial. And of course, that's valid - but only to a certain extent. Market forces at work in Ottawa on residential development are not all that different than those in play here in Greater Sudbury - except maybe for the actual costs of maintaining things like roads, bridges and pipes are probably more expensive here than in Ottawa because of our colder climate and rock-hard northerly terrain. So costs to provide services here are probably higher, requiring a deeper subsidy for sprawl development. 

Our city's lack of fiscal health can be traced easily to the bad development decisions that were made in the pat to facilitate a costly form of suburban and ex-urban sprawl that valued getting around in personal motorized vehicles above all else. We've known this for decades, and every additional study like the Hemson Ottawa study should be one more nail in the coffin of sprawl development. And yet, it isn't. We may be doing a slightly better job of intensifying existing and new development forms, but clearly the studies are continuing to show a preference for subsidizing well-to-do suburban lifestyle choices in preference to sound economic decisions to stop sprawl. We could have lower tax increases. We could have lower greenhouse gas emissions. But because we keep choosing sprawl, our decisions work against our community's economic health and that of the planet. 

And this isn't just a Greater Sudbury issue by any means. The City of Hamilton, too, is presently facing an existential threat to fiscal sustainability in the form of the provincial government insisting it identify more lands than it needs for anticipated development, because rich developers with links to the government want to be able to make money. My good friend Lilly Noble discusses this in her recent piece for the Hamilton Spectator, "Doug Ford wants developer profits over healthy growth," October 18 2021. 
Photo Credit: CBC News

It's all got to stop. Here in Greater Sudbury, it clearly must start with the Kingsway Entertainment District - an incredibly ill-conceived and expensive project for which there is no actual need. The KED is the low-hanging fruit for a city that has declared a climate emergency, and which professes to have interest in keeping municipal tax increases at a reasonable level. The KED is a symbol of the future that we want: to continue on the road to poor economic health for our communities, or to finally start getting serious about economic and environmental sustainability.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Annamie Paul is (Almost) Gone. Can the Green Party Survive What Comes Next?

 Annamie Paul is in the process of resigning her leadership of the Green Party of Canada. Good. By any reasonable metric, Paul's tenure as leader has been a mitigated disaster for the Party ("mitigated" only by the victory of Mike Morrice in Kitchener Centre in the recent federal election - a victory that had little to do with Paul, and probably occurred despite her). And now, Paul apparently can't even resign without controversy, after everybody in Canada mistook what she said at her press conference earlier today as a resignation - rather than beginning the process of resigning.

Yes, Paul faced some significant challenges to her leadership - including the very serious restrictions imposed upon her by the Party's Federal Council, which denied her funding that would otherwise have gone to mount a campaign in Toronto Centre.  But Toronto Centre was always a pipe dream - and whether one agrees with the actions of the Party's (now former) Federal Council, it's difficult to dispute that their actions ended up saving the party money that it didn't have.

Noah Zaztman

The writing really was on the wall for Paul's leadership after Paul's disastrous silence related to Noah Zaztman, her senior advisor and spokesperson, as he was sometimes characterized by the media. If you're not familiar with Zaztman and his Facebook post smearing Green MP's Paul Manly and Jenica Atwin, you might want to read what I wrote earlier about this sordid affair: "Green MPs and NDP Leader Engaged in Anti-Semitism, Says Senior Advisor to Green Party Leader," Sudbury Steve May, May 19 2021.

Screencap of Statement from Noah Zaztman

The net result of Paul's silence regarding Zaztman's accusation of anti-Semitism and vow to work to defeat sitting Green Party MP's was to see one of those MP's, Fredericton's Jenica Atwin, call it a day with the Party and cross the floor to join the Liberal Party.  Rather than taking any responsibility that her own silence led directly to that outcome, Paul decided it would be better to blame Justin Trudeau and to accuse him of not being a feminist, and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as being nothing more than "Trudea's shield" - accusations which prompted strong reactions among Liberals and Greens alike, for different reasons (see: "I am not a token:’ Freeland fires back at Paul’s accusation she is Trudeau’s ‘female shield’, Global News, June 17 2021).  Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May would go on to state, "To me, that's deeply shocking that was allowed to happen without him [Zaztman] being reprimanded and immediately removed. This was not a grey area. This was a serious transgression for anyone in any leader's office in any party in the history of any democracy that I can think of. It was deeply unacceptable. That's why we lost Jenica." ("This Was Supposed to Be the Green Party’s Moment," Christopher Guly, The Tyee, September 2, 2021).

I can't help but note that Jenica Atwin was recently returned to Parliament at the MP for Fredericton in the recent federal election.

Paul Manly, who stuck it out with the Green Party despite the leader's office attack on his good reputation, narrowly lost his seat in Nanaimo-Ladysmith - a victim of the Party's devastating showing at the polls under Paul's leadership. 

A Struggle for the Soul of the Green Party

On her way out the door today, Paul did make a profound statement that really resonated with me - although I suspect that she had something different in mind that what immediately sprung to my mind. I think it's fair to say that there has been on-going dissension within the Green Party, much of it lately focused on Paul's leadership, and the accusations of racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism directed at un-named party individuals by Paul and her supporters.  While it is clear to me that racism and anti-Semitism exist within the Party, I don't believe that they are responsible for creating the fundamental divisions within the Party - divisions that can no longer be ignored now with Paul's (soon to be) departure.

