If I were the next Green Party of Canada Leader, Part 1

The straw poll the Green Party of Canada sent to members regarding the leadership contest rules has me thinking about what the next leader needs to do to get the party back on track. So I’ve been pondering what steps the next leader should take to get the party back to where it was in late October 2019.

Some ideas will be what I would do if I were the next GPC leader. Some ideas will be what I would do if I ran in the leadership contest. I’d love to hear your comments, what you think the next GPC leader needs to do, and what leadership contests need to do to earn your support.

So let’s jump right in.

Lost Years

I’m not going to mince words. 2019 was and remains the high water mark for GPC electoral success. The revisionist history since 2019 painting that election as a failure was nothing short of gaslighting and has cost the GPC at least one election cycle, at least one leader, and the engagement of numerous experienced staff and campaigners. The cost of the campaign to reframe 2019 as a failure continues to be astronomical. The GPC has lost voters, members, volunteers and donors, and the Party operations have atrophied to a dangerous degree. The GPC is not in a good place and hasn’t been since the end of the 2019 election.

The first step of what I'll be proposing is getting the GPC back to where it was in late October 2019.

Apologies

So what would I do first if I were the next GPC leader? Easy, I’d apologize.

Candidates

I would thank the 2021 candidates for carrying the GPC banner during a period of chaos in the party. I would make a particular point of thanking each candidate from 2021 who also ran in 2019. Unfortunately, many of these candidates lost much of the political capital and local infrastructure they built before 2019 (in some cases, long before) in the 2021 election.

I would apologize to the 2019 candidates. They delivered more votes, seats, >10% results and second-place finishes than ever. But unfortunately, internal efforts from a small group of Greens destabilized the party. Instead of building on collective success, the GPC tore itself apart and could not execute a competent 2021 campaign.

The 2019 candidates did what the GPC asked them to do, and they earned the support of more than a million Canadians. Their effort and achievement deserve to be recognized and valued.

Volunteers, Donors and Members

I would apologize to the GPC's volunteers, donors and members. The infighting has hurt morale and turned people off engaging with the party. I can’t imagine the frustration of a GPC donor looking at the party's financial mismanagement, the Fund's overreaches, the layoffs, and the legal fees. I would be honest with these three overlapping groups. I would acknowledge that the party has damaged their trust. I would solicit ways to rebuild that trust from them and commit to doing better.

Staff

I would apologize to the current and former employees of the GPC. The GPC has not been a good employer since the 2019 election. If I heard that some corporation was treating their employees like Federal Council and the Fund treated GPC staff, I would be outraged. The party treated staff like scapegoats. If I were the next GPC leader, that would need to stop.

I would commit to educating members about what the staff does and has done. I would also make members aware of some critical details about staffing since 2019 so that those members have a greater understanding of how bad things got. This reporting would include explaining the following things while keeping personal information private:

  • how many staff have we lost since the 2019 election
  • how many collective years of experience we have lost
  • how much money the party has paid in severance and settlements to former staff members
  • how much money the party has spent on legal fees concerning staffing and the union
  • how many GPC staff members did provincial Green Parties hire

I would also reach out to former and current staff members and ask them to share feedback on what they would need to see to consider the GPC to no longer be a toxic employer.

Provincial Parties

The embarrassing chaos of the GPC has hurt the provincial Green Parties. Canada's provincial Green Parties have not been able to grow at the rate they would have had the GPC not been sucking all the air out of the room with frequent negative stories and bitter infighting.

The provincial Green Parties deserve an apology and a seat at the table in developing policies and procedures so that a GPC downturn does not hit them as heavily ever again.

Canadian Voters

Lastly, publicly, and perhaps most importantly, I would apologize to Canadian voters. The GPC occupies not only seats in the House of Commons but also valuable space on Canada's political spectrum.

I take extra care to thank those 2019 voters who stuck with us in 2021 and promise all 2019 Green voters that the GPC will do better and will re-earn their trust and hopefully their support.

It goes beyond just former GPC voters. Any Canadian voter paying attention to the GPC over since the 2019 election has seen a party approaching the significant issues of Canada in an unserious haphazard way while engaging in embarrassing public airings of dirty laundry. All Canadian voters need to hear from the next GPC leader that the party is recommitting to electoral politics and will be a serious option in the next election.

The GPC lost much of what it had built over 20 years in two years. Ignoring that actuality is at best aloof and at worst delusional. Canadians watched us fall publicly, and we need to commit to getting back up just as publicly.

Why Apologize and Why Lead With It?

I would apologize because it’s the right thing to do and because it is necessary for the party to heal its wounds. We can’t come together without some recognition of the harm done. For some Greens, these last few years have been nothing short of traumatic. The GPC owes the groups of people above apologies. I feel terrible about how the GPC has treated them, their trust, energy and engagement since the 2019 election. That is why I would apologize.

I would lead with the apologies because the sooner the leadership of the GPC apologizes, the sooner the healing and rebuilding can begin. So the next leader of the GPC should make the apologies I’ve listed above and use those apologies as the first bricks in a new foundation of trust.

What’s Next?

Part two, about campaign priorities, is online.