Monday, September 14, 2015

Be Mercenary, Green Party, but Be Upfront about It - Not Total Hypocrites / With Green Candidate Jo-Ann Roberts Response

Green Party leader Elizabeth May 
Power over principle on display as party aims to beat NDP's very environmental Murray Rankin rather than crush a Tory elsewhere.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday September 8, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"I hope that we will be able to set aside partisanship for the good of the country."               

               - Green Party leader Elizabeth May, October 2013

The Green party likes to say it is different from other parties -- more principled, more positive and more policy-oriented -- and it promised to work with other parties to beat the Stephen Harper Conservatives.

But the Green party in action in British Columbia has shown itself to be "more" in a big way: more partisan, more mercenary and more hypocritical in political maneuvering -- to defeat opposition Members of Parliament instead of Conservatives.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in Victoria, where New Democrat MP Murray Rankin's riding has become the Green party's number one target in Canada.

Most observers would find that a bizarre choice of priorities, since Rankin is an internationally recognized environmental lawyer with a track record of achievements.

But for the Greens, it's apparently become power over principle -- because they are determined to remove Rankin rather than crush a Conservative elsewhere.

"There are going to be ridings like Victoria, where we are in a position to win, that we will be going after... with everything we got," Green party president Dave Bagler said in April.

"Obviously we're going to be putting more dollars into areas where we know that we have a significant shot," Bagler added, making it clear Rankin is public enemy number one electorally.

Once upon a time -- actually it was just in October 2013 -- Green leader Elizabeth May claimed: "Greens favour a cooperative strategy in the next federal election."

But that was then and this is now -- the Greens are going all in to defeat New Democrats like Rankin and incumbent Liberals as well.

Green credentials ignored

Who cares that Rankin was an early board member of the Wilderness Committee, former president of West Coast Environmental Law, former chair of the Land Conservancy of BC, started teaching environmental law in 1977 at the University of Victoria, and has acted for several First Nations as legal counsel on environmental issues over decades?

Who cares that Rankin's environmental credentials might even exceed those of May, whoworked for the environment minister under Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney at one point?

Not May or Victoria Green candidate Jo-Ann Roberts, a former CBC Radio host who said she was quitting her job to fight cuts to the Crown corporation but later announced she was running for the Greens.

And not the Green party, whose communications director Julian Morelli said on Monday that candidate Roberts is "not to take away from Murray Rankin -- it's to give voters a choice. There's no malicious intent -- you have to earn your vote."

Roberts is a "high quality candidate who knows the issues," he said. "I don't think this gives the Conservatives a chance [in Victoria]."

There are potentially some ridings where the Greens might work out an arrangement, Morelli said. "In this case, it's not about going after someone; it's giving a choice to voters. I'm not taking away from Murray Rankin.

"There are differences between parties. One other significant difference between the parties -- there are no whipped votes in the Green party," he said.

Morelli added he was not referring to any votes taken by Rankin in Parliament.

Roberts has admitted that she personally "likes and respects" Rankin and that she also considered running for the Liberals. But what's the bottom line on taking out a leading environmentalist MP?

"Murray's running as a New Democrat, and I wish he was running as a Green," Roberts toldThe Tyee earlier this year.

And that's okay because I actually admire hardball, take-no-prisoners politics -- when everyone is clear that's the game being played.

The Greens have every right to run candidates, every right to defeat NDP and Liberal candidates as a priority over Conservatives because it's easier, and every right to do anything to win.

But the Green party has no right to continue its sanctimonious self-serving talk about "setting aside partisanship for the good of the country" when it is slitting the throat of MPs from other parties who share many of their values and a deep desire to defeat the Harper Conservatives.

Be Green mercenaries -- just don't be total hypocrites about it. 

* * * * * 

Bill Tieleman note: Green Party Victoria candidate Jo-Ann Roberts contacted me when this was published last week in 24 Hours Vancouver and The Tyee and I am please to include her full, unedited response to my column here: 

RE: Be Mercenary, Greens, but be upfront about it, 

Submitted by Jo-Ann Roberts, September 9, 2015

Jo-Ann Roberts

If there is one thing I have learned in my 37 years as a journalist, it is that one’s point of view is often a direct result of personal investment in an issue. Now that I’m a political candidate, this is more obvious than ever.

