Principles over partisanship – I’m hoping so!


It’s no secret that this has, for me, been one of the most difficult years of my adult life which, as almost any unbiased view of that life will show, is a claim that cannot be made hastily.

The reasons – intensely personal and family-related – resulted in my withdrawing nearly completely from what has been a fairly active political life, particularly in the riding of Toronto Centre where I even considered running for the federal NDP nomination. It has to be said that my hypothetical candidacy would probably not have been serious enough for any riding association partisans. Until El-Farouk Khaki put his name forward I saw myself as a sacrificial lamb willing to go to the political abattoir simply for the excitement of being a candidate.

My misgivings about running seriously were affirmed by a friendly advisor who thought my health would not hold up under the pressure. El-Farouk’s name recognition as a lawyer, which to me came mostly through the pages of the local gay press due to some of his high-profile immigration work, was very welcome as I was told he’d be seeking the nomination just as I confided that I would not be.

The family tragedy began just six days before the nomination meeting and my activity with the riding association has been almost nil ever since. Even when it might have been expected that I would return to my volunteer duties, I did not do so. My perspective on life has changed so much and my once-insatiable appetite for the gamesmanship of politics as usual – and Parliament in particular – has been severely curtailed.

Nevertheless, creating a little distance for myself has allowed some not insignificant shifts to occur in my political views – not the least of which is my perhaps naïve wish to always be part of a movement that puts principled goals ahead of partisan aspirations in the House of Commons. I recall being at the NDP’s last convention, in Quebec City in September of 2006, when we approved a resolution which basically called on the party to run to win government. Even entertaining that idea seems to have watered down the wine.

Frankly, before the climate change crisis became Job One – when my biggest concerns were for progressive social justice causes, for which I feel no worries with the Greens – I felt quite at home in the NDP. Yet, as the urgency of the crisis has continued to worsen, and people outside of the current House of Commons have mobilized, New Democrats in Parliament jealously guard their turf.  (A link to this Susan Riley column was added December 20.)

I’m not sure, but has Jack Layton met yet with Elizabeth May – as she has long asked – to discuss strategies for the climate change issue?

Why not advocate to include her in the next election’s leaders’ debate – current Commons seats be damned? (That cop-out is completely transparent.)

Whether or not hardcore partisans of the elected parties can imagine it – and I’ve been with the New Democrats most of my thirty years of voting – I like the Greens’ self-styling as “fiscally responsible, socially progressive”. That’s not inconsistent with the evolution of the federal New Democrats and yet I’m feeling like I want to be part of something new.

I’ll be voting Green in Toronto Centre, for Chris Tindal, the party’s Democratic Reform Advocate, who offered these comments in welcoming me:

-The Greens tend to approach solutions more pragmatically than ideologically, while still staying true to six (green) “values” that help keep them honest.
-The Greens are possibly as close to a “non-partisan political party” as can exist, doing their best to give credit where it’s due while advancing the best combination of practical ideas.

Elizabeth also recently wrote a list of “onlys”, as in positions that we’ve taken that no other party has adopted.

(Though I note that you may not agree with ALL of these, hopefully you can support most of them. Also, note that the NDP have recently reversed their position on asbestos, and they now–as far as I understand–support a ban.)

My decision to align myself with The Green Party of Canada is one which has grown on me and I have gone from being a card-carrying New Democrat of those thirty-odd years to an electronic card-carrying member of the Greens. (With most Canadians not bothering to even join a party, I admit to being an all-or-nothing sort of guy.)

For now, though, as I continue to need a break from the intensity of riding level work, I expect (and I hope) I will take a very measured pace.

Merry Christmas in the meantime!

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6 thoughts on “Principles over partisanship – I’m hoping so!

  1. I too, at one point entertained the thought of joining the Greens. It seemed to coincide with my recent interest in organic farming, surprise surprise.

    Unfortunately, after talking with some Greens in Calgary, and perusing some blogs, I just didn’t feel at home. Many take the “fiscally responsible” part very seriously to the point of considering themselves “small-c” conservatives who happen to care about the environment, or don’t feel comfortable in the Conservative or Liberal camps.

    Maybe it’s just the CCF tradition, or maybe I can’t get Tommy out of my head, but I’ve found, the party members at least and many of the MP’s, to still be on my wavelength. A lot of Greens are too, which is too bad.

