Monday, February 22, 2010

The Clouds Begin To Disperse, as Fed Council Makes the Right Decisions on Leadership Contest Issues

I attended last night’s GPC Federal Council meeting as an Observer, and I can say one thing about it: I’m glad that I missed the Canada-USA hockey game. Not because the meeting proved to be more entertaining, but because it proved instead to be a much more useful endeavour. While the first part of the meeting was taken up with discussions and decisions related to financial issues, I’ll focus my comments only on the second part, which involved discussions and issues regarding the timing of the 2010 leadership contest. The outcome from these discussions with regards to the leadership contest issue will positively affect the direction of our Party for the next little while, after a recent period of indecision.

Some interesting points were made by some of the Councilors regarding whether the Party could legally hold a leadership contest before August 2010, due to the provisions in our Constitution which indicate that our leader shall serve a term which consists of 4 years. It was suggested at last night’s meeting, again, that if a leadership contest was called in advance of August, 2010, that it would force our current leader to resign for the duration of the contest, due to Elections Canada rules. I also understand that Federal Council, back in November 2009, may have been advised about this issue with Elections Canada legislation, in a report from Campaign Committee. Certainly those on the line last night heard more about a legal opinion having been offered at that time, although it was unclear whether the opinion was offered directly to Council, or was included as part of a report from Campaign Committee. Whatever it’s status, it looks like a solicitor had been asked to look at the issue of whether or not a leader would have to step down as leader during a leadership contest, and it sounds like the advice was "they should".

Now, I’m not an expert on Elections Canada legislation. I’ll confess, I’ve never looked at the legislation, nor do I really want to. A couple of particular sections were offered up last night for review, and it was also suggested that the intentions behind the writing of this legislation were to have written in such a "plain language" way that it is easy for lay-people to understand and interpret. Not having looked at it, I can’t offer my own opinion on it. What I can say, though, is that it sounds like at least one lawyer has looked at it and suggested that it would be wise for a leader to step aside during a leadership contest, despite the fact that our Constitution and by-laws do not require the leader to do so.

Clearly, and despite "plain language" legislation, there’s been a cloud hanging over the notion of whether Fed Council would be in violation of the Constitution if they called for a leadership contest to begin now (or soon) and end in August, given that to do so would lead to our Leader stepping down as a result of Elections Canada requirements. Although no further legal advice on this issue appears to have been sought prior to last night’s meeting, it appears that Council was aware of these issues and took them seriously.
At the end of the discussion, Council, for whatever reasons, decided not to begin the leadership contest process at this time. There was recognition around the virtual table that should the membership decide not to amend our by-laws at the August BGM, that the contest would have to begin and end before the calendar year 2010 was at an end, so that the contest would be in keeping with our current Constitution. It was acknowledged that if the membership decided to change the rules at the upcoming BGM, a leadership contest in 2010 may not need to be called at all. It was also acknowledged that the membership could change our by-laws for greater clarity in the future, but still require a contest to be held this time around, if that proves to be the will of the Membership.

Further discussion on a motion to hold a "leadership review" referendum at the upcoming August BGM was sensibly voted down by Federal Council. "Sensibly" is my own opinion, certainly, but the cons for holding such a "review" certainly outweigh the pro’s in my mind. Holding a review would lead to one of three outcomes: 1) acknowledging considerable support for our current leader (which I believe to be the likeliest outcome); 2) an outright rejection of our current leader; 3) a lukewarm acceptance of our current leader. If we end up with 2) or 3), where might that take us as a Party, potentially before a federal election?

It takes us into a situation where our Leader would likely resign and we would find ourselves in the midst of a leadership contest. And that to me is a bad location for us to find ourselves in this coming August. Yes, I realize that’s the same location where we may be headed anyway, if the membership reject changing our by-laws about the leadership contest. And that’s why I believe that we, the Members of the Green Party, need to address this issue at the BGM by changing the By-laws.

Clearly, there are problems in our By-laws. This conflict between our Constitution and Elections Canada rules is illustrative of that, regardless of whatever one’s legal interpretation is. By virtue of having to defer to the opinion of lawyers to figure out for us whether we can or can’t hold a leadership contest, well, to me that means we’ve got a problem. The requirements for holding a leadership contest should be black and white, and currently in our Party, the requirements are anything but black and white. This has to be resolved, and the only way to do it is by having the Membership step up in August and amend the By-laws.