These divisions began to erupt in last year's leadership contest, which saw Paul narrowly defeat leadership contestant Dimitri Lascaris on the seventh ballot.  The conflict within the Party itself can be characterized by the personalities of these two contestants: Paul, promoting her intersectionality and a desire to shift the conversation within the Green Party away from the climate crisis and the environment in an effort to broaden the Party's appeal, especially around issues pertaining to diversity - but beyond that, largely a supporter of the status quo, and perceived by many Greens to largely be a bridge of continuity between herself and former leader Elizabeth May. Lascaris, an outsider whose primary interests have been on the conflict in Palestine, who wanted to transform the Green Party into an eco-socialist movement, shifting the conversation within the Party away from the climate crisis and the environment in an effort to broaden the Party's appeal to the hard Left.

And that choice - between a progressive, forward-thinking party that continues to take the slogan, "Not left, not right, but forward" seriously, and an often regressive, myopic and rigid hard left view that wants to bring down capitalism as the first step in dealing with the climate crisis.  Yes, my bias is showing - but make no mistake, this is the struggle for the soul of the Party that Annamie Paul was referring to in her resignation/non-resignation speech today.

For me, it's actually an interesting conflict, because I understand where both sides are coming from. Look, I understand the perils of capitalism quite well - I've been railing against the pursuit of growth in this blogspace for over a decade. I get that we can't continue to grow our economy in a world constrained by finite resources. I get it. Capitalism is a huge issue, and we really need to start reeling it in - in my opinion. But, on the other hand, I can't help but to acknowledge that there is a) no political will to tackle capitalism, and any serious party that advocates its overthrow at this point won't be taken seriously for long; and, b) we are running out of time to take real action to get greenhouse gas emissions under control, and if we don't do so very soon - debates about capitalism vs. socialism aren't going to matter much, as our resource-constrained world is going to have a thing or two to say about what happens next. 

Some Greens have characterized this division in the context of the conflicts experienced by other Green Parties - the "Realos" vs. the "Fundis" - but that's really not the best fit here. Those debates have often been around issues that the Green Party of Canada has not had to seriously confront yet - whether it's realistic to sacrifice some of one's stated goals and platform in order to have influence in other areas of policy development or governance, vs. sticking to the moral high ground and not abandoning an iota of principle. Green Parties in Germany (where the term comes from) and Ireland have notably had these internal debates.

But that's not what's really going on inside the Green Party of Canada. Our internal conflict is characterized by questions around whether it makes more sense to try to achieve sustainability and avert a climate catastrophe while working within the current economic paradigm, or whether the entirety of that paradigm has to be first discarded before progress can be achieved.

I've been observing how this conflict has played out within the Party for years now. And I regret to say that I see little hope for a way forward with a united Party that tries to advocate for working within and against a capitalist system simultaneously. And that's really interesting to me, because the values of the Global Greens are not based on capitalism, and indeed the policies of the Party, while acknowledging the capitalist reality of our present circumstance, certainly are not particularly pro-capitalist.  From where I sit, they're pretty anti-capitalist. But they don't appear to be anti-capitalist enough for many on the regressive hard Left.

Carbon Fee and Dividend

Which brings us to the crux of the debate. Presently, the Green Party of Canada has a policy in place that supports putting a price on carbon pollution which returns collected costs to individual Canadians. It's fairly similar to the carbon backstop that the Government of Canada has negotiated with the provinces under the present Liberal government - but to support a much higher carbon fee, the Green Party also advocates for international border adjustments, to better protect trade-exposed industries. 

This is anathema to the hard Left of the Party - who have been (in my opinion) taken in by journalists like Naomi Klein, rather than by economists within our own Party, like Sudbury's own Dr. David Robinson. Klein and others on the regressive left have argued that we will never lower emissions by working within a capitalist framework. They point to the incredible lack of success that we've experienced trying to do just that.  They would rather top-down regulatory approaches to cap the carbon pollution of big emitters - which ironically was the same emissions plan being advanced by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper back in the day. 

The hard Left, though, would argue that they'll have more success in actually reducing emissions by nationalizing industry - allowing the government greater flexibility to pick winners and losers, and to shut polluting industries down in order to further advance low-carbon policies and programs. I'm sure it would work - it's a command and control economy they're talking about here, and we know that some countries have been able to bend the will of industry to meet their own political needs. We saw that happen in the 20th Century in places like the Soviet Union.

Even those on the hard Left that exercise a little caution about nationalization are reluctant to give much credence to any market-driven policy or program, like Carbon Fee and Dividend or the Liberal's carbon backstop. From a hard left perspective, if you're working with the market, you're corrupted by the market, and reinforcing - rather than reducing - the impacts of capitalism. And the notion of returning to people the carbon costs collected through any form of pollution pricing is just not on for the hard Left. Despite the carbon dividend being a form of wealth redistribution that works to the advantage of those least well off, because it is distributed equitably among all Canadians, it is loathed by the Left, who would rather see the government use it to fund additional carbon-reducing programs.

