With the results for the Party's online voting now released, many are trumpeting the overwhelming support for our Federal Council's motion to replace the 4 year fixed term with a leadership review process as meaning that we, as a Party, won't be having a leadership contest this year. Certainly this motion received significant support from the 18.3% of Members who cast ballots to green-light this motion (and despite it's one overwhelmingly critical flaw, which I blogged about here). But does removing the fixed term from our Party's by-laws now mean that there really won't be a leadership contest this year?
The answer is: not quite yet. And that's because motion G10-d11, Commitment to Leadership Race, received a Yellow light in the online voting process, and its fate will now be resolved by the Membership attending the BGM. In short, this directive motion seeks to compel our Federal Council to initiate a leadership contest, starting no later than October 31st, and finishing no later than April, 2011.
Here's how I see it: Motion G10-c29, Party Leader Term (Federal Council's motion), and G10-d11, aren't incompatible with one another. And it's not just me who thinks so. The authors of the Party Opinion / Considerations prefaces, who were very good at pointing out incompatibilities between various motions, were silent with regards to whether one of these motions would cancel the other out. The reason: G10-d11 is a directive motion. As a directive motion, it seeks to compel Federal Council to taking a specific action. If passed at the BGM, our Council will be obligated to hold a leadership contest.
Let's look at this a little further. One thing which directive motions can't do is compel Federal Council to take an action in contravention of the Party's Constitution, by-laws or principles. Does this motion, G10-d11, seek to do that? On the surface, given that the Membership just voted to remove the mechanism which requires that a leadership contest be held in 2010, it may seem that there's a contradiction. But, let's keep in mind what Federal Council's motion, G10-c29 actually does from a mechanics point of view. Yes, it removed the fixed term for a Leader, and changed the way in which a Leader is elected. Had the current wording remained in the by-law, we would be having a leadership contest conclude before the end of the 2010 calendar year.
With that current wording removed, there isn't any mechanism which could compel Council to call a leadership contest. Unless Council takes the step of ousting a sitting leader, that is, which Council has the authority to do at any time, according to our Constitution and by-laws. In the current circumstance, though, it seems unlikely that Council would do so. So...without a requirement for a contest (because the requirement has been removed by the Members), there can't be a contest, right?
Wrong. If the Members, through an expression of their will, demand that Council hold a leadership contest, than Council should hold such a contest. And that's just what motion G10-d11 seeks to be: a motion to be approved by the Membership which directs a certain activity. And there isn't anything in our Constitution and By-laws which conflict with the notion that, if the Membership wants a leadership contest, the Membership should have a leadership contest. A sitting leader isn't offered any guarantee of continuing in that position. There are already mechanisms in the Constitution and By-laws which spell out how a Leader may cease to be a leader.
So, G10-d11 remains in play, and the matter of a leadership contest being called can't be disposed of quite yet.
However, let's look at a few points. Can we expect G10-d11 to go anywhere at the BGM, given that an overwhelming majority of voters just endorsed our current Leader, Elizabeth May. She received an 85% approval rating from voting Members. Given this high level of approval, what would be the practical point of having a leadership contest now? There would be none, as far as I can see.
Further, some are interpreting the victory of Federal Council's motion G10-c29 as meaning that the Membership doesn't want a leadership contest. And while this motion doesn't specifically reference holding (or not) a leadership contest, by virtue of it changing the operative language in our by-laws which would have otherwise compelled Federal Council to hold a contest, there is some merit to suggest that those voting in favour of G10-c29 may have made their decision to vote green in part on the notion that chances for a contest would be reduced. Indeed, G10-c29 has been sold by all sides as being, in part, a deciding factor in whether a leadership contest is held or not.
G10-d11 received a red vote by over 51% of voting Members. Had this been a simple majority situation, G10-d11 would now be dead. If the same level of support is obtained at the BGM, this motion will be dead outright. Can this motion expect to receive a higher level of support, particularly now that it's known that 85% of voting Members endorse our current Leader?
Well, maybe...I guess it depends on who goes to the BGM. If the supporters of G10-d11 are able to motivate their colleagues to attend the BGM, it's conceivable that G10-c11 could yet receive a simple majority of votes at the BGM. But I think that's very unlikely.
Finally, even if passed, what's the outcome? Federal Council will have to deal with a directive motion which compels them to initiate a certain action. What happens if Council decides to do nothing, take no action on the motion? What are the consequences? Yes, maybe motivated Greens will be able to "boot the bums out" at the next Fed Council election, but given that we don't have a recall procedure, we'll have to wait 2 years to clean house (and maybe more if there's no Federal election, because the Leader is also a member of Council). Sure, there's an appeal process through the Ombuds, but the Ombuds doesn't have the authority to make Council do anything it doesn't want to do. If Council wants to ignore a motion which directs them to take a certain action, well, I guess they can. Whether they should or not will remain a question for debate. I have my own opinion on whether Council should follow the direction of the Membership, but that's just me, and I'm not on Council. Ultimately, it's up to Council to decide what actions it undertakes or not.
Keep in mind that over 50% of voting Members have already said “Red” to G10-d11. Council might opt to not want to listen to a smaller number of Members voting in favour of G10-d11 on the floor of the BGM.
Only time is going to tell, though. It should be interesting to see what happens on the floor of the BGM; however, given the overwhelming number of voters who have expressed, in some way, their support for the current Leader, I can't imagine that G10-d11 is going to go anywhere at all. What I'm more concerned about is what might happen to those Members of our Party who will view these outcomes negatively, and tainted by a biased voting process. The jury is going to be out on that for a while; likely until after the BGM. I suspect, though, the bias inherent in the voting process will be a big topic of discussion at the BGM.
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