Monthly Archives: April 2007

Listen to the people on electoral reform, says Green Party


A fair system for electing members of parliament.

OTTAWA – The results of Ontario’s public consultation on electoral reform send a clear signal to the federal government to abandon its ludicrous “private” public consultation and start listening to what Canadians want – a fair system for electing members of parliament, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said today.

“The Harper government promised in the Throne Speech to consider reforming our archaic first-part-the-post voting system,” said May, “but they have no real interest in changing a system that puts them in power with 36% of the vote.”

This became clear, she said, when the government appointed a conservative think tank to run the closed-door focus groups that will be the basis for its “public” consultation on electoral reform.

May called for an open and transparent nationwide consultation on the issue. “Ontario’s Citizens’ Assembly is a great model,” she said, “and the fact that it has come out overwhelmingly in favour of the change to proportional representation proves that this is an idea whose time has come.”

Green Party electoral reform spokesperson Chris Tindal said that members of the Citizens’ Assembly underwent intensive education and public consultation phases, and heard from all view points before reaching their decision.

“It was a truly democratic, grassroots and unbiased process, in stark contrast to the Harper government’s current $900,000 closed-door think tank process, which can produce questionable results at best,” he said.

“Politicians should take note of the overwhelming majority (92%) by which the Citizens’ Assembly voted in favour of change. This proves that not only do most people want a fair voting system, but that their support for proportional representation increases the more they know about it.”

“Democracy belongs to citizens, not politicians,” said Tindal. “For too long, Canadians have sensed that something is wrong with their voting system but have not known what to do about it. Ontario now has a chance to take democracy back. The rest of Canada deserves the same chance.”


Munchausen Improv Comedy (Guest Monologist)

Chris is the guest monologist at one of Toronto’s best improv comedy shows.

Diesel Playhouse
56 Blue Jays Way, Toronto ON

The audience gives a suggestion. Inspired by that suggestion, a monologist (that’s a fancy word for someone who tells monologues) recounts true stories from his or her life. This is the show’s Munchausen.

Toronto’s best and most cutting edge improv comics deconstruct the ideas presented in the stories to create characters and scenes that intertwine and web like barbed wire. This is the Impatient Theatre Co.

The rapidly growing company is becoming a force to be reckoned with, producing some of the most cutting edge comedy in the country, improv or otherwise. This show is the living, breathing beast of proof.

No Wonder The Old Guard Is Mad

I’ve rarely (well, actually, never) used this blog to post someone else’s column in its entirety or without much comment, but Susan Riley in The Ottawa Citizen summed up this whole “Red Green Show” business so well that it should be required reading for anyone concerned. (For my thoughts on the matter, see last Friday’s post.) Please take a moment to read Susan’s take below (presented without block-quotes for easier reading).

Hilarious Update (April 20, 2007): The NDP just quoted from this column in their e-newsletter as if it was meant as an endorsement.

Grit-Green pact rattles
Susan Riley, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, April 16, 2007

‘Flaky” was the verdict of one nameless senior Liberal, commenting on the agreement between Elizabeth May and Stephane Dion not to run candidates against one another in their own ridings.

“Bizarre,” “preposterous”, said some pundits. Others smelled a plot: the real end game here is not saving the planet, as May and Dion insist, but squeezing out the New Democrats to the electoral advantage of the Greens and Liberals.

Jack Layton, with trademark piety, expressed disappointment that May has climbed into “the muck” with the Liberals. “If she wants to be a Liberal, why doesn’t she just run for the Liberals?” sniffed his former aide, Jamey Heath. For the Conservatives, the deal is further evidence — along with the Ottawa Senators’ second-game loss and this month’s miserable weather, presumably — that Dion is a “weak leader.”

Pay them no mind, Ms. May. These are the delusional mutterings of a dying cult. These are the custodians of politics as it always has been: stupidly partisan, pathologically afraid of innovation, mean-spirited and self-interested. Faced with a bold gesture — particularly a gesture motivated by idealism — they are, naturally, frightened and confused. But only for a moment. Too soon they fall back into the cynicism that sustains their tired, increasingly-exclusive little club.