And you know what? I understand that. I get it. We're collecting all of this money and just giving it away. That seems like a missed opportunity. But it's not, because it's based on sound economic principles. Greens want to see a very high price put on carbon - high enough that it's actually going to lead to influencing people's lifestyle choices and economic decisions. That means that the costs of a lot of important things (like gasoline, home heating fuels and food) would have to rise, in some cases significantly. If that money were kept and put to good use by the government, there would be rioting in the streets (look at how upset people were during the election campaign when the word "inflation" was uttered for the first time in over a decade). A high carbon price, which is necessary to have an impact on lowering emissions, would be an absolute political failure unless money was returned equitably to all who are paying the costs.

But economics has never really been a forte of those on the Left.  It's the ideology that matters.

And this conflict between a hard Left ideologically-pure Green Party and a Green Party that wants to stay the course and remain out in front on important environmental and social issues is going to be the next serious challenge that the Green Party is going to have to face.  This time next year, I wouldn't be surprised to discover that looking back, we'll be lamenting how easy it was to get rid of a leader who had lost the moral authority of the membership to lead - and be left wondering just what the heck we're going to do now, mired in an acrimonious Green vs. Green debate between a regressive hard Left and progressive forward-thinking wings of the Party. 

I honestly don't think we're going to emerge unscathed here. You can bet that there's going to be serious political maneuvering going forward on both sides.  As with the leadership contest, most Greens actually won't be paying any attention - votes will be cast for a leader based on perceptions around personality, just as they're always cast. But engaged Greens on both sides are going to find themselves in what can only be described as a battle for the soul of the Party. It's a battle that only one side can win, given the incompatible ideologies here. Many, like me, saw this play out during the last leadership contest, and we were appalled by its nastiness - and in some cases, by its racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic overtones - most of which came from new Green members and supporters on the hard Left, in my observation. Many of these new Greens were, like Lascaris, former members of the NDP. Some, though, have been Greens for longer than I've been a Party member. And it was really sad to see.

But it's a good reminder that when Annamie Paul says that she experienced racism, sexism and anti-Semitism, believe her - even if you, like me, are happy that the Party is now able to move on after her disastrous stint as leader. She may have made a terrible leader, but she was not wrong about the abuse that she and others have experienced from members of the Party. And I fear that it's only going to get nastier.

Consensus Candidate

Might there be someone out there - somewhere - who can bring the progressives and the hard Left together, and continue to unite them under one Green banner, at least for the next little while? If such a candidate exists, they would need to have credibility with both sides. To me that seems to rule out just about everybody who ran in the last leadership contest, with the possible exception of Dr. Amita Kuttner - who, for the life of me, I could never figure out just what, if anything, they actually stood for. Clearly, I think Kuttner would be a poor choice for different reasons.

And I think we can rule out provincial Green leaders as well, as Peter Bevan-Baker, Mike Schreiner and David Coon are all firmly encamped on the progressive side of the divide. Other leaders, like Sonia Furstenau, probably wouldn't want the job either (although Furstenau could, potentially, be a consensus candidate). 

Our caucus consists of only two elected MP's. I love Elizabeth May, but I think it's fair to say that she could not at this point pass herself off as a consensus candidate. That leaves Mike Morrice, the new MP from Kitchener-Centre, who by all accounts did a bang-up job working with his team pretty much since the ballots in 2019 were all counted. But Morrice is/was a vocal Annamie Paul supporter, and it's doubtful that the eco-socialists could accept him.

Paul Manly
To my mind, there is only one potential candidate with the bona fides to unite the Party, and that's Paul Manly. He's got the parliamentary experience to appeal to the progressives, and his taken a stronger position on Israel/Palestine than the Party has been willing to take. While I don't believe Manly can be caharacterized as an anti-capitalist, he's certainly a social democrat. And he's worked very closely with Elizabeth May since becoming MP of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. And did I mention that he was the MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith up until last week - which means his home riding is one of the few that Greens can tag as "winnable" even if he didn't win there most recently. 

Manly may be our best hope for some semblance of party unity, going forward. Whose going to help convince him that his Party really, really needs him right now for this important task?

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

My Personal Expression of Anger Over an Intolerable Situation in the Green Party of Canada


Something truly unprecedented is happening right now in the Green Party of Canada, and it has made me angrier than I've ever been since I became engaged in politics. 

As truly unbelievable as this sounds, two of the Green Party's three elected Members of Parliament, Jenica Atwin (Fredericton) and Paul Manly (Nanaimo-Ladysmith) have been labelled anti-Semites by Green Party Leader Annamie Paul's office.  Even more than that, Paul's office has vowed to work to defeat these two MP's.

Green Party MP Jenica Atwin (Fredericton)

That a party leader's office has issued a strong statement about their own MP's is very unusual, but not unprecedented. Recall that Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole and  his office was recently publicly critical of Hastings-Lennox and Addington MP Derek Sloan, before the Conservative caucus gave Sloan the boot (he now sits as an Independent).

What's completely different here, though, is that Paul's office has taken the egregious step of labeling Atwin and Manly as anti-Semites, without providing a single shred of evidence.  Labels like this can tarnish the reputations of good people - even if they are not true.  We all know what the internet is like, and even a whiff of an unfounded accusation can linger around an individual, poisoning their professional working environment.

