Saturday, October 28, 2017

Political Games Over Caribou Protection Harming Northern Ontario’s Reputation

I can tell you that we’re frankly fed up with being portrayed as an area that has no regard for the sustainability of our environment that we live in and have lived in and intend to live for generations and generations.” – Kapuskasing Mayor Al Spacek (see: “Email accused Wynne's office of trying to 'assist Greenpeace',” Trish Audette-Longo, National Observer, September 20, 2017).

Kapuskasing Mayor Al Spacek ought to be concerned.  After all, he and a number of Northern Mayors, have been actively trying to undermine the Ontario governments milquetoast protections for species at risk in the northern boreal forest, including Canada’s iconic woodland caribou (see: “The Future of Species at Risk Policy is a Question of Credibility say northern leaders, industry,” Kapuskasing Times, September 19, 2017, and “Ontario and Quebec communities banding together to counter Greenpeace's messaging,” Timmins Press, August 11, 2015).  And it’s happening at a time when industry experts are raising the alarm about the long-term sustainability of forestry in the north (see: “Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Ontario’s Forestry Sector,” The Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources, 2017, and “Don’t discount environmental groups,” Julee Boan and Faisal Moola, the Chronicle Journal. Reposted to Ontario Nature. May 9, 2015).

In 2008, Ontario adopted the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to protect threatened and endangered plants and animals, along with their habitats.  But in 2013, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) watered down protections by introducing a permitting process that authorized the harm and destruction of habitat. At that time, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) warned that weakening the ESA would lead to negative outcomes for species at risk (see: “Laying Siege to the Last Line of Defence: A Review of Ontario’s Weakened Protections for Species at Risk – A Special Report to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario,” Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, November 2013).

This week, in “Good Choices, Bad Choices,” Dr. Diane Saxe, Ontario’s new ECO, confirmed that the MNRF’s approach to managing species at risk has been a very bad choice for the plants and animals that rely on the Ontario government for protection (see: “Good Choices, Bad Choices. Environmental Rights and Environmental Protection in Ontario – 2017 Environmental Protection Report,” Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, October 2017). Dr. Saxe states in the report, “With each passing year, the extent of this failure becomes more clear — the ministry has reduced what should have been a robust system for protecting species at risk to what is largely a paper exercise.” (see: “Ontario's pretty much abandoned endangered species, environment commissioner says,” David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen, October 24, 2017)

It gets worse. Earlier in October, Ontario missed a key federal government deadline to develop a protection plan for woodland caribou.  The feds gave Ontario and other provinces 5 years to come up with habitat protection plans for this threatened species that ranges widely across the boreal forest (see:“Caribou protection plan lacking,” Carl Cluchey, Chronicle-Journal. Reposted to Ontario Nature. October 7, 2017).

Ontario’s Liberal government has long been lobbied by northern municipal politicians and forestry industry companies, like the Quebec-based Resolute Forest Products, to water-down protection for caribou. Resolute, which has in the past made substantial contributions to the Liberal Party of Ontario, sometimes within days of lobbying the Premier’s staff (see:“Wynne Waters Down own Bill, Benefiting own Libel Suit,” Sean Craig, Canadaland, March 24, 2015), has been engaged in legal actions against Greenpeace in Ontario and the United States over Greenpeace’s campaign to promote sustainable forest harvesting (see: “Resolute Forest Products Can Save Forests and Jobs and Respect Indigenous Rights,” Greenpeace Canada. Undated).

Greenpeace launched a campaign to incent Resolute to be a more sustainable actor after the Forest Stewardship Council – a global not-for-profit that sets standards for responsible forest management – took the unprecedented action of revoking certificates for more than 8 million hectares of Resolute’s forestry operations (see: “Resolute: A Major Step Away from Sustainable Forestry,” Anthony Swift, NRDC, Febuary 21, 2017). Greenpeace has viewed these lawsuits as an attempt to undermine its ability to engage in free speech (see: “Resolute’s $7 million lawsuit aims to silence criticism of its forest destruction,” Greenpeace Canada, September 17, 2013). Earlier this month, Resolute’s U.S. action against Greenpeace was dismissed by a California court (see: “Resolute Forest Products lawsuit against Greenpeace dismissed in court,” CBC News, October 17, 2017).