It would never occur to their world-weary critics that May and Dion might be telling the simple truth: They both believe climate change is not just one issue among many, but the most serious facing humanity. In the face of so dire a threat, the old rivalries, even political labels, become secondary.

In that context, it makes perfect sense for Dion to want May — one of Canada’s most experienced and articulate environmentalists — in the Commons, particularly if the alternative is the likable, but definitely not carbon-neutral, Peter MacKay. It is also reasonable that May would prefer Dion’s green vision — the new, tougher one he unveiled some weeks ago — to Stephen Harper’s. Full details of the Tory plan won’t be disclosed for a few days, but nothing suggests it will be close to adequate.

Yes, Paul Martin did little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when he had the chance (now there was a weak leader), and Dion was his environment minister. But Dion is the boss now, voters have tuned in, and, despite his shortcomings as a performer, Dion has endorsed a plan that even Layton concedes is serious.

In fact, New Democrats, Liberals and the Bloc teamed up to pass a revamped clean air bill that incorporates Dion’s new plan, bolstered by measures promoted by the NDP and Bloc. It was a rare example of the co-operation a minority Parliament is supposed to foster and much credit belongs to the NDP’s inspired environment critic, MP Nathan Cullen.

So why didn’t May pursue an alliance with Layton, whose green credentials go back farther than Dion’s, whose environmental policy has long been more progressive?

Well, she tried. She says she phoned Layton a number of times, but got no response. So she called an old friend, Stephen Lewis, to see if he would intervene. Layton has characterized this as “backroom wheeling and dealing,” and accuses May of betraying her own high standards. As for his private meetings with Harper last fall (a relationship that has since cooled?) that was a noble attempt at co-operating in the public interest, of course — a distinction that may escape outsiders.

“What the hell is wrong with Jack Layton that he can’t answer a phone call?” May retorts, when asked. “I don’t understand this. He talks to Harper all the time. Surely, the shared values are much closer between the NDP and Greens.”

Layton, however, has a history, a venerable institution and a fragile footing in the polls to defend — not just a climate change plan. The Greens are competitors as much as allies. As for May, if her goal is electing a green government (and it is), cold calculation comes into play: Dion is more likely to become prime minister than Layton.

Not that this is very likely, say the experts. Dion is said to be the biggest loser this week — for admitting he needs May to bolster his green reputation, for forfeiting his party’s claim to national status. This is nonsense — except for May and Dion’s ridings, both parties will run candidates across the country — but it is widely- accepted nonsense.

May will have trouble beating MacKay, no matter what. But she really is doing politics differently, not just claiming to. She is fearless and Dion isn’t weak. No wonder the old guard is closing ranks against them.

Changing The Face Of Canadian Politics

Remember the good old days when us Greens couldn’t get the attention of the media if our lives depended on it?

The story all of the news outlets (and for that matter, the blogosphere and listseves) are buzzing about today is that Elizabeth May and Stephane Dion have announced that, out of mutual respect, a tradition of allowing new leaders to run unopposed, and a recognition of the need for cooperation, they will not run candidates against each other in the next federal election.

Not surprisingly, some people have strong feelings about this development, and it’s clear that the move has both advantages and disadvantages. However, overall I believe Canadians will see this for what it is: a positive sign for Canadian politics.

Let’s review the context of this announcement. It put principal above partisanship at a time when Canadians are crying out for positive politics. It advances the cause of action on climate change as time itself is running out. Above all, it confirms what the Green Party has always said: that winning looks different to us, and that getting our ideas enacted is more important than the success of the party itself.

That being said, it does not, in any way, endorse the Liberal platform or negate the strong need for Canadians to vote Green in the next election. All Elizabeth has said is that she thinks Stéphane Dion would make a better PM than Stephen Harper, and that her and Dion can agree on the urgency to act. Greens and Liberals do not agree on a wide range of other issues, and without Green MPs in the House we will not see the right kind of action, or enough of it.