Green Party MP Paul Manly (Nanaimo-Ladysmith)

If for some reason you don't believe me, just do a quick Google Search of "Jenica Atwin anti-Semite" and see what Google gives you. It's a number of articles written in the past few weeks about why some Greens are now calling Atwin anti-Semitic.  There are a few links to articles posted in her defense as well. My point is that this is not something that there should have ever have been a conversation about in the first place, and the only reason Atwin's reputation has taken a hit is because the Green Party Leader's office targeted her with unfounded smears.

Google Search, June 2 2021


How did all of this come about? I documented the beginning of this disgusting episode in a recent blogpost (see:"Green MPs and NDP Leader Engaged in Anti-Semitism, Says Senior Advisor to Green Party Leader," Sudbury Steve May, May 19 2021).  Since then, Noah Zatzman, Annamie Paul's senior advisor, has spoken further with the media, to clarify his now-deleted Facebook post, assuring the CBC that he did not originally mean to imply that former Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands) was to be one of the MP's targeted for removal (see:"Violence in Gaza and Israel has left behind a changed political landscape in Canada," Evan Dyer, CBC, May 29 2021). 

Since screenshots of Zaztman's Facebook post first started making the rounds on social media, Paul has had considerable opportunity to set the record straight about whether the post was a one-off from an office advisor gone rogue - which I have to say, certainly appeared to me to be the case.  Zaztman's Facebook post, while expressing real emotional pain on his part, is nevertheless expressed through a distorted lens an alternate reality that is completely unrecognizable. Calling for the defeat of sitting Green MP's and their replacement with "progressive climate champions that are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists!!!!!" is not the sort of statement that one could ever expect to be seen coming from the Green Party Leader's office.

Recent Developments

Yet Paul remained silent. After this weekend's piece by the CBC's Evan Dyer, the rest of the mainstream media started picking up this story.  After Monday, May 31st press conference convened by Paul to state the Green Party's response to the mass grave recently found at a former residential school site, and to discuss Bill C-12, the government bill that will establish a climate target framework that Greens will not be supporting.  But instead of questions from the media about either of these two hot political topics, Paul was grilled on what was characterized by the media as being a "rift" over the Party's response on Israel / Palestine.  Paul had a public opportunity to state her support for MPs Atwin and Manly.  There was no suggestion that Zaztman's point of view was his own, and that she did not share it. Paul decided to say only what amounted to nothing more than she wouldn't get involved in this conversation, while reminding the press that she remains committed in her opposition to anti-Semitism. (see: Youtube video, CPAC, May 31 2021).

That appears to have been the greenlight for her proxy Zaztman to go on a media offensive, laying the groundwork for the eventual expulsion of Atwin and Manly. Yesterday, Zaztman told the Canadian Press that it was terminology used by Atwin and Manly ('apartheid' and 'ethnic cleansing') to describe the situation on the ground in Israel, Gaza and the Occupied Territories that amounted to anti-Semitism (see: "Green party rift over Israeli-Palestinian conflict grows as MPs break from leader," Christopher Reynolds, Canadian Press, June 1 2021). The use of these words by Atwin and Manly, in the context of the larger issue of Israel / Palestine within the Party, appear to be, in Zaztman's opinion at least, holding the Party back from becoming a "mainstream" political party.  

Suffice it to say that I completely disagree with that assessment, and am extremely offended by the suggestion that the Green Party of Canada - with elected MP's since 2011 - isn't already a mainstream political force in Canada. And to hear this coming from the spokesperson for the Party Leader's office is just maddeningly offensive.  Hence my anger.

But Zatzman wasn't done.  In speaking to the French-language La Presse, Zaztman specifically and cavalierly alluded to the need for the Party to get rid of Jenica Atwin, in order to join the mainstream (see: "Les verts se déchirent sur le conflit israélo-palestinien," Mélanie Marquis, June 1 2021). 

From La Presse, June 1 2021

Google Translation of La Presse snip

About Me

I've been involved with the Green Party of Canada since 2007, albeit mainly at the local level as an officer in the Sudbury and Nickel Belt Electoral District Associations.  I've never wanted to seek the nomination as a Party candidate, or stand for an internal Party elected position.  I've been happy to largely engage with local Greens, express my opinion on matters from the sidelines, and to play the role of occasional shit disturber when I've seen things start to go off the rails in my own Party.  I feel that I've been fairly engaged with the Party throughout the years, and I have been proud to tell people that I'm a Green.

I also know very well that my opinion is just that - my opinion, and mine alone. I don't presume to speak for the Party or for anybody else when I'm writing here on my blog, or in my local newspaper, or even on Facebook or Twitter. I used to run disclaimers about this on all of my posts, just in case there was some doubt about on whose behalf I've commenting.  I admit that I have the luxury of being able to draw lines fairly easily around offering my own opinions, versus those few rare times where I was speaking or writing on behalf of the Party (such as announcing a General Meeting of the EDA, or a candidate nomination meeting).

Why I Believe that the Leader Condones These Accusations

So why am I not giving Noah Zaztman the benefit of the doubt here, that he really has just gone rogue and is not, in fact, speaking on behalf of the Leader's Office when he says things like Atwin and Manly have to go if the Green Party is to become a mainstream political party, because they are anti-Semites?  Again, my initial thoughts on all of this were that he just went rogue, for whatever reason. Those thoughts were supported by the fact that he removed his original Facebook post that kicked all of this off. I thought maybe Paul might have had a word with him, telling him he went too far, that as a communications professional, he ought to have known how divisive his statement was, not to mention how much it tarnishes the reputation of elected Green MPs.