Yes, we can do so in such a way that we still end up having a leadership contest this fall. Absolutely we can. But we should not, unless a Federal election takes place this spring or summer. If we go into a leadership contest during the fall, we risk creating a big question mark in the minds of voters regarding just what the heck we’re doing. I believe that the mainstream media will miss the nuances as to the WHY we’re having a contest, and instead focus on Greens being disgruntled with the current leader, even in a situation where the contest is called simply because our Constitution requires it. Or, a better outcome (but still not a good one) would be for very little coverage of the contest at all, the contest becoming largely a non-event. This could happen if only fringe candidates step forward. And ultimately that’s not good for the Party either.

The worst outcome, though, would be if the Party shot itself in the foot with a lukewarm leadership review in August (or a rejection) which then led to our leader resigning and a contest being called. Again, I applaud Council for deep-sixing the leadership review idea for the August BGM.

Now, I realize that some in our Party are going to be upset that a leadership contest is not going to be called right now. I would like to remind them that, despite deep-seated beliefs and understandings with regards to what our Constitution and By-laws say and mean, it’s not all clear that a contest has to end in August, as some have suggested. The actions of Fed Council are, therefore, in keeping with the Constitution. If we are to change our by-laws, it will be up to the Membership to do so, and I intend to go to the BGM and fight for those changes, and for holding off with a leadership contest until after the next Federal Election.

A plan which prioritizes the election of our leader, Elizabeth May, to parliament as the primary goal of the Party in the next Federal Election has, rightly or wrongly, received endorsement from the decision-making body of this Party (and, by the way, I think that it was "rightly" endorsed). Regardless as to whether you agree or not with this direction, the fact is that a lot of resources have already been dedicated to this course of action. We need to stay the course here. Yes, to some, we’ve put all of our eggs into one basket, and yes, I agree that failure now would be detrimental to the Party in the extreme. And to me that’s all the more reason to make this strategy work.

It’s time for the Party to come together now and work diligently to elect our Leader in Saanich-Gulf Islands. We need to support this effort, and we need to support Elizabeth May. It’s not the time to put into question her leadership, or to be seen to be putting it into question. These clouds which have hung over the Party need to disperse. With last night’s decisions by Federal Council, we can now proceed ahead with certainty on this course of action. If you don’t agree with it, I respect your opinion, and I feel for where you are coming from. But I nevertheless urge you to set aside whatever grievances you may have at this time, and work towards the articulated goals of Federal Council and the Campaign Plan.

Every ounce of intuition I possess (and yes, some here will say that’s not much at all, and maybe they’re right) tells me that this time, the present and near future, should be our time, the time for our Party to emerge from the fringes of the Canadian political scene and seize the initiative of change being offered to us from the old-line parties, who are devoid of meaningful ideas on how to address the issues which are coming towards us. It is our time to convince enough voters that we offer a real alternative, and I know that we should be able to do this. The election of even just one MP somewhere, anywhere, will provide the broader public with a perception of our legitimacy.

It’s time to move ahead now.

16 comments:

John Ogilvie said...

Steve, is there a short version of this post somewhere?

I do want to know what you think, but time is precious.

Marls said...

Well worth the time to read! Great analysis of a very winding road to a satisfactory destination. I look forward to working toward changing the Constitution to a more flexible set of by-laws for a Leadership Contest. It is time to play in the big league.

I agree with you that the meeting was worth missing the hockey game, they lost anyway! ;0)

Jim Johnston said...

I think Steve is saying that council made a good decision in a difficult situation, although some people will still be unhappy with the outcome. Our goal is success in the public eye, and that should remain our goal.

I sat in on that call as well, and I would concur with the paragraph above.

Peace,
Jim Johnston,
Nominated Candidate,
Lambton-Kent-Middlesex

Mark Taylor said...

It’s not the time to put into question her leadership, or to be seen to be putting it into question.

Just when is the time??? There was no leadership review after the 2008 election. There isn't going to be review in 2010. Unless the membership votes against the Council motion, there isn't going to be a race either. Will the membership be allowed to voice their opinion (either positively or negatively) anytime before the next election.... which could be in 2010 or 2011 or even 2012????