I also want to take a moment to refute the somewhat strange argument that this non-partisan cooperation somehow subverts democracy. It is, in fact, our current electoral system that subverts the will of the electorate when only 1/3 of Canadians can elect a Prime Minister who then presumes to have an unquestioned mandate, while over a million Green Party voters in the last two elections have not had their votes counted towards electing an MP.

A recent poll found that the majority of Canadians think that, based on our electoral results to date, Greens deserve representation in the House. This “principal before partisanship” cooperation could help achieve that democratic will, despite an archaic and unfair electoral system that most Parliamentary democracies have already abandoned.

To conclude, here are some (admittedly selected) initial reaction comments taken from I suspect these sentiments will prove to be representative of the majority.

Douglas Campbell from writes: The Green Party of Canada has a wide ranging, economically rational platform which is neither left nor right wing. Check their website – you may be surprised to find that on many issues their policies are considerably more fiscally responsible than the Conservatives.

b g from Canada writes: The Liberals, NDP, and Green should come together in the interest of the environment. A Harper Conservative majority would be THE worst outcome for the environment.

John Baird Is Nothing But A Loud-Mouth from Edmonton, Canada writes: I thought before that May might have a chance in the next election, but if this agreement is true, I do believe she would win Central Nova if an election were called today. It’s not my riding, but I know I for one would like to see the Greens have a more pivotal role in government, and I think the voters of Central Nova might like the notion of being the first federal riding to elect a Green to parliament! On a similar note, I would love to see Ms. May stir things up in a national election debate. Not only would she eat the others for lunch on environmental issues, it would be good for the country to hear her defend her party’s platform regarding other governmental portfolios. I’ve never voted Green myself, but I may well do so in the future.

A Mahadeen from Toronto, Canada writes: Brilliant move!
Good on them – now maybe we will get rid of that embarassing MacKay!! I am very impressed that these two parties can work together like this and see it as a positive sign.

Peter Kells from Ottawa, Canada writes: Elizabeth May is a dynamo and would be a welcome voice in the Parliament of Canada. I applaud any move that would bring her into the House of Commons. I do not for a moment veiw this as some kind of sellout or backroom deal. She has always struck me as a person who speaks her mind and kow tows to no one. She may even come to be Mr. Dion’s worst nightmare if he ever strays from the environmental path. I am sure that the CPC do not see the Greens as a threat but I am sure that they view Elzabeth May as a threat.

G. Veneta from Calgary, Canada writes: BRAVO! It’s time the center united where it counts. United is the only way to move Canada forward and to stop the Con sellout of Canada and complete impotence on the environment with no overall plan but crumbs to pacify the masses in their minds. Hard to see how any con policies speak to the future health and productivity of the country. Who do they work for? Canadians I think not!

Go Ms. May and Go Mr. Dion!!

Tom W from Vancouver, Canada writes: As a NDP supporter I like this move ! Dippers like to claim the moral authority over the environment, whereas I think having a Green Party perspective represented would do wonders for both sides of the green vote by broadening its appeal as the central public policy issue (not as a peripherial singular issue) of the day.

As far as I’m concerned the GPC should be the party representing fiscal conservatism in this country (the Conservatives being utterly incompetent in this regard, as made evident with their blatent waste with one of the largest surplus in Canadian history). We are utterly wasting the financial opportunity to invest in a sustainable economy with the riches obtained by resource royalites. That’s fiscal irresponsbility in my book.

The addition of a 4th Federalist party would be great for this country, as would electoral reform that would bring in some additional porportionality into the house of commons.

Having May and Layton in the house during question period is a win-win. Ditto for former Green supporter turned Liberal candidate Briony Penn, who is running in Sannich-Gulf Islands.

CG fr Toronto from Canada writes:
Elizabeth May is a lovely compliment to Stephane Dion… intelligence with a human touch.