Sill, the statement was out there in the public realm. I waited and waited for Annamie Paul to address the egregious and offensive words written by her Senior Advisor, who has acted as a spokesperson for her Office on more than one occasion. But there was only silence.  The longer that silence grew, the greater my concern that her silence was if not condoning Zaztman, indicative as some level of support for his statement.

After Zaztman was given the opportunity this past weekend by the CBC to "clarify" that he never meant to target Elizabeth May in his original comments, I really figured that Paul was going to fire him.  At the very least, she now had to say something to the media - to all Canadians, really, and especially members of the Green Party, many of whom have fought much harder than I have to see Green MPs like Atwin and Manly take a seat in the House and advance the interest of our Party.  With Zaztman now going to the mainstream media directly to share his thoughts, Paul just couldn't avoid clarifying that Zaztman was speaking only for himself, and that she at least continues to support Atwin and Manly.  She needed to create political distance between herself and her office adviser / spokesperson.

Because if she didn't start laying the groundwork to create that political distance, how else could anyone conclude anything other than her support of Zaztman's reality-defying accusations of anti-Semitism directed at Atwin and Manly, along with his call for their defeat? 

But instead of creating political distance, she used Monday's press conference to offer tepid support to Zaztman by focusing only on her fight against anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism in the Green Party is Real.

Let me back up for a moment and say a little something about this. As an engaged Green, I have been completely shocked and appalled by the rise of anti-Semitism within my Party over the past year or so - pretty much since the beginning of the leadership contest. I know that there has always existed an anti-Semitic element within the Party, but it really has reared its ugly head in a way I've never seen before - coincident with a leadership contest that featured Annamie Paul, who is Jewish. 

This rise in anti-Semitism is real, and should not be discounted by any Green Party member as just being a casualty of a Zionist perspective that suggests some or all of criticism directed at the State of Israel or its Jewish leaders should be considered anti-Semitic. Too many Greens that I've encountered are unwilling to take a hard look at what appears to me to be real, live, disgusting anti-Semitism in the Party - much of it directed at Paul because she is Jewish.  

I have zero doubt that when Noah Zaztman and Annamie Paul say they have experienced anti-Semitism from Green Party members and supporters, they are telling the truth. I've seen it, as recently today, posted in online forums by Green Party members.  I've seen it on Twitter. In the case of Annamie Paul and the leadership contest, I even documented it in a blogpost (see: "Anti-Semitism and the Green Party of Canada's Leadership Contest," Sudbury Steve May, October 1 2020).  In a very significant way, it's this anti-Semitism that's led me to take a big step back from my roles in the Green Party. While I remain a member (for now), that too may change unless there is a satisfactory resolution to the current crisis within the Party.

Why I Am A Green

I understand the importance of the Israel / Palestine issue.  I support the Green Party's policies on the matter.  I know that for some, it's those policies that brought them to the Green Party - and many of those have been saddened to see that recent responses to current events coming from the Party haven't exactly lived up to, or been completely in-line with member-approved policies.  I know this is important.

But it's not why I'm a Green.  Yes, it's important. I just wish that what the Green Party had to say about Israel/Palestine would actually have some impact on finding a way to resolve what appears to me to be an intractable situation.  

But I'm here for the climate change.  More specifically, I'm a Green because I believe the Green Party is the only Party in Canada that is offering voters a complete range of policy solutions that will, if implemented, have a meaningful impact on the climate crisis.  As a political person, I also believe that the best way to influence policy decisions is to have a seat at the table - to be on the inside - while co-ordinating in concert with those on the outside, pushing for change.  For me, electing Greens to Parliament is all-important, followed by showing voters that the option of electing Green MP's is both sensible and viable.

As a father of three children under the age of 12, I despair that we are running out of time to taking meaningful action so as to avoid condemning my children - and all children, including those not yet born - to a world far more violent and despairing than the one that I grew up in.  I know that we've got to figure a lot of things out - like how to create a more just and equitable society by tackling the significant and gross aspects of capitalism.  I know we need to do a lot more work to combat the serious systemic racism that exists in all of our institutions - racism that is holding people back, and holding people down.  I know that it's not just here in Canada where Canadians can have some impact on changing the world through our diplomacy and actions - and that includes Israel / Palestine.  

But I also know that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told the world that we are running out of time to act, and the end of this decade may already be too late.  

Why I Am So Damn Angry

And that's why I am just so damn angry with what is happening now in the Green Party.  I know that there is anti-Semitism in the Party, but the characterization of statements made by MPs Atwin and Manly critical of the State of Israel as being 'anti-Semitic' are not examples of that.  And they sure as hell are not reasons to tear the Party apart by calling for their defeat and replacement with 'Zionists'.  And even if you thought that shedding these MPs from the Party's roster would lead to a better outcome for the Party, there are sure as hell better, more politically astute ways to do so than by having proxies smear Atwin and Manly in the media with the anti-Semite epithet, and standing by and saying nothing.