Some northern Mayors have publicly questioned the science behind the threatened status of Ontario’s woodland caribou (see: “Northern mayors push back against Greenpeace”, the Kapuskasing Times, June 3, 2015) and have referred to organizations like Greenpeace and those who champion caribou protection as extremists and terrorists  (see: “Joining forces against 'eco-terrorism',” Ron Grech, Timmins Daily Press. June 10, 2015). Cochrane Mayor Peter Politis bizarrely went so far as to suggest that caribou-defenders are intent on “wiping out an entire race of people to force [their] beliefs” (see: “Bill C-51 Chill in Northern Ontario Air? Mayors Accuse Greenpeace of Terrorism, Genocide,” Sudbury Steve May, June 4, 2015).

While the government dithers to appease bad actors, Ontario’s forestry sector continues to slump. Rather than engaging in the kind of fundamental change needed by the industry to respond to climate change (see: “A New Northern Lens - Looking out is as important as looking in,” Northern Policy Institute, April 2015), it seems that many are content to continue to champion a mid-20th Century management strategy that puts profit ahead of sustainability and the health of species at risk. With these political games being played, it’s no wonder that Northerners have such a bad reputation when it comes to environmental stewardship.

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

An edited version of this post originally appeared in the Sudbury Star, as "May: Political games bad for N. Ontario's reputation," online and in print, October 28, 2017 - without hyperlinks.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Tax Dollars Hard at Work or Hardly Working? A Quick Analysis of the Recent Moonglo Zoning Decision

OK, so I’ve read the recent Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) decision about the proposed change in zoning in the Moonglo neighbourhood.  What a gong show for the City this whole exercise proved to be.  And as a taxpaying resident of the City of Greater Sudbury, I have to question just what my tax dollars are going towards supporting.

The Board was presented with uncontradicted expert evidence that the zoning was in keeping with provincial planning policies and with the City's own Official Plan.  The City tried to have their hired-gun planner approved by the Board as an expert witness, but that was challenged by the appellant, and the Board ruled that former City Planning Director of Development, Mart Kivistik, could not provide “expert testimony”.  And that’s a big deal in front of the Board.  Expert evidence is given more weight than that of lay-people.  Kivistik’s problem was a big one – it wasn’t so much that the Board didn’t believe what he was talking about (he has years and years of land use planning experience), it was that he was involved in opposing the rezoning application in front of Council.  In short, he had already demonstrated a bias, and therefore could not be considered to be in a position of providing the board with unbiased expert testimony.  The City should have been aware of this taint before trying to get their so-called “expert” qualified in front of the Board.  The Board has really been cracking down on ‘planners as advocates and experts’ in recent years.  They should have turned to another planner who was not involved in the matter and let that planner come to their own independent conclusion.  Of course, maybe they tried that – and couldn’t find a planner to support Council’s position, so they were left with Kivistik or no one.

Remember: the City had to hire someone from outside of the City to give evidence here, because municipal planning staff supported the application.  Mauro Manzon, a municipal planner, actually appeared under summons to give evidence to the Board in support of the development proposal.  From my taxdollars point of view, I in part paid for Mr. Manzon and the City’s Planning department to give evidence in contradiction to Council’s decision – and I then paid again for a hired gun planner to give evidence in favour of their decision.  That’s bad enough, but I get it, sometimes it happens – municipal planners aren’t always right, and sometimes when Council makes decision in opposition to their professional recommendations, it’s Council’s decision that the Board ultimately sides with – often with the assistance of the hired gun planner.  But in this case, the City’s hired gun came unequipped with ammunition – he was not qualified as an expert – which leaves me scratching my head with regards to just what did the City pay for.  My tax dollars don’t seem to have been used to their highest and best ability here.

It gets worse.  Kivistik pretty much hung his hat on the notion that the City’s Official Plan suggests that medium and high density development ought to locate along arterial roads (and Moonrock is not an arterial).  Further, he suggested that the building did not fit in with the neighbourhood, which is primarily low density.  The appellant’s planners and designers made a case that the design of the building was put together in such a way as to minimize visual impacts with the surrounding neighbourhood.  They stated that they had satisfied all relevant policies in the Official Plan, including the ‘neighbourhood compatibility’ one.  Kivistik had a weird interpretation of what the OP says about ‘compatibility’ – almost suggesting that the policies are there to protect the stability of low density residential neighbourhoods – which is completely beyond belief for anyone somewhat familiar with the City’s Official Plan.  The Official Plan sets out only two residential designations – Living Area 1 and Living Area 2.  Both permit all forms of low-density residential development, subject to policies (including neighbourhood compatibility).  All of Moonglo is within Living Area 1 – which in the former City of Sudbury actually permits ALL forms of residential development as of right – low, medium and high density.  Kivistik argued that at 25 units per hectare, which exceeded the 9 units per hectare currently found in most of the rest of Moonglo, that the development was medium density and incompatible with the low density neighbourhood.

