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2011 Election, Federal Politics, Letters to Leaders

Dear Elizabeth: congratulations, but the real work lies ahead

Dear Elizabeth,

Campaign Sign at the Rally for Democracy in Toronto

You have done a lifetime’s worth of work already just to reach this moment, and on behalf of all Canadian citizens, whether they voted for you or not, thank you for the tireless work you have done – and will continue to do – on behalf of a grateful environment.

Spearheading the breakthrough you achieved by becoming the first MP elected to Canada’s Parliament for the Green Party of Canada must have been a monumental task, and, to your credit, you realized that you could not get there alone, or simply on the strength of your convictions. (Sadly, not everyone shares your progressive views on the environment, and you no doubt had to convince many people in Saanich-Gulf Islands to take advantage of their opportunity to help you make history.)

You certainly did take the scenic route to get here, and I suppose third time (third election; third province; third riding) is a charm. One would hope you would have won this time around with as much experience campaigning as you have. You successfully employed a legion of volunteers, a massive social media, e-mail, and telephone campaign, and managed to upset your Conservative counter-part, former cabinet minister Gary Lunn.

You ran a passionate campaign in support of green initiatives, and made a name for yourself as the leading voice for electoral reform in this country. You stood out also as the sole female Leader of a national party, role model to other women interested not just in politics, but actually leading. You made the most out of being denied your right to speak at the Leader’s Debate, and went on a whistle stop tour by train through most of Canada, stopping to fire up the voters and believers in Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax on your Rally for Democracy tour.

You were nowhere better than addressing the voters in Toronto at your Rally stop when you fired up the crowd on what were, essentially, non-partisan issues: stopping subsidies to oil companies, checking the power of credit card companies to gouge consumers, bringing civility back to the process of governing, reducing the incredible power of the unelected members of the Prime Minister’s Office. And this says nothing of their support for your Green Party policies! You left them wanting more, and gave them hope that this was the start of something big.

And in a limited way, it was. It took a village to get you elected; one solitary splash of green in an otherwise blue and orange country.

And while it is fantastic that you have won your seat and now begin the difficult task of having your lone voice heard in the cage-fight that Parliament has become lately, I have to say that despite your historic victory, the 2011 Election was…well, not a great one for the Greens. Despite the increase in voters in 2011, the Greens saw their percentage of the popular vote drop by almost 50% from 2008 to 3.9%, which by any account is a major setback. Thankfully, you did not martyr yourself for the sake of the party by spreading yourself too thin and failing to win your own seat as happened in previous elections, but I am concerned that everyone’s concentrated effort this year was only enough to get one MP elected.

Which is better than at any other point in your party’s history, and you have to start somewhere, I know. But does it get easier? And how do you address those people who question what, if anything, the Green Party can do to attract more voters and more qualified candidates when it seems to be one step forward, two steps back?

You have hundreds of thousands of followers who are going to be watching what you can accomplish very carefully, and thousands more who oppose what you stand for likely watching even closer. No one imagines that you will single-handedly reform Ottawa, especially with a Conservative majority in power – but we are all curious to see what you can do to make your important voice heard.

But – while this shouldn’t keep you up at night, the party’s failure to attract significant new voters should cause you no small amount of concern. Many left-leaning voters who would have voted Green this time around likely jumped ship to throw their weight behind the New Democrats because, when push comes to shove, people like voting for winners. And the NDP proved this time around they are capable of winning.

And so did you. No more exclusions based on technicalities; a proper place in the Halls of Power. But the critical question is, are the Greens capable of keeping the party faithful, and like-minded voters, loyal?

Chew on that while you settle into your new life as the Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands. That has a nice ring to it.



About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


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