Still, I was taken aback by the recent opinion piece by former NDP strategist Bill Tieleman, which dramatically condemns the Green Party as “more partisan, more mercenary and more hypocritical” than other parties. 

He accuses my party, my campaign, and by extension, myself, of putting power over principle, claiming “they are determined to remove [Murray] Rankin rather than crush a Conservative elsewhere.” Tieleman’s connection to the NDP colours his analysis in a distinctly orange light.

I am running to give voters in Victoria a choice of a party that may align more closely with their values and their hope for Canada. In a healthy democracy, giving voters a choice between two or more quality candidates is a good thing.

The argument that a party should abstain from running a candidate in a riding that features a strong incumbent candidate borders on suppression of democracy. If we applied this rule equally across the country, the NDP would not run Alicia Cormier against Elizabeth May, or former CBC journalist Anne Lagace Dowson against Justin Trudeau. But our democracy would be nothing more than a shell if we did that.

Democracy means people have a choice of parties and candidates on their ballots, and it sounds like Anne Lagace Dowson agrees with me. When asked why she would run against Trudeau, she replied, “I think people want something different… I think that this riding is eminently winnable.” For Tieleman, it seems the same doesn’t apply when a Green runs in a riding with an NDP incumbent.

In the 2012 Victoria by-election, 34.3% of electors voted for the Green Party, just 2.9% fewer than those who voted for the NDP. We are strong contenders here and it makes sense that we would work to elect a new MP in this riding. 

We are a political party after all, so by definition, partisan. But it is hyper-partisanship that is discouraging voters and hurting our democracy. Greens fighting to have our views represented in the House of Commons, where we see the lack of those critical views at a critical time in our history, is what democracy is all about. Running strong candidates in ridings where the party can succeed is entirely logical.

We are trying to give voters something to vote for, rather than scaring them into thinking they can’t vote for what they believe in. We are working to elevate this election above fear-mongering, and to expand the national discussion beyond “Stop Harper.” 

We are urging politicians and pundits alike to address major issues facing Canadians, such as climate change, healthcare, poverty, post-secondary education and the very integrity of our democracy. We are trying to engage Canadians that have given up on voting. That is why we are running candidates in all 338 ridings across Canada.

When Donald Galloway ran as the Green Party candidate in 2012, no one questioned his right to run against Rankin. Many voters wanted Galloway as their Green representative – only 2.9% less than those who voted for Rankin. 

I will give those voters a strong Green candidate to vote for in this election, as well. To do otherwise is to allow the slim margin of victory in 2012 to allow for an uncontested second term in office.

Rankin is well known for his work in environmental law, but he and his party are not without their shortcomings. He has served as National Revenue Critic and Health Critic, but has had no portfolio with the environment, despite his environmental expertise. 

While he certainly has strong environmental credentials, his impact is limited when his votes and talking points are determined and enforced by his party. He has not been able to persuade his party to oppose the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, expansion of the oil sands or fracking. These environmental issues are critically important to Victoria voters, and their local MP should be able to represent them.

Good government is only as good as its opposition. Should a governing Tom Mulcair decide that the economy is at odds with the need for deep reductions in carbon emissions, as a member of a party with strict top-down control, an NDP MP won’t be free to disagree with his leader and represent his constituents’ environmental priorities. 

I believe Victoria voters want an MP who can and will fight for immediate climate action, and who will work hard to ensure there is no increase in supertankers, pipelines and fracking in BC.

With an extended campaign, voters have even more time to consider our individual merits. Rankin will put forward his record as an MP, his credentials and the clients he has served as a lawyer; I will present my qualifications, my experience as a journalist, small business owner, labour leader and respected voice for this community. I have analyzed and raised important issues in this community and our country for decades as a journalist, and will continue to do that in Parliament.