The Board sided with the developer’s experts on neighbourhood compatibility, and stated clearly that compatibility isn’t ‘stability’ – essentially that the OP contemplates change occurring, subject to policies. The use fits in well with the existing neighbourhood, due to buffers, design, etc.  But it was on the notion of low vs. medium residential that the Board gave Kivistik a major knock – by pointing out that based on Kivistik’s own testimony that the development would have a density of 25 units per hectare, that it should be considered “low density”, not medium – because the City’s Official Plan caps low density development at 36 units per hectare.  How no one on the City’s side caught this before Kivistik presented his evidence is, shall we say, very odd.  When you hire an expert – even one that ultimately gets disqualified – a review of testimony and evidence being presented should really occur first in order to avoid actually presenting evidence that supports the opposition – particularly evidence that you are making the cornerstone of your argument.  Again, my tax dollars appear to not been hard at work here.

The appellant’s traffic engineer presented these facts, which were undisputed by any expert at the hearing: that the seniors complex would generate less traffic than the previously approved plan of subdivision; that Moonrock Avenue is operating only at 20% of its current capacity; that the design of the road is more than sufficient to accommodate the additional traffic load.  Again, this expert’s evidence was uncontradicted by any other expert.  Although the Moonglo residents raised significant concern with traffic issues, and having a copy of the traffic study in their possession for at least a year in advance of the hearing, they themselves did not hire an expert to contradict the findings of the appellant’s expert.  The City did not provide any expert witness to contradict the appellant’s witness – likely because City staff had already accepted the findings of the traffic report and even though the residents believed traffic was going to be an issue, there was no legitimate case that could be made in support of opposing the traffic report.  Keep in mind, Council was in part swayed by the resident’s concerns about traffic when they refused the zoning proposal – and yet the City did not mount any defence based on traffic.

With regards to transit – or more specifically, the lack of transit to service the development – the Board, in a kind of backhanded way, took a bit of a swipe at Moonglo residents, although they may not perceive that happened from the anodyne language used by the Board.  First, let me back up for a moment.  Kivistik and many area residents told the Board that the location for this development was less than ideal because the closest transit services were about 1 kilometre away.  I have to admit that when I was following this proposal from afar, I too expressed concern about the lack of transit services.  Kivistik and residents gave evidence that a senior’s complex should be located in proximity to transit – which kind of seems sensible, right?

Well, the Board didn’t buy it.  First, there are no policies in the Official Plan that direct senior’s residents to locate in proximity to transit.  While higher density development is encouraged to locate along arterials (which are more likely to have transit access), that’s just a “should” in the OP and not a “shall” – and this specific development proposal is not considered “high density”.  Still, there are provincial policies which the Board considered when it looked at transit.  The Board, while acknowledging that seniors are unlikely to walk a kilometre to catch the bus, essentially said that those active transportation policies were all fine and good, it was likely that seniors living in this facility would be car dependent.  Goodness knows with a 1.5 parking spot per unit requirement – leading to over 250 parking spaces on-site, people living in this development will have ample space to park their cars.

So that’s the swipe at Moonglo residents.  Do you see it?  The Board essentially said, “Look, residents: you live in a neighbourhood that is car dependent – almost completely devoid of transit.  Yet somehow you manage.  Why should you hold other future residents to a higher standard, and expect them to be transit-dependent when they make a decision to live in a neighbourhood where you need a car or two to get around?  Why these people – and not you?”

I get the Board’s argument here – although I still hope that the City decides to provide transit to this new development and throughout Moonglo.  Anyway, the Board was right to call out the double-standards of area residents, even if it did so in an opaque manner.

