The Role of Shadow Cabinet Members

Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands):

Thanks to those who have sent letters and notes of support.  It is clearly not a happy day when former candidates, whom I have selected to be part of the leader’s Shadow Cabinet, make decisions that remove themselves from that group.

With recent publicity about resolutions from the August convention and the unfortunate decision to eliminate our usual consensus process, feelings have been running high in some quarters. I have confidence in consensus decision making. I had communicated to Dimitri, Lisa and Colin that I needed their help in seeking consensus. I also explained how critical it is that I can rely on them.  It is clear to everyone (or nearly everyone) in the Green Party of Canada that I need to devote all my energies to the process of electoral reform. As a member of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform, I am fully engaged in that challenging project – one with the potential to deliver the single greatest democratic reform since universal suffrage.

A leader’s Shadow Cabinet is based on the same principles as a Prime Minister’s Cabinet – or Privy Council.  As leader, just as a Prime Minister, the choice of people for Shadow Cabinet is entirely at my discretion. Other than picking Deputy Leaders under the Green Party Constitution, it is the only decision that is exclusively mine.  Even the Elections Canada mandate that I sign every candidate’s nomination papers is modified by Green Party rules, such that I cannot refuse to endorse a candidate without a super-majority of council support.

“Privy” from “Privy Council” as a word goes back to those Cabinet members being “privy” to the secrets of the Crown. It is a position of trust. That is why, while I firmly believe in free votes and that every party’s caucus should not limit free speech, no Cabinet can function without trust and solidarity. I had given them the option of stepping out of Shadow Cabinet if that level of trust and solidarity was beyond them. I have very much wanted to keep the differences of opinion in Shadow Cabinet intact as we work out a consensus approach to the motions that lacked consensus in August.

Sadly, they violated this notion of trust and solidarity in co-signing an article described by BC media as “slamming” the leader of the Green Party of B.C. There was no email to me asking if the article would be seen to be consistent with their roles on Shadow Cabinet. Most egregiously, they attempted to give their unhelpful actions additional weight by signing the article with their Shadow Cabinet titles. There was no trust or solidarity in that. Even after reading it, I asked if they were willing to offer a public apology to Andrew Weaver. When they refused, I continued to offer that should they be willing to apologize to Andrew Weaver – not for their views over which they owe no one an apology – but for gratuitously criticizing the standard bearer of strong Green values in part of our global Green family. It was especially egregious in choosing a B.C. progressive online journal – essentially in Andrew’s and my backyard – on the eve of a critical B.C. election. I would have reacted in the same way had they used their credentials to criticize the leader of the Green Party of Germany or New Zealand. We are unrelated legally, but we are part of a Green family with shared global values. 

I have reiterated to each of them that I look forward to continuing to work with them to seek consensus at our Special Meeting in Calgary on Dec. 3 and 4.  The offer to return to Shadow Cabinet if they are willing to apologize to Andrew Weaver remains open.

Meanwhile, I do offer Dr. Andrew Weaver and the spectacular team of B.C. Green candidates being recruited for the May 2017 election my full support as they campaign on the key issues that are critical on the provincial campaign - protecting the province from reckless pipelines and tankers, shifting to a post-carbon economy, shutting down the construction of Site C, protecting B.C.’s water – whether in Shawnigan Lake or at-risk, in-ground water from fracking chemicals – as well as striving to improve access to affordable housing, better education funding and health care within my home province.  

Elizabeth May

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