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



Background

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.

https://twitter.com/350Canada/status/1392483898727206914

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.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Will Erin O'Toole Survive Impending Conservative Backlash to His Big Business-Friendly Carbon Scheme?

Re: "Conservatives' climate plan would replace Liberal carbon tax with lower levy of their own," CBC, April 15, 2021.

I don't agree with the characterization of this scheme as being a "carbon tax" - it seems to be a different form of Carbon Fee & Dividend to me (and the Supreme Court tells me and others that Carbon Fee & Dividend is not a tax, so....)


Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole (Facebook)

There is some small merit to this approach, once you look past the reduction in the carbon fee and the crony capitalism of working with big business and how this will punish local businesses (once again) in preference to multinationals like WalMart, etc. Arguably, requiring the dividend to be spent on low-carbon purchases only will create greater efficiency - so you get more carbon reduction bang for your buck.

But it's hard to overlook all of the rest.

Not to worry, though - his own Party is going to eat him alive over this. Caucus, candidates, Party members and supporters, along with Conservative media pundits will almost certainly characterize this as a "Carbon Tax" - and as a (yet another) betrayal of so-called "Conservative Values" by O'Toole.  This platform plank won't see the light of day come election time (which is why the trial balloon is up now).  It just won't survive the backlash.

My question is, can O'Toole survive as leader of his own Party?

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Elected Right-Wing Extremists Challenge Public Health Measures in Alberta

An interesting dynamic is at play in Alberta - one that I hope we don't see here in Ontario (and don't expect that we will). Despite the endless scandals and incredible mis-steps, until now Premier Jason Kenney has ruled over his United Conservative Party with an iron fist. But after finally implementing public health measures commensurate with the requirements of getting out in front of the COVID-19 pandemic, a quarter of his caucus (16 MLA's) are now in open rebellion against his government, claiming the measures are too strict and demanding they be reversed, perhaps on a regional basis.

Jason Kenney. Source: Calgary Herald

Here in Ontario, Premier Ford quickly (like within the hour quickly) threw out a member of his team (MPP Roman Baber) at the first sign of questioning Ford's public health decisions. Kenney isn't likely to take this step, as he is aware that his United Conservative Party is a coalition between traditional Conservatives (like himself) and Alberta's own brand of right-wing extremists in the form of former Wild Rose Party (a.k.a. "Lake of Fire") MLA's, who seem to treat the existence of science, evidence and fact with contempt and disdain.
Now, all of the 16 MLA's that signed the open letter against Kenney are backbenchers, at least one was a member of Kenney's government up until she was caught and publicly exposed and derided for taking a vacation outside the country this past Christmastime. So it's not as if there aren't some "mainstream" (for Alberta) people involved here. And now that the forces that be have decided to take action against the anti-masker's symbolic Grace United Church (which keeps holding services despite public health measures that ought to have seen it shut down a long time ago), this rebellion could grow.
I fully expect Kenney to start caving in to the demands of the Profit over People crowd in his own caucus - maybe by developing some sort of regional framework similar to the one we tried here in Ontario for awhile that we proved DOES NOT WORK. Woe be to Albertans caught up in this right-wing political in-fighting - many of whom are putting their lives on the line just going to work or sending their kids to school.
Say what you want about the Ontario government's handling of the pandemic (and there is *a lot* that can and should be said), but at least they're not beholden to the king of right-wing extremists within their own caucus that Alberta has to deal with. That people with such extreme and marginal views can find themselves in positions of power is disconcerting to say the least. But our first-past-the-post electoral system that promotes a kind of tribalism at the ballot box is clearly responsible. All the extremists have to do in many ridings is win a nomination contest - as their Party's endorsement almost assures that they'll be elected, no questions asked. And that's another reason all levels of government need to start taking a look at proportional representation - to keep the extremists out.
So, Sudbury, we might find ourselves in the midst of a pretty lousy time right now - but it could be a lot worse.

Monday, March 8, 2021

ONDP's "Green New Democratic Deal" - Cap and Trade - A Bad Idea Made Worse

"Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again." -From Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire"

There are a lot of good ideas in the Ontario NDP's recently released "Green New Democratic Deal".  With a few exceptions, the NDP has checked just about every box that a political party should be checking if they are interested in developing a credible climate change plan.  With my quick 20-minute review, I only noticed two glaring omissions: there are no calls to extend more protections to wetlands or to the habitat of species at risk.  Not sure why the ONDP left those things out, as they have in the past been champions for protecting wetlands (species at risk is a bit of a different matter).