There are a number of lessons here for others to learn.  The first is: if you oppose a development proposal in the City, DO NOT rely on the City to advance your cause for you.  We saw this play out slightly differently with the recent OMB decision over the Keast subdivision, where the City changed its mind at the 11th hour and entered into a settlement with the appellant that saw many of the good planning principles put into the subdivision approval at the request of residents completely discarded – despite what Council had publicly conveyed to residents when making its decision.  By changing course at the last minute, residents could not mount a proper defence, even with experts hired and on hand who might have.  In the Moonglo case, I find it very difficult to understand why the residents wouldn’t have got together prior to the hearing, formed some kind of organization, petitioned the Board for Party status (which they almost certainly would have received) and hired their own experts to oppose.  That’s what you do if you’re serious about a neighbourhood issue.  I can only conclude that either the residents seriously didn’t have a clue about any of this (and the participation of Mart Kivistik, a former City Planning Director suggests otherwise), or they were somehow hoodwinked by the City – perhaps with a suggestion along the lines of, “don’t worry, we’ve got you covered”.  And maybe the City really did think that.  They tried to get Kivistik qualified as an expert. But ultimately they failed - and they should have realized that they were likely going to have a problem with Kivistik in the first place.  Anyway, I am speculating here, I really don’t know what happened, but it seems to me that if any group of citizens could have got their act together, the good residents of Moonglo would be high on that list – especially with an ex-City Planning Director leading the opposition.

The second one is that when Council bends to the will of residents and makes a decision that is not supported by planning rationale, actual facts and evidence – and instead bases its decision on conjecture, rumour and made-up nonsense – we taxpayers pay for it.  Several times over.  Thank goodness the developer isn’t going after the City for costs on this one – because I think that they could have mounted a credible case to the Board that the City was really just fooling around and pretending to mount a credible case.  The lack of experts suggests that didn’t happen – and the lack of any intention to ever give evidence contrary to the developer’s traffic report (with traffic being the crux of the argument made by the residents) would have bolstered a case for costs.  So we taxpayers dodged a bullet there.  Anyway, we would not have been in this position had Council listened to evidence and not made a political decision in substitution of a land use decision.  This kind of thing happens too often.  Sometimes, it’s warranted – there really are facts that are in dispute when the matter is in front of Council.  This clearly wasn’t one of those times – no hard evidence was ever presented to Council. Those opposed hung their hats on ‘neighbourhood compatibility’ – forgetting that the Official Plan was deliberately designed in a way so as to accommodate a wide range of densities just about everywhere – even in Moonglo.

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Jagmeet Singh's Leadership Success Points the Way Forward for Electoral Co-Operation Between Greens, NDP

Bramalea-Malton-Gore MPP Jagmeet Singh has been elected leader of the federal New Democratic Party, with a convincing first ballot win (53% of votes cast – more than 33 percentage points over second-place finisher, Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus). Singh's election to the position of leader of Canada's third party has captured the attention of the national – and international media, with many comparing Singh favorably to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
(from the National Post)

Of course, comparisons to Trudeau have long turned off many New Democrats – especially those I follow with my social media feeds. I was surprised to log into Facebook yesterday to discover many of my New Democrat friends publicly expressing only half-hearted congratulations for Singh. Of course, most of my NDP friends have long been members of the party – and it's quite likely that the members that put Singh over the top on the first ballot were not mostly those who have been in the Party for years and years. With 47,000 new members signed up (according to the Singh campaign), getting just a small percentage of existing NDP member votes was likely all that Singh needed.

Expectations for Singh 

Is Singh going to be a fair-weather New Democrat, like Bob Rae? Or perhaps someone who is going to push the NDP even further to the right in an attempt to corner that infamous Canadian middleground that the pundits claim is needed for any party to govern? Or will Singh prove to be a true hollow man, running on looks and charm rather than policy or integrity? These are questions that I've seen again and again from New Democrats in my social media feed.

Certainly time is going to tell – but I would suggest that based on the evidence that we've seen from the leadership race, as well as Singh's two terms as an Ontario MPP – New Democrats have little to fear about either Singh's commitment to the Party, or his depth as a politician. Further, the policies and positions that Singh will ultimately embrace will be the ones that New Democrats themselves decide should be priorities for the Party. Singh is already out in front of the NDP membership in a number of key areas, including (of interest for me and those who may be following this blog) climate change. Throw in some of the best ideas from the Angus, Ashton and Caron campaigns (and the NDP will do just that at their next policy convention), and Singh will turn out to be a formidable leader at the head of a New Democratic Party that is finally engaged with Canadians on a complete suite of issues – rather than the populist buffet of (often contradictory) platform planks offered up by the NDP since Jack Layton became leader (yes, I wrote Jack Layton).