And it's maybe for that last reason that I'm so incredibly appalled by what's been happening. I've sometimes described myself as the Green Party's "most partisan Green" and I've often written about how I wish members of my own Party were more attune to politics than they are.  As a political animal, of course I'm going to see this through a political lens. I wanted to give Annamie Paul the benefit of the doubt now for a long while - not just with regards to Zaztman, but also with regards to the similar whisper campaign alleging racism and anti-Semitism directed at the Green Party's elected Federal Council.  Paul's former Campaign Manager Sean Yo told the Toronto Star that Paul's friction with Council could only be viewed through the lenses of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny - without providing any evidence in support.

We know that just whispering the words "racism" and "anti-Semitism" about individuals is enough to damage people's reputation in the minds of others, even if there is no evidence. When we see allegations of racism and anti-Semitism printed in newspapers and spoken by TV news anchors, we take those allegations very seriously - more seriously than we would a whisper in our ear, or a one-off post on social media.  It's all damaging - but there are degrees of damage.  When names are attached to these accusations, we take them more seriously, and can't help but wonder what it was that they did to lead to the accusation. When accusations are made by someone whom was a presumed friend or allay, people can't help but take notice. These kinds of accusations can end someone's political career. They are as serious as can possibly be.

And that's why I'm so damn angry. 

Something Has To Give

Look, none of this is about me. Except, it is. I now find myself a member of a political party that I have long supported with my time, energy and resources. I continue to believe that this Party has the best set of policy options available to Canadians, especially with regards to an issue that is most important to me: climate change.  I also continue to believe that members of the Green Party made a great choice in the recent leadership contest, as Annamie Paul was, in my opinion, the best nomination contestant on offer, and I had no reservations whatsoever of voting for her. I continue to believe that she is a dynamic individual of many talents who can lead this Party to significant success - unless her silence and inaction leads to the Party tearing itself apart first.

How can I in good conscience remain connected to a Party wherein the Leader's proxies are encouraged (whether via silence or otherwise) to smear the reputations of good Greens like Atwin, Manly, Kate Storey, John Kidder, and Beverley Eert with unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism and/or racism?  I don't recognize the Green Party anymore. 

Something has to give. 

My Messages to the Leader and to Greens

Annamie Paul: You can't remain silent on this any longer. You must assure Greens like me that MPs Jenica Atwin and Paul Manly continue to have a place in the Party's plans for future success. More specifically, you must let Greens know that you do not believe that Atwin and Manly are anti-Semites.  And you must fire Noah Zaztman.  

Greens: You must get ready for the unthinkable, because of the intolerable situation that the Leader has created with her silence and inaction.  You know that it is inconceivable that the NDP hasn't already reached out to Atwin and Manly about crossing the floor. You must be prepared for the exit of these two MPs from the Party, should it come to that. And you must ask yourself what you will do should those events transpire.

I know what I will do.  I will follow Atwin and Manly and exit the Party. And I will urge MP Elizabeth May to do the same thing, should it come to that.  

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Green MPs and NDP Leader Engaged in Anti-Semitism, Says Senior Advisor to Green Party Leader

I was very rattled upon my discovery that a Green Party "spokesperson" for Party leader Annamie Paul has himself recently spoken out against anti-Semitism in the Green Party, and has made the extraordinary claim that "political actors" across Canada, including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, former Green Party leadership contestant Dimitri Lascaris, and "Green MPs" have engaged in acts of anti-Semitism and discrimination.  You heard that right: a spokesperson for Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party, is accusing Green Party Members of Parliament of anti-Semitism.

Screencap of Statement from Noah Zatzman

This seriously ups the stakes with regards to recent turmoil within the Green Party related to accusations of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny directed at the Leader of the Party by some members of the Party's Federal Council.

Noah Zatzman, a name many Greens will not be familiar with, was hired by Paul as a senior advisor, after serving as media consultant and strategist on her campaign team, according to iPolitics (see: "Hill Movers: Green Party leader announces new team; Bennett, MacAuley changes," iPolitics, November 12, 2020).  iPolitics also reports that prior to joining Paul's team, Zatzman worked as a senior advisor to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Zatzman appears to continue to occupy his position in Paul's office - or at least was firmly ensconced there as of April 21st, when he, described as a "spokesman", offered the media comment on how Green MPs would be voting on the federal budget (see: "Three confidence votes to determine fate of minority Liberal government," Red Deer Advocate, April 21 2021).

Zatzman's accusations have been floating around social media for the past few days, having apparently been originally made on May 14, 2021 via Facebook.  Interestingly, at that time, the Green Party had only released this rather anodyne statement about violence in Israel and Gaza, for which the Party and Paul received significant criticism from many who claimed that the statement did not go far enough to address the reality on the ground in the Occupied Territories, or in its representation of member-approved policy on Israel/Palestine (see: "Green Party Statement on violence in Israel and Gaza," May 10, 2021).

Green Party of Canada Statement, May 10 2021.

Shortly after this statement was released by the Party, Green MP Jenica Atwin condemned it as "totally inadequate".  Atwin, and Green MPs Paul Manly and Elizabeth May, each released their own, much more foreceful statements.  On May 13th, Elizabeth May raised these matters in parliament, clearly placing the blame for current violence on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu's government and "extreme elements within settler groups" (see: "Elizabeth May: Canada must speak out clearly to defend the Palestinian people," Green Party of Canada YouTube Channel, May 13 2021).