Sudbury Steve said...

Mark, I just wanted to address your question quickly, regarding will the membership be allowed to voice its opinion anytime before the next election. I suspect that the answer is "No", at least not on a direct question related to leadership. If the desire of the Membership is that we stick with our fixed term for our leader, then the Membership will express that at the BGM. However, I suspect that there are enough members out here like me who don't see the utility in having fixed terms. I'll tell you that I'm not at all wild that this issue is coming to the forefront in the fourth year of a four year term, and I'm not naive, I understand part of what's driving this. But I also know that's only part. I don't believe that the Membership is generally dissatisfied with Elizabeth May's leadership, and because of that, I suspect that the by-laws will be amended, and we'll be waiting until after the next Federal Election to express our opinions through a leadership review. That, now, becomes the right time. Maybe a better time would have been a year ago (6 months after the October 2008 election), but our Constitution had no provisions to do so. We could have changed things up in 2009 at the BGM, but we didn't. And now, yes, here we are, or at least, there we will be in August, in crisis mode, with only a few months during the fall to hold a leadership contest which most of us don't want unless we amend our by-laws.

And so we wait. In the meantime, the results from the next Federal Election are what's really going to tell the tale about the future leadership in the Party.

I don't share your view that the election won't be in 2010...but if it isn't until 2011, well, so be it. We wait. And the results will guide us all. All of our eggs have been put into one basket. Let's see what the pay-off is.

Chris KN said...

In this case there is virtually no difference between a leadership review and a vote on changing the fixed leadership election rule.

If your BGM has a vote to change the leadership rules, it will essentially be a referendum on Elizabeth May's leadership. The only bonus you have is that if it doesn't go your way, it's unlikely that the media will pay any attention.

That being said, my time with the Greens illustrated to me that Ms. May has a great deal of support. More than the cranks in the party would admit.

shavluk said...

Or is not !

Some one call me when and if the green party ever resurfaces

Myself and all those who will listen to me will probably just be abstaining until we get a real leader

One who follows our own rules or is at least smart enough to raise things like this in earlier BGMS !!!

I will take bets at how badly bettymay gets destroyed in SGI as she grinds us down to nothing as a party !!!!
In her egotistical warped view of her importance over this party's survival.
Shame on council !!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Agree with your analysis. It is all about timing.

Ken Summers said...

my time with the Greens illustrated to me that Ms. May has a great deal of support. More than the cranks in the party would admit.

Every indication I see is that those you loftily dismiss as 'cranks' know full well the degree of May's support.

So your comment says more about your assumptions than about them.

And its worth noting that its a rare Leader that even when beseiged by internal critics does not enjoy majority support. Across party lines, and virtually regardless of the substance of dissatisfaction, it is something the leaders almost always have internally until the day they pack it in.

So that isn't much of a bar to clear.

And that kind of latent support changes when it is subjected to the dynamic of a substantive process of accountability.

So the fact a leader enjoys clear majority support does not mean they have no motive to try to duck accountability processes.

Whether Steve wants to come out and make it explicit, I think he knows Elizabeth May is trying to hide. He just happens to think that the cure of forcing her out into the open is worse then the disease.

Don't try to tart that up into something more lofty.

Bluegreenblogger said...

Steve, I worked my ass off for Elizabeth, I was upset that she showed such poor judgement as to deep six David Chernushenko, and actively chase his supporters away to the Green Party of Ontario. I was upset at the fiasco in LNC. With the passage of time, she filled every staff position with loyalists of varying qualifications. She betrayed the Party with her strategic voting message in the last election. Like all those hundreds and hundreds of people who left the Party over this period, I kept my mouth shut, because she was legitimised by the members VOTE, and was our leader for four years. That's the way it works in our Party. Mouth shut, your chance will come in the proper venue. Now the proper venue is here and now, and it is being deliberately obstructed. It is no accident that council did not plan the race last year when they were supposed to. So, you call for all the Party to rally around somebody who has wielded autocratic power, skewered evrybody who posed the slightest challenge to her authority, and then systematically went about ensuring she would not have to face a real contest. That's not the way it works. 4 years is a long time to hold your peace, and wait to repair fundamental problems. So very few people publicly castigated the leader, because she was the legitimate leader. A great many members, and recently former members believe that her legitimacy is approaching the best before date. And you are calling them to accept a fait d'accompli, and shut up for another how many years? I helped build this Party over the years, and I have put no less heart and soul than anybody into it. I have a right to be heard, and I will NOT relinquish that right. I will be judicious in exercising my prerogatives, but not everybody will. Everything could have been very proper and polite in a better world.