Sure, the NDP is likely to focus-group both Singh and party policies and package both up for voters in advance of the 2019 federal election. The NDP is a political party, after all – they are in it to win it. And should Justin Trudeau and his Liberals falter, the NDP under Singh might just be able to step in and grab a minority. Maybe. If a lot goes right.

Battleground BC

One of the things that could potentially go wrong for the NDP has to do with my party – the Green Party of Canada. The NDP is going to be aiming at taking out a number of Liberal-held ridings in B.C.'s lower mainland. Right now, B.C. voters are keeping a critical eye on Andrew Weaver's Green Party of British Columbia, which achieved a very modest breakthrough during the spring provincial election, sending 3 MLA's to Victoria – including party leader Weaver. With a supply and confidence agreement in place with John Horgan's NDP government, the Greens have committed to keeping the New Democrats in power for 4 years – while holding them accountable to voters on issues where the Greens and the NDP are not quite in discord. At the heart of this agreement is a desire on the part of both parties to reform B.C.'s antiquated first past the post electoral system. A referendum will be held in 2018, and it is quite likely that the next time British Columbians go to the polls, they will be participating in a more democratic system of electing representative governments.

Of course, proportional representation has long been a key policy of the federal NDP. Provincially, New Democrats have often paid electoral reform lip service, but when push came to shove with NDP governments in power in Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, B.C., and Alberta – nothing happened – until now in B.C., anyway. It's no wonder, really, that so many PR and electoral reform champions have given up on the NDP to actually do anything about changing Canada's electoral system – and perhaps why so many turned to Justin Trudeau's Liberals in 2015 as a way of remedying that mistake.


Anyway, if anyone thinks that Singh won't take electoral reform seriously, I would suggest that with the recent experience in B.C. (likely to be in the rear-view mirror come 2019), Singh will act on his pledge to move forward with reform. It is, after all, one of the 4 key pillars that he has highlighted again and again – and one that doesn't require New Democrats to enact any new policies.

The Green Party

The Green Party of Canada will also be aiming to take down Liberals in the lower mainland of B.C. - and New Democrats on Vancouver Island. With what is likely to be but a few exceptions elsewhere in Canada, those really are the only regions that the Greens will be able to project an electoral force in by 2019. Everywhere else (with a few exceptions – although I have no idea what those exceptions might be today) is going to be a write-off for the Greens, much as it was in 2015. And in 2011. And even in 2008, the year that the Green Party received its biggest vote share ever.

Of course, in 2008, the Party was led by its dynamic new leader, Elizabeth May – who after not being invited to the federal leadership debate nevertheless stormed that debate, and made herself appear completely at home at the highest echelons of power in this nation. It still wasn't enough to elect her or any other Greens to parliament in 2008 – but by 2011, with a Party committed to doing all that it could to win just one riding – we were able to celebrate May's victory in Saanich-Gulf Islands as a success – even though she found herself sitting in the upper corner of the House, facing off against a new majority government under Stephen Harper.

With the NDP and Greens planning to mix it up over those coveted B.C seats in 2019, the success (or lack thereof) of the Green Party has to be a part of the NDP's electoral caluculus. Elsewhere, Greens won't matter. In B.C, Greens sure will matter – especially should Horgan's government fall between now and 2019 and a new B.C election return Weaver, Fursteneau and Olsen along with a number of other Green MLA's – something which is completely within the realm of possibility.

Green Preferences - Singh v. Trudeau

Of course, once all of the ballots are counted in 2019, whatever Green MP's are elected to parliament will be able to work with whomever, right? Well, unless it's a majority situation – in which case, it won't really matter whether one or two elected Greens vote with the governing party or the opposition – the outcomes aren't likely going to change. And the bold policy initiatives that we Greens would like to see enacted will remain pipe dreams for another four years. And as we know, time is running out for the nation's of the world to take real action on climate change. Trudeau's government has been a disaster for the planet – in the opinions of many Greens, including myself. Putting a price on carbon is a good idea, but the lack of a national program is going to be incredibly problematic going forward – and Trudeau's commitment to doing even the bare minimum on carbon pricing is constantly being called into question. Throw in pipeline and LNG approvals, running rough-shod over indigenous rights and not eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and it's easy to see – from where I sit anyway – how dangerous and out of touch with reality Trudeau and the Liberals are.