Eventually, the Green Party released a more fulsome statement on the matter (see: "Green Party of Canada reiterates call for immediate ceasefire and respect for international law," Green Party of Canada, May 16 2021).  While more forceful in its call for a ceasefire, it was nevertheless condemned by many who believe the Green Party has missed the fact that the goalposts around the issue have been moved by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who has publicly called for an embargo on Canadian arms sales to Israel as a consequence of recent hostilities (see: "CJPME URGES BLOC QUÉBÉCOIS AND GREEN PARTY TO ENDORSE ARMS EMBARGO, EMERGENCY DEBATE ON ISRAEL," CJPME, May 17 2021).  

In his post, Zatzman appears to suggest that his statement is based on his own personal experiences and observations. But as a Senior Advisor to the Leader of the Green Party who sometimes takes on the role as spokesperson, they will clearly carry more weight than words coming from most other individuals or even most other Party members.  Zatzman is positioned at the top of the hierarchy here. He has the ear of the Leader, and it's his role to influence political choices.

Zatzman's comments also have to be viewed through the lens of recent turmoil within the Green Party that has spilled out on to the pages of the Toronto Star in a series of articles and columns revealing conflict between Federal Council and the Leader. The Star reports that these conflicts have been fueled by instances of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny directed against Paul by some members of the Party's elected Federal Council.  This has led to calls for the resignation of three Council members by former Green candidates, Mike Morrice and Anna Keenan (Morrice has since been nominated by his EDA to be the next Green candidate for Kitchener Centre) (see: "An Open Letter: Our Call for Renewal within the Green Party of Canada’s Federal Council," April 29, 2021).

Recent episodes have shown that accusations like Zatzman's - even where there is no evidence offered in support of the claim - can and do seriously damage the reputations of individuals at whom the accusations are directed.  Many Greens appear to be ready to accept accusations at face value.  For a a political party that claims to be "evidence based" when it comes to policy, I find this very surprising - given that it totally ignores the political reality in which a lot of things appear to be playing out. That is not at all to suggest that the Green Party, like any modern institution or organization, does not have issues with systemic racism that it needs to address.  But it is to suggest that there appears to me at least that a lot of what's going on has more to do with a serious political conflict within the Party than it does with anti-Semitism or racism directed at the leader.

As someone who has always been concerned about anti-Semitism in the Green Party (and who documented anti-Semitic statements made about Paul in online forums during the leadership contest - see: "Anti-Semitism and the Green Party of Canada's Leadership Contest," October 1 2020), the suggestion that individuals within our Party are engaging in anti-Semitic and discriminatory behaviour is important to me.  That said, I've been following a lot of online discussion in Green groups related to Israel/Palestine lately, along with statements made by various political actors like the Prime Minister, NDP Leader Singh and of course our own Green MPs.  I believe I am coming from a place of some knowledge - albeit imperfect knowledge - when I share my own observation that I just haven't seen much in the way of anti-Semitic behaviour, and none at all from our elected caucus of 3 Green MPs.  I've seen a lot of forceful statements made about the State of Israel's role and responsibility in the recent conflict.  But I absolutely reject Zatzman's characterization of any statements made by Green MP's as being "anti-Semitic" or "discriminatory".

Change my mind. Show me the proof.

So what really is going on here?  Could it be that Zatzman does not realize that statements like his - based on personal observations and without evidence to support them - are going to leak out into the the broader world eventually, likely via the mainstream media?  As a spokesperson for the Leader of the Green Party, it's not a leap to suggest that his personal views made in statements like this one are going to call into question whether they are shared by Annamie Paul.  Some will go so far as to opine that, given his role as the Leader's spokesperson, it is unlikely that he would have made this statement without the Leader's input or direction.  While it is not clear to me where this post originates (it does appear to be from Facebook), I am not willing to think at all that this is anything more than his personal expression - one not sanctioned by the Leader.  But that's just me.

Others will see this through a different political lens.  Zatzman, who has made his career around media consultancy work, must know how this statement will be perceived.  So if he knows how this will reflect on the Party and especially on Paul, why did he make it?

The Green Party needs to get out in front of this issue in a big way.  At the very least, Zatzman needs to apologize to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, former Green leadership contestant Dimitri Lascaris, and all three Green MP's - Jenica Atwin, Paul Manly and Elizabeth May - for tarnishing their reputation with unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism. 

And if he won't apologize, Paul needs to fire him right now, and make a clear statement that she does not support his reputationally-damaging views.

Of course, should none of this happen - well - should none of this happen, I am seriously worried about what means for the Green Party, and where things could go. What else but to conclude that the conflict within the Party at the present time has taken a very serious turn by having a spokesperson for the leader state that elected Green MPs have engaged in anti-Semitism and discrimination. Things could go off the rails here very easily if Paul doesn't act.  The Green Party runs the potential risk of having the entirety of its elected caucus walk away, if they feel that they are in the cross-hairs of a smear campaign coming from the Leader's office.

