This is an interesting letter from the Green Party of Canada, sharing their intent and seeking support:
Year End Letter From Elizabeth MayBy Brian Howard on 6 December 2013 – 2:50pm
After seven years as leader of the Green Party of Canada and two and a half years as a Member of Parliament, I do not think of myself as a politician. I don’t think of myself as someone who yearns for power. I hope I am not the kind of person who would want to build a new political party for its own sake. Nevertheless, I am more committed than ever to getting a full caucus of Green MPs (at least 12) elected in the next federal election. The question we should always ask is “why?” Will working and focusing to elect twelve MPs change anything? Will we – as so many progressive voices allege – merely “split the vote?”
When I first decided to run for leadership in the Green Party, my primary motivation was to stop Stephen Harper gaining a majority government. I thought I could prevent his chances of a majority by being in the leaders’ debate, working to keep a focus on issues. I wanted to blunt what I saw then – and still do today – as the informal alliance between Conservatives and the NDP to destroy the Liberal Party – thus keeping Harper in power. In 2008, thanks to a huge public outcry, I was in the debates and we held Harper to a minority. In 2011, when the other party leaders and the networks did a better job of covering their tracks to block Green participation, Harper won his coveted majority.
Thank goodness in that election, we were able to make our successful breakthrough, winning our first Green seat in Parliament. I knew on election night that, as happy as I was, as over-joyed as were the hundreds of volunteers and supporters celebrating at our Saanich-Gulf Islands victory party, that the election was a disaster. I was devastated by the news of a Conservative majority, a “false majority,” a majority of seats with only 39% of the vote. Such a result was only possible due to our archaic “winner take all” voting system. And I knew, because I have known Stephen Harper for years, that our country was in for a beating. I knew our environmental laws would be targets, that climate policy would remain hostage to oil sands interests, and that our very nature and national character would be sorely tested.
What I have experienced since May 2011 has only confirmed my resolve that we have to break out of the hyper-partisanship which is now accepted as “normal.” We have to replace “first past the post” with a voting system that ensures that every vote counts. And we must find a way to reject the toxic politics that allow back-room strategists to set a course for power.
What I see daily as an MP is routine contempt for all our parliamentary institutions. Bills are forced through with time allocations, breaking all historical records for shutting down debate. In the forty year period from 1917-1957, I found 7 examples of time allocation. In the last two years, it has happened 50 times. The abuse of process in massive omnibus bills, also forced through with limited debate, without a single amendment being allowed, is also contempt of the legislative process itself. When I had worked in the Office of the Minister of Environment in the 1980s, all the bills that went through the House were amended. Some of the government bills, such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act were substantially changed through helpful amendments proposed by opposition MPs.
No longer. Somehow Stephen Harper seems to think that even the slightest amendment to a government bill is a political defeat which he will not tolerate. What used to be largely non-partisan exercises – the review of bills, listening to expert witnesses and citizen groups, to consider improvements – has degenerated into a scripted exercise, an extension of the non-stop partisan warfare. It is offensive to every principle of democratic governance that the spring 2012 omnibus budget bill, C-38 – a monstrous assault on decades of environmental law – all 440 pages, attacking, gutting and repealing 70 other pieces of legislation was passed without a single change between First Reading and Royal Assent. Even drafting errors that were spotted were left intact – and had to be corrected by later government legislation.
Another feature of the current administration is Mr. Harper’s systematic assault on evidence based decision making. The suppression of evidence, the lack of proper background even for the fiscal information in support of budget decisions, is a contempt of Parliament. Our system rests on fundamental principles: government is only legitimate by consent of the governed. Parliament is supreme. And Parliament must control the public purse.
The system has been turned on its head. The Prime Minister, and his political staff, assembled in a fortress called the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), make all the decisions. It dictates to Conservative MPs what they say and how they vote. As was noted recently in an article by former Senator Lowell Murray (Sept 11, 2013, Globe and Mail), “Parliament is not even in the picture.” All decisions are made in the Prime Minister’s office where a completely non-transparent $10 million/year operation exists to enhance the power-base for the Conservatives. Other parties certainly offer a better future for Canada than the course set by Mr. Harper, but will they change the system? I see no sign of it. Mr. Mulcair keeps as tight a choke-hold on NDP MPs as Mr. Harper does on Conservatives. In fact, the NDP caucus voting record displays tighter caucus discipline (no stray MPs being allowed to vote their own conscience and views) than even the Conservative voting record. It is too early to know how tightly Justin Trudeau will control the Liberal caucus, but so far the indicators are not any better than the “discipline” enforced in other parties.
I see no way to change the system for the better without a strong Green presence in the House. In anticipation of the next election, we will seek cooperation. I have already been in touch with the other leaders to explain that we should find a way to cooperate in one election with the shared goal of eliminating First Past the Post so that our voting system can be made fair. In future elections, Canadians would not need to fear the notion of “splitting the vote.” Every citizen would have a more powerful reason to exercise their right to vote, because every vote would count. I wish I could report some progress in the effort to cooperate, but I will keep trying.
We will focus our efforts in the next election and attempt to win at least 12 seats to ensure we have full parliamentary caucus. That will allow us to demonstrate to Canadians and to the other parties that it is possible to have a federal party, promoting a shared vision, while respecting that our MPs first duty is to our constituents – not our party.
A full Green parliamentary caucus will be able to advance policies that deal with the climate crisis; to reduce the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest; protect our health care system; restore respect for independent government science; support the transition to a strong economy based on clean technology, renewable energy and the expanding green economy. We can set an example for accountability and transparency, as I have by placing all my expenses on line. We can raise the bar for civility and respect in public discourse. We can restore Canadians’ sense of trust in the very idea of an elected person who serves the best interests of our country and our planet, rather than narrowly advancing short-term partisan interests.
To accomplish this, we need your support. With your help, we can build a fund to take us into the next election campaign. Our preparedness and our financial strength will be important factors in convincing other party leaders that we are credible and viable as an electoral force and that, therefore, they should listen when we make the case for electoral cooperation. They should join us to find ways to move to proportional representation and end this country’s dysfunctional voting system once and for all.
Please, support the Green Party by making a contribution before year end. The tax treatment for political party donations is very generous. We will make good use of every penny we receive.
Elizabeth May, O.C. Member of Parliament, Saanich-Gulf Islands Leader, Green Party of Canada