Of course, it's not just me and other Greens who have noticed that reality. Jagmeet Singh has been talking about these very issues for the last several months, and indeed he's made these issues key policy planks for a Singh-led New Democratic Party (see: "NDP leadership hopeful Singh brings his love-and-courage campaign to Nanaimo," Nanaimo News Bulletin, September 9, 2017).

Seriously – do you think Singh was joking – or just saying what he though New Democrats wanted to hear – when he talked about the need to get serious on climate change and indigenous rights? And if you think he was being serious about those two pillars, why not throw in electoral reform as well?

I for one believe Singh. I believe him because the future is pointing the way. It is inevitable that the NDP would up their game on these important issues, because public opinion is forcing their hand.

Doing Politics Differently

Singh has talked a lot about doing politics differently. During the campaign, like it or not, he did just that – and yes, I understand that his cockiness turned off a lot of my New Democrat friends – and to them I say, 'First Ballot Victory'. Really, it's no surprise to me, because as a former resident of Bramalea-Malton-Gore, I've been following Singh's career since before he was elected MPP – during a time in which I knew for certain that a New Democrat could NEVER represent that riding. And I wasn't the only one who knew this fact for certain.

Sure, Singh – like all human beings – has had a number of missteps. But really there is no questioning his sincerity. Is he a policy light-weight? Maybe a little – but really, does that matter? He's certainly capable of explaining policy positions to voters. And with the NDP upping its policy game, really it's not all going to fall on Singh's shoulders to come up with key policy position after key policy position. As leader, he only has to sell those positions to voters. And sell he will.

Singh will not be taking the New Democrats further to the right, politically speaking. Instead, he's going to take them to a place that is going to be very uncomfortable for Greens – he's going to take the NDP forward. I wrote earlier that I believe the NDP is on its way to becoming a 'green' party – when I hear Singh speak, that's where I see things going.

Evolving the New Democratic Party

Almost certainly, Singh is going to have to some challenges. When I recently spun the idea that Greens need to take a resurgent federal NDP seriously, what I heard from many of my Green friends was their continual disillusionment with the NDP as a party that engages in full-on partisanship and values winning over everything else. In fact, that's long been my own major criticism of the NDP – and I've used much stronger terms in the past to express my opinion of the New Democratic Party – like the 'Party of Hypocrisy'.

Another criticism of the NDP also has to do with their culture of perpetual partisanship. The NDP tolerates no dissent from its elected officials – which frankly is the very antithesis of democracy. Greens are familiar with the story of former Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Bruce Hyer, who left the Party after not towing the party line in a whipped vote. Former Sudbury MP and now Ontario Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault also chaffed under the NDP's intolerance for differing points of view, notably over the long gun registry. And in 2015, numerous potential NDP candidates were told they couldn't run for the party because they had written or said something in support of the BDS movement – which even today remains a third rail for New Democrats.

Partisan discipline is clearly an issue for me – and for many Greens. It's one that we often use point to in efforts to differentiate ourselves from the NDP. It's very important to us that elected officials remain, to a degree, free agents – beholden first to the voters that put our elected officials in office, and only then to the Party. I continue to suggest that this kind of grassroots democracy is dearly important to me.

But let's face it – most voters don't care. Most voters don't understand (or are interested in understanding) these inside baseball nuances. They just want to see action on issues that are important to them. When they are engaged, they are more likely to ask themselves why individuals who want to see the same or similar actions can't get their acts together to support one another, out of some strange and misdirected adherence to partisanship.

Singh actually has a chance to start changing the NDP's culture – right now. Whether he expends any of his (now considerable) sum of political capital on doing so remains to be seen. Certainly, it's not going to be a priority for him – and you can't blame him for that, given the number of other priorities that he is going to have to face. But going down the road, it may be within reason to think that Singh might loosen the grips on his MP's – especially since he's not likely going to be sitting in the House any time soon – but also because it really doesn't seem like mindless partisanship is what Singh wants or desires in a party that is moving to embrace the challenges of the 21st Century.