Sudbury Steve said...

Matthew, your opinion is, of course, an extremely valid one. No one would suggest that you don't have the right to be heard. My suggestion that we "bury the hatchet" (again) for the time being is predicated on my own notion of what's best for the Party right now. I'm not so foolish as to think that I've got a monopoly on know what really is the best for the Party, as others, I'm sure would suggest that really what's best for the Party is to be done with our current leader. I don't agree at this present time.

I know that there are those within the Party, and maybe outside of it now as well, who are working to bring about a change in leadership. To me, this "faction" (a term I use incorrectly, as it implies some sort of organized initiative, and I don't believe that there's that level of organization afoot here) just lost a key battle on Sunday night. It's time for them to regroup. The next battle will be fought at the BGM. If that one is lost too, well, it will be lost as a result of an expression of the Membership, which I think we both believe is supremely representative of the will of the Party. Yes, I know that the Membership, by and large, isn't plugged into the debate at a uniform level, and may in fact be encouraged to vote on something without all of the history and background, and maybe they'll even take into consideration other factors in their decision-making. But that's democracy, and it's the best we've got.

So yes...looks like the rules by which the game was supposed to played are subject to change. That, too, is a part of the game. It's a game of manoeuver, and guess what happened (or will likely happen in August). Yes, we may not like that our Political Party is behaving like a...well, a political party, but honestly, when there are those out there who think that the rules are broken and need fixing for The Good of the Party, should we be surprised at the outcome?

My "battle" characterization is also a little unfair, as it suggests a level of conflict which I don't see, in general. Whatever sides or factions are out there, all are working towards what they perceive to be "in the best interests of the Party", I believe. Sure, there's no agreement as to what that actually is, and so we create tensions amongst ourselves. But it's not the open warfare a term like "battle" would suggest.

My position has always been: We must elect an MP in the next election, or our Party is in serious trouble. That's my starting point, my motivation. I know that others completely disagree with my opinion, and believe that the Green Party will remain a force without electing an MP in the next election. I...just don't see how. And the rest of my opinion follows from there...if we must elect an MP, who are we investing the lion's share of our resources in (rightly or wrongly)? Who, in theory, is supposed to have the best shot of winning? So I'll line up behind our Leader and do what I can to see that she's elected in SGI.

The next engagement will be in August, and as pointed out by Chris KN above, a motion which proposed to change the rules will likely be a referendum on the current leadership anyway, no matter that some would like to present it as a clarification regarding leadership terms.

On Sunday night, a concern was raised at the meeting that there may not be any big issue to motivate people to attend the BGM in August. I don't see it that way at all, given what will be truly at stake.

Ken Summers said...

I think I need a scorecard.

Admittedly it can be very hard to follow, but I don't really see how those who want to go ahead with having a leadership election lost a battle on Saturday night.

For all the discussion over particular motions that were put forward, or might have been, it strikes me as all really background noise when it comes to that 'big picture' battle metaphor.

And I thought it was inevitable that whatever the dizzying array of forms of motions, there was little doubt that the overall outcome of last Sunday night was going to amount to marching along towards changing the by-laws and giving Elizabeth May an indefinite term.... with the final vote to come in August.

And yes I'd agree, the motion to change the by-laws will be a de facto referendum on May's leadership.

Following that point and logic: if the de facto choice is just yes or no on May's leadership, she'll win.

What would make the outcome uncertain is if there is a credible de facto alternative.

For example, an alternative with a message that boils down to "hurray for Elizabeth May in SGI and full speed ahead on her winning a seat in Parliament, now lets have our vote on the vision of the party and who should lead it."

shavluk said...

copy

shavluk said...
She has a "legal opinion " only when it suits her.... it also sure seems???
Can't for the life of her have had one signing important court documents to be sworn....eh....hmmmm

Well theres the answer then

who will help me?