The "Plan" sure is light on details.  

The centrepiece of the Plan is a new Cap and Trade scheme that will replace the federal backstop.  Yes, Cap and Trade is back again - and about as welcome to me as Richard Nixon putting in another appearance.

But at least it appears that the NDP will take some time to work out the details after it gets elected, leaving voters to wonder just what they're in store for when they head to the polls.  The "plan" indicates that there will be a good deal of consultation with stakeholders before it ever gets set up.  

And that's very disconcerting, considering that three quarters of the $40 billion that the NDP wants to spend will be coming directly from the proceeds of Cap and Trade. $30 billion in new revenue is projected to come from Cap and Trade scheme, and $10 billion from Green bonds. Is that realistic?

At the time of cancellation of the Liberal's Cap and Trade program in 2018, projections were that the province would be foregoing $3 billion in revenue over 4 years (see: "Premier Doug Ford’s cap-and-trade move will cost treasury $3B over four years," the Toronto Star, October 16, 2018). Now, the vagaries of any cap and trade program are such that it's hard to know, exactly, how much revenue a program is going to pull in until the cap is set and the auction begins. But let's assume the numbers reported in 2018 are correct: the former program would have generated $3 billion in revenue for Ontario.

But the NDP says their program will generate $30 billion over 4 years - 10 times as much. Which suggests that the cap put on emissions is going to be much tighter, leading to a much higher per-tonne cost for carbon pollution.

Of course, the NDP's plan doesn't say what per tonne cost they're aiming for (all of this will be left for some sort of commission to discuss). But let's say it's 10 times the amount that was being charged under the Liberal scheme, just to stick with the 10 times increment (and I know, that's a big assumption, because it might not need to be that high - or even at 10 times the cost, it still might not generate that level of revenue, it might need to go even higher). The Liberals were getting about $17 per tonne of emissions. Which means the NDP would be looking at $170 per tonne.

$170 per tonne just happens to be what the federal carbon price backstop will rise to in 2030.  $170 per tonne still might not be high enough to capture the real costs of pollution, but it's nothing to sneeze at either.

So that's pretty good, right? 

Wrong.

It's a good price. But the NDP also says that they don't want "the little guy" to get hurt via carbon pricing. And that's where everything in the Cap and Trade Ponzi Scheme completely breaks down. At $170 per tonne, you can bet that the additional costs endured by industry will be passed on to consumers. We just won't see it happening transparently (another big issue with Cap and Trade). But we're all going to get hit by those costs.

Under the federal backstop, we'd get hit by the costs, but most of us would come out ahead, thanks to the dividend that's rebated to consumers through income tax deductions.

In the NDP's new Ontario, we're all going to take a bath thanks to higher production costs that will be passed on - but there's nothing there for consumers (or very little - sure, there'll be some programs we can apply to for some stuff - but every day people - especially the most vulnerable, including those who rent are going to be hurt most of all).

Honestly, I don't think the NDP actually contemplate seeing their per tonne carbon price rise to $170 a tonne. And I don't believe that there's any way that a lower carbon price is going to drag in the $30 billion in revenue that the NDP is banking on. Their numbers (and there aren't many of them in the plan) don't appear to be realistic. In fact, they appear to be completely unrealistic - at least on this critical issue of "where is the funding going to come from?"


From Dr. David Robinson, Associate Professor of Economics, Laurentian University

Remember: the only way to achieve a reasonably high carbon price without leading to rioting in the streets is to give revenues back to consumers - just as the federal Liberals are now.  The ONDP's Cap and Trade scheme won't do that - so it will either fail because it will have a negligible impact on reducing pollution because the per tonne price is too low (as they've discovered in California; after years of working under Cap and Trade, emissions have actually risen), or it will work to make goods and services too expensive for consumers.

But again, I don't really believe the NDP has costed their plan. I don't think they've really given much thought to any of this. I think they made a political decision to go with Cap and Trade, because the Liberals are likely to go with a carbon tax (or to keep the federal backstop in place - because it's working, and will be working even better as the per tonne carbon cost rises).  

So, Ontario NDP, prove me wrong. Show us all your math. Because right now your "Green" New Democratic Deal looks like it's covered in fudge.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Greens Need to be Realistic About Upcoming Federal Election - and Beyond

I realize CBC's Eric Grenier is focused on the NDP in this piece - but behind the words we see some serious issues for the Green Party of Canada (see: "Singh's NDP could gain a little — and lose a lot — in a spring election," CBC, March 3 2021). While the polls have been mostly stagnate over the past year and a bit, the NDP did see a bit of a drop, and now appear to have regained most of what they lost and are back to numbers that they saw in the 2019 election - 19%, with some polls putting them a little ahead.

