Good Sunday Morning,
We did it! The Special General Meeting in Calgary was a resounding success!!
It felt like deja vu all over again as I rode the escalator down to the baggage carousel at the Calgary airport. But instead of my wonderful billet host waiting patiently for my arrival on my last stop of the Unity Tour, a bunch of us made our way to the car rental counter at the far end of the concourse. The hotel was sparse but comfortable, no restaurant but free coffee, porridge and croissants for breakfast. I was disappointed that David Simon, a German Green I had hoped to meet and tap further for his vast experience, was sadly turned back at the airport in Berlin due to a new visa requirement he had not anticipated. We didn't know what to expect as we arrived at SAIT early the next morning to register. Trepidation hung in the air.
Then the room started filling with familiar faces and there were hugs all around. Many attended one of the events on the Unity Tour and others I recognized from previous travels or the August convention. Elizabeth received a spontaneous standing ovation even before we enjoyed a very moving First Nations Welcoming Ceremony. Then after Elizabeth's keynote address, our president Ken Melamed introduced our Federal Council noting what an honour it is to lead such a dedicated team. He then introduced the deputy leaders before officially opening the meeting. Paul Manly and Jo-Ann Roberts reported on their incredible work to achieve consensus around a new resolution and Dimitri Lascaris spoke eloquently in support of the new resolution, acknowledging that "the compromise resolution does not endorse the BDS movement" and "that this was ultimately the right thing to do." From there it was still a procedural grind as we all familiarized ourselves with the process of Green Rules again. But we stuck with it and by the end of the day, the new resolution to update our policy on Israel and Palestine had been passed with overwhelming support.
Our worst fears of continued or even intensified division did not materialize. Instead the SGM attendees rallied around consensus and applied the now more familiar Green Rules of Procedure the next day to address a special resolution on Kinder Morgan, new policies on Indigenous Rights, our Party's updated position on Electoral Reform and improved GPC governance by approving a number of exciting new initiatives to help us move forward. And that's a good thing. With the acrimony in the House and the unbelievable reality south of the border, it is so wonderful to be able to find solace in our Green Values.
On Sunday, speaking to Adrian Carr's emergency motion, Jean Rousseau our VP French stood up in plenary and called the fight to stop Kinder Morgan "our Standing Rock". While watching the video we received word that the "Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for the Dakota Access pipeline to drill under the Missouri river, handing a major win to environmental activists..." This proved especially poignant in light of the motions that were passed to improve our policies on indigenous issues, renounce the doctrine of discovery and press for an end to poverty among indigenous women. We stand united in our opposition to pipelines across the country that endanger our land and waters by carrying Dilbit to foreign markets. There are alternatives and they need to be explored. With the passage of this motion to stop Kinder Morgan, you can expect new resources to be focused on this important challenge as we unite with other voices across the country that seek a more responsible solution.
And speaking of seeking responsible solutions, one of the objectives of the SGM in Calgary was to "review and adopt improved processes for policy making". As we experienced again last weekend, traveling to conventions requires considerable resources of time and money which currently favours members living close to the convention site and those with sufficient financial resources to travel. Also, as we champion proportional representation in our electoral system, our own resolution development and adoption process currently has no mechanism to insure proportional or regional representation of the full membership at convention.
Combined with the strife that resulted from last Summer's convention and the minimal prioritization of resolutions of varying importance and complexities, the consensus at the SGM was that it is time to do a comprehensive re-assessment of our internal processes in anticipation of Electoral Reform bringing consensus based governance, in the form of Proportional Representation, to Canada. By combining this initiative with a motion to urge council to reinstate ratification votes for all resolutions, we have embarked on a journey that hopefully will find ways to engage the broader membership in resolution development.
In the meantime it has been painful to watch the developments on Electoral Reform as they seem to dim the hopes that Proportional Representation will become a reality by 2019. Asking MPs to agree to changes in an electoral system that got them elected, is almost as hard as pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. A phrase comes to mind that Al Gore once used in relation to climate change: "It's very hard for someone to understand something if their paycheck depends on them not understanding it."
Our reflex is to invoke cynicism and cheer as opposition parties hurl accusations across the aisle. But do we really want the Liberals to fail? Rona Ambrose is already calling on them to park this initiative. Nathan Cullen seems to be firm in his belief that the Liberals are collectively disingenuous. The Liberal MPs on the committee suggested that it may be time to renege on the promise to make this happen in time for the next election even as the Prime Minister has reiterated his intent to meet that deadline. The controversial survey, as broken as it is, has continued to keep this issue in the news and has collected over 150,000 responses.
Right now it's hard to see how all this could end well. But perhaps, as we emerge from a convention that exceeded all our expectations in reaching consensus, Greens have a role to play. Perhaps we can be that sober voice that identifies the common ground and charts a course forward. Perhaps we can serve to mitigate the attacks and accusations that cause all sides to entrench and harden their positions. Maybe we can, like the hummingbird intent on fighting a forest fire, be the inspiration that unites everyone behind a common objective.
Fairness is a Canadian value. Putting our cynicism aside we could interpret the call for a referendum as a call for fairness. We could support all efforts to engage the Canadian public, no matter how flawed, as a call for fairness. We could appreciate the valuable work of the ERRE committee and their recommendation to apply a defensible measure of proportionality as a call for fairness. The evidence is overwhelming; our own internal affairs as they played out over the last four months, the election of Donald Trump, Brexit. How we make decisions affects the quality of the decisions we make. Maybe by keeping the focus on fairness we can support a public discourse that builds on the ERRE committee's framework to help the government draft legislation that would allow them to fulfill their commitment to Canadians.
Bonnie North, CEO of the Barrie-Innisfil EDA executive, has worked with Marlene Wells and the rest of the support team in Ottawa to develop a survey action kit that they call "Operation Postcard." Click on the link and check out the many tools you can use to bring people together and make your voices heard. We also have our very own GPC survey on the national web site where you can register your views.
Since the SGM in Calgary I've received a number of comments from people who had never really experienced the power of Green Rules in uniting a room. They expressed that this was an amazing experience and well worth the trip. Sadly the On-Line Ratification Vote now under way only offers the outcome, in the form of the Operatives of each motion, and does not reflect the hard work and dedication to consensus that we experienced in the workshops and the plenary. Nevertheless, I would like to encourage you to please join Elizabeth and take the time to ratify all the motions passed by overwhelming majorities or consensus at this SGM. If you are a member of the Green Party your ballot was mailed to you on with the subject line "2016 Online Special General Meeting."
Please remember to Ratify!
Finally there is one more issue that has drifted off our radar and needs our attention before the deadline on December 15th. C-51, the anti terrorism act passed by the Harper government is still festering like a wound that won't heal. We've created a blog page to make it easy for you to engage and have your say. It includes a link to updated video clips taken at one of Elizabeth's town halls held, as if to underscore the importance of this issue, on the night that Donald Trump was elected president. Of course there is more with Joe Biden in Ottawa and the announcement on an agreement on carbon pricing on Friday but we have to end this missive sometime...
So in the context of all this, I can't help but feel a profound relief and sense of gratitude that our party has found itself again. We stand united and strong in our values and our shared commitment to building a better world for all. Thank you all for your dedication and support of this vision we share.
Have a fabulous weekend,