Monthly Archives: May 2009

Frank de Jong to step down as Green Party of Ontario leader

Frank de JongAfter 16 years at the helm, Green Party of Ontario Leader Frank de Jong said yesterday that he is stepping down. De Jong made the announcement to party members during opening remarks at the party’s annual general meeting being held this weekend in Toronto.

A leadership contest will be held to choose a successor, culminating in a leadership and policy convention November 13-15, 2009 in London Ontario. De Jong is the longest serving Green party leader in Canada (possibly the world) and has survived three separate leadership challenges.

Switching to French, de Jong also told the mostly non-French-speaking audience that he would like to be leader of the federal Green party. He later clarified that he does not intend to challenge current leader Elizabeth May, but would consider seeking the job were it to become available.

Time lines for the leadership race were to be determined by the AGM Sunday, but at the end of business Saturday it was expected that nominations would be open from July 1st to August 14th.

British Columbia’s election

Before I begin my workday I thought I’d pound out some reactions to last night’s election and referendum in British Columbia. A quick disclaimer: I’m in Ontario and didn’t follow the campaigns as closely as I could have. If you’re in B.C. and I’m missing an important detail or nuance, please let me know.

The main show

Overall I’m disappointed by the results, so I’ll begin by finding something positive to cling to. The reelection of Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government can at least be seen in part as a vindication of their carbon tax policy. The B.C. carbon tax is far from perfect in implementation, but it is North America’s first and it has now been ratified (somewhat) by the electorate. That’s encouraging for other politicians who seek to do the right thing even when it may not seem popular at first.

The result is also, in part, a repudiation of the NDP’s attempt to turn the carbon tax into a negative wedge. Going against the advice of every major environmentalist and economist in favour of attempting to grab a few extra votes was a mistake. The federal NDP, who have also too often flirted with populism at the expense of principal, would be wise to take note.

The side show

The Green Party of B.C. did poorly last night. 8.1% and no close ridings to speak of is the worst result since 1996 and continues a trend of negative momentum that began after 2001. This result isn’t surprising, IMO, given the party’s messaging. In a final pitch to voters printed on the front page of yesterday’s Metro newspaper (my employer) in Vancouver, Green leader Jane Sterk asked for support “so our grandchildren’s grandchildren also have the opportunity to live a good life.” This argument is both politically foolish (voters do not and will not make decisions based on vague predictions of what will happen long after they’re dead) and unrealistically optimistic (we are already experiencing the results of poor economic and environmental policy, and will continue to witness the worst fallout in this generation and the next).

The no show

The biggest disappointment of the night was the defeat of the Single Transferable Vote proposal. It’s hard to know what to say about that. After MMP was defeated in Ontario I wrote that I wouldn’t comment until I stopped swearing and throwing things. I never did. I didn’t want to sound like a sore loser. Ultimately, I’ve come to realize there’s no escaping the truth: I did lose, and I am sore.

The citizens and experts who studied STV most closely supported it. The campaign that opposed STV had no grassroots support by its own admission1, and instead depended on government funding to spread misinformation and spin. In a recent election to the south, an inspiring political figure successfully argued that voters should choose hope over fear, change over more of the same. B.C. didn’t get the memo. They chose the opposite.

The result is extremely disappointing for anyone concerned about the health of democracy in Canada. This morning I have little interest in being gracious. It was the wrong decision, and we will pay for it.

Thanks, though

The one thing that makes me wish I could be more positive this morning are the many good people who volunteered for causes they believed in. To the volunteers of the STV campaign and the Green campaign, thank you. Despite the disappointment, things are still better due to your efforts.

1: No-STV President Bill Tieleman wrote: “The Yes STV side has a great many volunteers organized for the past several years through Fair Voting BC. No STV has approached the referendum completely differently and is putting almost all resources into television, radio and print advertising… We do not have lawn signs and you will not see any this campaign…”

Who do you know in the GPO?

Ontario politics has been getting interesting recently with the election of Andrea Horwath as new NDP leader and the resignation of John Tory as PC leader. And, below the surface, the Green Party of Ontario is preparing to exceed expectations and make its mark in the next provincial election in 2011. Insiders should take note and get involved. (Outsiders can feel free to continue to ignore us, but I don’t advise it.)

This coming May long weekend, GPO members including myself will meet in Toronto for the 2009 AGM. The agenda [pdf, new window] includes a number of policy and constitutional matters, but one of the most significant pieces of business is to elect a new provincial executive (PE). This is the team that will oversee the planning and preparations required for a breakthrough in 2011. In case you’re interested, here’s how I’ll be voting for the key positions.

President: Bill Hewitt

I’m excited to be supporting Bill Hewitt for president. In addition to believing that he has a solid plan, I also think he has the ability to work well with others and build a strong team. To be frank, that’s something that’s been sorely missing on the PE as a whole for some time, and it’s one of the most crucial ingredients for success going forward.

Secretary: Robert Schmidt

Robert Schmidt has been serving as interim secretary since January, and I think he’s the best person to continue in that role. I share and am impressed by his nerdy infatuation with parliamentary rules of order.

I’m also encouraged to see that Caroline Law will be acclaimed as the Toronto Region Female rep, as will Jason Hammond as the Horseshoe Region Male rep. (Well, I’m not encouraged that they’re running uncontested, but I’ve worked with both of them closely and they’ll make excellent PE members.)

Now, if you’ve made it this far, here’s a juicy not very well known fact: the Green Party of Ontario may very well have a new leader before 2011. What we know for sure is that there will be a leadership race (the PE waived a leadership review vote in favour of a leadership contest at the request of current leader Frank de Jong), and the rumour is that Frank is leaning towards not seeking reelection.

Frank has been an excellent leader for the GPO, but he’s also the longest serving Green leader in Canada and—get this—the only leader the provincial party has ever had,  so the renewal that comes with a leadership race would be good for the party. And with the NDP moving left and the PC party moving right very very wrong, there’s an exciting opportunity for Greens to pickup more support and build on the remarkable Green result in the last provincial election. I dare say this is even the most likely prospect for an electoral breakthrough anywhere in the country (and I have specific reasons why, but I’ll save that for another day).

So, if your answer to the question “who do you know in the GPO” is “pretty much no one,” you might want to work on that.

STV: Power up your vote

One week from today on May 12th, British Columbians will vote on whether or not to change their voting system from the antiquated and inadequate first past the post to the improved Single Transferable Vote. The new voting system was designed by citizens and benefits voters. It’s simple to use (you get to rank candidates in order of preference instead of marking an X for only one candidate) and produces fairer results (STV is a form of proportional representation, meaning that the percentage of votes a party gets will be close to the percentage of seats they get).

If you care about fair voting and democracy anywhere in Canada, I urge you to support STV through a donation or by volunteering. The vote is winnable, but it will be very close since the frightened B.C. government has required an undemocratic 60% threshold for the proposal to pass. (Last time B.C. voted on this proposal it received 58% approval.) If the referendum fails, it will be the last one Canada gets for awhile.