----------------------------

HEAR YEE HEAR YEE


*****THE TORONTO BGM IS NOW HEREBY DELAYED ****


IT WILL NOW BE OCTOBER 22 2010 IN TORONTO

bettymay's insurance plan only runs out in august 2010 the 26th?
that day the new leadership contest starts and she is then unemployed

council can try to stand if entropy is not fully set in

all members please sign this note and sent it to your local bettymay rep on the rubber council


I see no real use in just wasting a BGM !!!
Or collapsing our current BGM into another intimate luv in for bettymay only and would much rather see a swarming hive of new energy

I multi celled mass of renewed hope

a growing large energizing force


rather than ......bettywho?

.....What?.....I am getting sleepy ?....what ?.....oh groannnnnnnnnnnnnnn

EASY PEASY

Done deal

They cant make up their minds other wise

this solves it all !!!!!!!!!!!

takes 6 resolutions and junks them all

no reason we can not delay

small rebooking charges big deal !!!!!

let her finish !!!!!!!

then re win or LOSE

ok

call me ..
only.....if this is approved

February 23, 2010 3:17 PM

shavluk said...

without a contest its business as usual as no one will be in toronto and bettymay knows it !!!!!!!!


if no contest happens august 22 bettymay will just stack the deck with a small number of "probable future hires " and because no one will be there unless its people that were just party financed

many fewer will even bother and there wont be any risk of a loss in the bettymay vote

say leveee.....

its just a matter of time for us if we instead do not just amend the toronto date

works for me!

Mark Taylor said...

Alright Steve, if we go with your "all hands on deck" message because getting a MP elected is paramount, then why isn't the party working towards that goal?

Based on some internal polling in 2008, the Campaign Committee (made up of hand selected supporters) decided that SGI was the best riding for Elizabeth to run in. Since then, has any polling been done to verify that the party is on the right track? I'd say no because 1) we're broke and 2) the actions of the party seem to contradict what the pollsters are saying.

EKOS reported in most of January that the Greens were in a position to elect one or two MPs in ONTARIO. However, the Greens opened a second office in SGI to add to the one in Vancouver and terminated one of the Ontario organizers. If the party was serious about getting MPs elected, they might consider opening offices in Guelph and BGOS instead of more in British Columbia....

Sudbury Steve said...

Mark, you make some good points, and I agree that a LOT more attention will need to be paid to BGOS and Guelph. Of course, one might also suggest that what you're righting about is actually the futher implementation of the Campaign Strategy, which has as Priority #1 having our Leader elected. Of course, Priority #2 is electing a few others in select ridings.

Now, let's look at those ridings. BGOS: where the heck is the nominated candidate? Pundit's Guide reports that there isn't a candidate identified from our Party there as of this time. What the heck is going on? In February, 2009, the Central Party told EDA's to get themselves ready to have candidates in place by June 2009. They provided rules for candidate nomination contests. Now, I realize that there were problems with this process, and that we all shouldn't always say "How High?" when the Party says "Jump", but nonetheless. This is a two-way street that we're talking about here. The EDA needs to find a candidate for BGOS right now so that we can better capitalize on recent Ontario polling.

From what I understand of Guelph, well, we've got a very credible nominated candidate, and it's probably the hardest-working, best organized, most experienced EDA we have. Yes, electing an MP from Guelph needs to be priority #2, especially given the opportunity for a split vote with a weak-ish Liberal incumbent. Now, I've heard through the grapevine that there are some hard-feelings left over from the last by-election-turned-federal-election marathon experience that the good people in Guelph went through. There may be some tension there with the Central Party. Whatever. It needs to be resolved or at least put on hold.

But, you know as well as I do that our finances are holding us back from doing all that we should. The Provincial Organizer who looks after both BGOS and Guelph just recently inherited all of Eastern and Northern Ontario as well. That can't be good.

BGOS and especially Guelph, though, require some further consideration, and I know that they're not going to be left in the cold. When the writ is dropped, there will be transfers. Of course, we can't wait for the writ to be dropped. But I'm not sure that we can afford to do much right now either (afford as in "we're lacking the dollars").

I expect that this will be dealt with in due course. It's time for us all to start thinking about how best to do so, including those of us on Fed Council.