  2. The federal Greens economic policy is more like that of John Diefenbaker than anything that might really work in the 21st century. And, though E. May says she is prochoice, her actions belie her words. Find Judy Rebick’s piece at rabble.ca.

    All that said, I am not entirely comfy with the NDP either, and will probably never vote NDP provincially in SK again. Federally, however, I have hopes. High hopes. And if the Opposition ever starts doing what they’re supposed to do — OPPOSE — we might actually have an election to replace this Fossilized Government of Canada!

  3. Thanks, Chris, I saw that when the story first broke. It does to quell my concerns about your leader. Did you listen to the recording? May suggested that abortion was a “frivolous choice!” That is appalling for several reasons on several levels.

    And, I have not yet seen a retraction from Judy. Knowing her, she would publish one if she believed things have changed.

  4. I know the question is more about Elizabeth’s personal views after past comments but I believe her when she says, though she would hopefully not have to choose abortion, she fully supports the protection of rights won for access to safe, legal abortions.

    Here’s what the Party put into Part IV (the “People” section) of the platform “Vision Green” (p.73). I’ll paste the entire section onWomen’s equality.

    http://www.greenparty.ca/en/policy/visiongreen

    7. Rights, respect and dignity
    a) Women’s equality
    Women make up over 50 percent of Canada’s population, the majority of seniors, and a disproportionate share of the people living in poverty in Canada. Pay inequity is still the rule. Women make, on average, only 71 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Women within visual minorities earn 64 cents and aboriginal women earn 46 cents. Lack of access to affordable housing, affordable post-secondary education and affordable child care make the lives of women, who head up the majority of single-parent households, much more difficult. Women under 30 earn less than women in that age group, when adjustments are made for inflation, than they did twenty years ago. Women make up only 21% of the MPs in Canada’s parliament.

    This past year the Conservative government pushed the clock backwards on women’s rights in Canada. They refused to accept the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force that calls for proactive pay equity legislation to bring Canada in line with its national and international human rights obligations. They rolled back the commitment to establish a national affordable child care program. They removed the mandate for promoting women’s equality, and even stripped the quest for “women’s equality” from the mandate of Status of Women Canada (SWC).

    Our Vision

    The Green Party of Canada will vigorously defend every hard-won victory for women’s rights in Canada and to advance forward towards full equality. Women’s equality is fundamental to a just society. We feel that one of the best ways to break down barriers and advances opportunities for women is through a poverty-eradication, a national affordable child care program, programs to eliminate the financial barriers to post-secondary education, programs for affordable housing and the adoption of a Genuine Progress Indicator that includes measures of unpaid and voluntary work by women (see other sections in this document).

    Green Solutions

    Green Party MPs will:

    Oppose any possible government move to diminish the right of a woman to a safe, legal abortion. We fully support a woman’s right to choose. We will also expand programmes in reproductive rights and education to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and expand supports for low-income mothers.
    Pass pay equity legislation, as recommended by the Pay Equity Task Force, immediately implement full pay equity for women employed in the federal sector and develop tax incentives for companies to meet the highest standards of gender and pay equity.
    Establish specific job re-entry programmes for women with children who want to restart their working life either part-time or full-time.
    Reestablish funding for Status of Women Canada and for a Women’s Program that funds not-for-profit women’s groups that advocate women’s rights.
    Ensure that the criteria for a new independent agency appointing members to public boards and agencies includes equal opportunity for women.
    Support greater engagement of women in the political life of Canada by advocating that all political parties nominate, train and support more women candidates.

  5. politicsnpoetry: I don’t mean to draw this out, but I can’t let factually incorrect statements go challenged. At no point in the 15-minute audio conversation you’re referring to does Elizabeth describe abortion as a “frivolous choice.”

    What she does do is explain that she doesn’t think abortions are “desirable” or something that anyone should be “for,” while also arguing that access to legal and safe abortions is absolutely necessary. In attempting to express this, she said that there isn’t a “frivolous right” to treat abortion casually. You can still disagree with that position or find it “appalling,” but it’s different than what you’ve attributed to her.

    Kenn, thanks for posting our Vision Green position, which Elizabeth endorses wholeheartedly.

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