Keep an eye on what Singh says and does about these matters going into the next NDP policy conference. I'll bet that we'll see some movement – because it's not as if the formular that the NDP have been using has led to much in the way of electoral success in the past.

Singh's Big Problem - the Alberta NDP

Another significant challenge that Singh is going to have to face at some point is around what he is going to do with Alberta and (to a lesser extent) B.C. New Democrats who continue to be wedded to a fossil fuel-based economic paradigm that he appears to be at odds with. My bet is that he will do nothing to rock the boat – but New Democrats are going to have to something to say at some point that may lead to a kind of unacknowledged break. Rachel Notley in particular is going to be a problem for Singh and for New Democrats who opposes fossil energy projects.

Singh should keep in mind that while the Premier of Alberta is an important person – and a very important New Democrat – she and her provincial party are on the wrong side of history on this issue. The Alberta NDP are also likely going to be swept away by 2019, so it may very well be that the matter will have decided itself by the time Singh hits the campaign trail. And finally, even if not for that, Singh should keep in mind that both he himself, and his vision for a new NDP is much bigger than Rachel Notley – and ultimately far more important to Canada and the world than a desire to simply doubly tar sands output, as Alberta New Democrats have vowed to do.

Same goes for B.C. over LNG. The sooner that Horgan tosses LNG onto the trashbin of history, the sooner he can stop worrying about Andrew Weaver's B.C. Green Party. OK, that's an oversimplification – but LNG is a loser. At least for Singh, it's largely a provincial issues, unlike Notley's pipelines or tar sands expansion effort.

Looking for a Way Forward for the Green Party of Canada

Back to the Green Party for some final comments. Fellow Greens, I continue to share your concerns about the NDP's culture of political expediency and I am adopting a wait and see attitude with regards to where Singh will take his party on those matters. But I suggest that, as we did back in 2012, we begin to think ahead with regards to our own political calculus. In 2012, at the urging of our members, Elizabeth May reached out to the NDP in an effort to ascertain whether there might have been any interest in electoral co-operation of some sort. We all know how that turned out: Tom Mulcair's partisanship – which at that time found him and his party almost completely refusing to verbally acknowledge the existence of the Green Party – led to a complete rebuff of that effort.

Times have changed. Now we have a New Democratic leader who agrees to appear in joint news conferences with his Green colleague. We have a federal NDP leader who is talking about his priorities – which are many of the same sorts of things that Greens have long talked about being our priorities. With new leadership, the NDP is ripe for a bit of a cultural shift – and I believe that New Democrats will be pushing for just that. The grassroots is restless. The motivation to move forward towards action is real and palpable. As Greens, where are we going to find ourselves in light of this reality?

We have some options, for sure. We can continue to build our movement – something we have had little success with over the past decade on the federal scene. We can contest each and every riding in Canada, as we have done in the past, even if only half-heartedly just about everywhere.

Time for Electoral Co-Operation Between Greens, NDP

Or maybe we can get serious about 'doing politics differently' – that catch-phrase that I've heard so many times from my fellow Greens – and to which I myself have long subscribed. Maybe it's time that we ask ourselves whether Canada – and the Green Party of Canada would be better off with four more years of Justin Trudeau (or – gasp! Four years of Andrew Scheer!) leading to four more years of inaction on climate change and electoral reform – or whether what's needed right now is a government led by Jagmeet Singh and the New Democrats – a government interested in taking action on climate change and proportional representation.

I am coming to the conclusion that it may not be in the best interests of my Party to continue to do what we have done – and what has not worked for us, for many reasons – and instead to try something different – to truly do politics differently, in order to benefit Canada. I still believe that the Green Party has the best suite of policies on offer of any political party in our nation – but I am no longer willing to hold out frustrating the very good for the sake of the very best. Simply put, we don't have the time any more – and for the sake of my family, I know real action is needed. And we won't be seeing that under the Liberals or the Conservatives.

By all means, Greens, let's continue to build our list of contacts and create good will in our communities towards the sorts of policies that we want to see implemented. That's what building a movement is all about. But behind these good works, Greens, I think it's time that we sit down and question our electoral calculus. With that in mind, I fully expect to see some kind of motion presented to the membership in 2018 with regards to electoral co-operation with the Jagmeet Singh's New Democrats.

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