The Green Party continues to poll a little better than our 2019 record (5-6% in polls right now; but we were at around 8% pre-eday 2019 vs. 6.5% actual in 2019), but Greens need to keep in mind this rule of thumb with the polls: Greens always poll higher than our vote share. Always. So when I see 5%, I think 3%.

Given that the coming election is going to be fought on the basis of Trudeau, COVID and the economy - not exactly in our Party's sweet spot - and given that our Party leaders seem keen to want to go head-to-head with the NDP, the latest polls that show that same NDP on the rise - with our party mired in 5th place - maybe it's time for this sobering reality to start having an impact on our electoral strategy.
I'm not saying that we should think about pressing the 'panic button' (not sure what we could do at this point to change things around), but I am suggesting that maybe this election is one where we should focus on keeping our powder dry. Let's introduce our leader to the country, try to get our current MP's elected, and maybe add two or three more, somewhere, somehow. And let the chips fall where they may. If that means the NDP pick up a few seats, so be it.

But it also means that whatever the electoral outcome, our Party needs to stick with our current leader. That's the bargain we've got to make in an election where holding on to what we've got is the measure of success.

I look around the internet and I know that the knives are out for Annamie Paul. Her critics within the party and on its fringes are tearing her down. After some initial media successes, she's largely disappeared - and when she does pop up (as she did recently with the Olympics), she's hardly motivating the base (and indeed, she's turning some off - and giving ammunition to her opponents). She's been good on LTC, and if that helps her win in Toronto Centre, that alone would be awesome. But it's an issue which the NDP will always be perceived to be better than us on - which makes it a loser issue for Greens.

If you don't believe me, that's fine. I'm just some guy shouting from the wilderness. But look no further than what the other former leadership candidates will be up to in the next election. Howard, Kuttner and Murray have publicly said they'll be sitting it out. Rumours are out there that Merner might not run again. Lascaris? I'm not fan of his, but I know he's a smart guy - there's not much benefit to him right now if he has leadership ambitions to run somewhere and lose. West will probably run, because that's what West does. Haddad? Is she even still a Green?

Trouble is on our horizon. Let's hope that the campaign team understands this and decides to be realistic with its expectations. So far, I haven't seen a lot of that realism emerge, given the desire to compete with the NDP and the selection of Toronto Centre as the riding for Paul to run in. But I do hope they're getting the message that this is an important election for us - and getting wiped out across the country will not help further the Green Party or our movement.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Maybe it's Time to Cancel Chris Hedges

I think maybe it's time to "cancel" Chris Hedges. Not because of racism or bigotry - but because he clearly has nothing to contribute to on-going discussions about the shifting attitudes towards BIPOC - and the political realities confronted by people of colour in their daily lives. Buying into the right-wing idea that "cancel culture" is a thing is a bad enough. Conflating it with the silencing of voices from the past whom lacked the power and political protection of the white majority - that's just egregious.
Hedges is setting up a false equivalency, seemingly largely based on the realities of the U.S. civil rights movement of 50-60 years ago. Yes, capitalism is a huge issue and we've got to do something about that. But enabling racism because some whites involved are disenfranchised by an oppressive economic elite IS NOT the answer.
Racism, in all of its forms (including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia) - and misogyny, anti-LGBTQIA2S+ - must be confronted and called out at every instance. Hedges is here actually preaching a kind of toleration in the name of finding allies for a larger project - tearing down capitalism. Maybe that's a worthy cause - but allying with the haters because of a larger common interest just isn't on. And frankly, it's not very likely that many allies are going to be found in that quarter anyway, given the serious embrace of capitalism of the political right - and probably more profoundly, their complete contempt for the left and the kind of socialism Hedges probably wants to use as a sword against capitalism.

Tolerance for the intolerant is the liberal recipe for continued inaction and failure. It may sound good and all to find common ground and to work with political foes - I'm all in favour of that - but if those "foes" are actually more than just political opponents and actually represent a clear and present danger to the well-being of individuals through their policies that seek to restrict the rights of women and BIPOC (not to mention outright hatred), they have zero place in civil discourse. If that means they're "canceled" so be it. We're not talking about canceling conservatives here - just bigots and haters. 

See: "Cancel Culture: Where Liberalism Goes to Die," Chris Hedges, mintpressnews.com, February 15, 2021.