Accusations of anti-Semitism should never be thrown around casually by anybody - especially when directed at named or known individuals, whose public reputations are always tarnished, even when there is no evidence to support the claims. Criticism of Israel and the actions of its government and those who act on behalf of its government are not acts of anti-Semitism, unless they devolve into attacks on individuals or an entire people based on race and religion alone. That happens sometimes. But I have not seen it happen with regards to the individuals identified by Zatzman.

These unsubstantiated accusations coming from Zatzman are the last thing the Green Party needs right now.  But at least the Party has a chance to get out in front of this one before it blows up in the media.  I'm just shocked that this is happening at all, given Zatzman's position in the Leader's office, along with everything else that's been going on. It seems to me that the very people who ought to be the best positioned for looking out for political land mines are the ones that are laying them down in the first place.  

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

350 Canada: Partisan Greenwashing

If there are still any Greens left out there who think that 350 Canada is a non-partisan organization that is striving for better climate outcomes in Canada (and for the planet), and not a mouthpiece of for the NDP, it's time for a major rethink.

350 Canada has long endorsed the NDP-branded "Green New Deal (for Canada)", rather than a more generic call for climate action. This kind of branding piggy-backing matters, because what you end up with are partisan New Democrats and (ostensibly) non-partisan 350 supporters talking up the same partisan-branded initiative.

In the 2019 election, 350 Canada supported a Squad of Green New Deal champions, and promoted these MP's heavily on their website. All were New Democrats. Of course, this approach overlooked the considerable national gravitas that the Green Party has brought to the climate change conversation when Elizabeth May was elected to parliament in 2011. Why wouldn't 350 Canada tell voters in Saanich Gulf Islands to back May - and Paul Manly, for that matter, who at that time was the newly-elected MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith?

From: 350 Canada website

350 Canada even gave their website a make-over, changing their brand's colours from predominately red to orange and sky blue. It's hard not to notice the orange now. This stuff matters, as it sends a message to people who engage via website.

From: 350 Canada website

Today, 350 Canada did something it has never (to my knowledge) done before: it has publicly called for solidarity with the people of Palestine, and is urging its followers to get involved in the global BDS movement. While this is probably good news for many Greens and supporters, I offer two observations. On the surface, this seems out-of-step with 350 Canada's mission of "ending the fossil fuel era and building a green economy". But, recent events appear to have led 350 Canada to speak out about what's going on in Israel/Palestine - and no, I'm not talking about the terrible images we're all seeing via social media, but rather the NDP Policy Convention's approval of motions that now endorse sanctions and an arms embargo of Israel.
350 Canada on Twitter

350 Canada could have been vocal about boycott, divestment and sanctions at any time in its history - but doing so would have aligned it with the Green Party as per our 2016 policy - and not the NDP. But now a little over a month after the NDP has caught up to the Green Party on this issue, you've got 350 Canada going public. Coincidence? Maybe. But I don't think so.

Greens need to stay away from 350 Canada. They are working against our interests and the interests of the planet by playing a hidden partisan game with voters. They are not being honest with Canadians, and are now clearly working in opposition to what they claim to want in terms of climate action, by giving the NDP covert support. Instead of engaging in partisan greenwashing, they ought to be telling their supporters to do what would really work: Vote Green.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

It's Increasingly Looking Like the Green Party of Ontario Needs to Start Talking About New Leadership

Here are the latest polling results from Abacus regarding voter intentions in Ontario. As with other polls from earlier this week, it's not a surprise to see PC support starting to slip - and I think it's fair to say that we'll continue to see slippage going into next week, given the absolute disastrous performance of Ford's government just since Friday at 4:00 PM.

From: Abacus Data - April 21, 2021

But there's another story developing here that I think needs to be examined by Green Party supporters - and that's the complete stagnation of the Green Party of Ontario. The GPO received a little less than 5% of the popular vote in 2018. Most polls are showing Greens somewhere between 5% and 10% - but you've got to keep in mind, Green Parties throughout Canada always over-perform in the polls and under-perform at the ballot box. So when you see 10%, take it with a grain of salt, as our supporters just don't show up at the ballot box.

Green Party hasn't been the only party to experience flat-lined support since the 2018 provincial election. There has been very little movement among any of the parties - up until now. This is the time that we should start to see the Green Party moving up in polling numbers, if it's message was resonating even a little bit with voters. But, so far, nothing.

If Greens can't figure out a way to capitalize on this moment, I don't think they can avoid the conversation for much longer - not if Greens want to elect enough MPP's in 2022 to be recognized as an Official Party at Queen's Park. If what they're doing and saying are good things - but they are still not resonating with the voting public - I think it's time that we conclude that new leadership is probably warranted.

I'm a big supporter of Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner. I think he's done a very good job putting the Green Party on the map and keeping it as relevant as can be throughout these difficult times, when the pandemic has really sidelined many non-government elected officials (Andrea Horwath has almost completely disappeared from the public eye). But it may be Mike has taken the Green Party as far as he can, and if the Party is going to have any hope of growing, it will need to be under new leadership.

I hope I'm wrong about this - I really do hope to see Green numbers start to rise in the polls over the next couple of weeks, coincident with the governing party's loss of popularity. But if we don't - it remains in the realm of possibility that the Green Party can put itself back on track with new leadership in place before the June 2022 election.

It's a conversation Greens need to start having.