While Rankin and I appear to be the frontrunners at the moment, I hope voters will give the other candidates their due consideration, as well. Then, they will make a choice. That is the very essence of democracy.

For those concerned that electing a Green will spoil the NDP’s chance of forming government, it is important to remember that in the end, it is not the number of seats one party has which will allow it to form government. Rather, it is the number of votes they have in the House of Commons on confidence motions.

Green MPs are willing to support a minority NDP or Liberal government to replace Harper’s Conservative government. A similar arrangement was successful in the 1960s in the minority governments led by Lester B. Pearson. This government worked with other parties to achieve medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, the no-interest student loan program and our flag.

Greens will work toward less hyper-partisanship in Parliament, and collaborate across party lines to introduce and pass legislation that serves the common good of all Canadians. 

And we will bring Green priorities to Ottawa on behalf of the millions of Canadians who share that vision. That’s a critical step forward for democracy in Canada. 

But in order for any of this to happen, we need Green MPs in Ottawa.



ianmcleodvan said...

Remember the greens supported sending in Canadian troops into Iraq in 2003. Thankfully the Chrétien government said no. But the greens wanted to bomb Iraq and support Bush. Basically they are not a progressive party.

siemprepatty said...

I live in Victoria and am glad to have a good (well, they are all good!) Green candidate running here. Why should we not have an alternative to Murray Rankin to vote for? Why should we not have an alternative to the whipped party system to vote for (one of my main reasons for voting Green)? In that JoAnn Roberts lives locally, should she try for a seat in Richmond instead? Surely in a democracy (which Harper has not quite succeeded in taking away yet), we should have a good choice of candidates to choose from, no?

Don't be afraid, dear NDP supporters and voters. This is democracy at work. May the best person win.

Unknown said...

Green candidate Jo-Ann Roberts totally misses the point, we have an NDP incumbent here already, and why would the Greens want to jeopardise a Harper return to power is beyond me. With the NDP promise to bring in a proportional representation system that would allow a greater Green voice in Ottawa a Green MLA means nothing at this point. I too want to see environmental issues at the forefront of any campaign but at this highly important juncture in Canadian governance, we must act pragmatically to ensure that Harper is gone.

MT Lewis said...

I think your commentary Bill 'ranks' of partisanship that is beyond the pale. I understand your points. Indeed, I agree with aspects of your intent. But please....spare us the self-righteousness. I am not a Green but I definitely believe that a Green presence in Parliament is for the better and will push the NDP, if they are successful in putting more members into play, in a way that could be more powerful, democratically speaking, that a single NDP member. Having said that, I get the risks of splitting the vote and that worries me. MTLewis

scotty on denmanc said...

There are Green dreams, but Greens are regularly mistaking the aspired for the acquired. It's one thing to aspire to 30 seats in the next parliament (it's to dream, remember), and another to have them---or have a hope in hell of winning them.

The presumptuousness is fair enough in one sense: the Greens could very well end up with the balance of power in a hung parliament, which would require at least one seat. That's more plausible than 30 seats, but it's still speculative---May losing her seat is, after all, a possibility.

May has often applied the term "cooperation" to the pro-rep-elected parliament she aspires to where, pro-reppers claim, cooperation and compromise will abound. Indeed, she almost seems to believe we already have pro-rep the way she talks. No doubt pro-rep would be a boon to the Greens, maybe even critically vital (one has to wonder how long they can sustain their perennial, fringe popularity), but, given that a reelected Con government wouldn't likely implement pro-rep like the bigger opposition parties have both committed to (at to least consider it, in the Liberals' case), it seems odd May would risk splitting the vote in the Cons' favour by behaving as if she already has pro-rep, more seats, and cabinet posts already in her pocket.

DPL said...

The lady's phone system phoned us last week looking for our vote. I suggested that she was a media person but our MP was an environmentalist with solid creds.He and the NDP can get a majority, the Green's might pick up a seat, somewhere. Wow, it takes more than two seats to be recognized as a party. Rankin is a local here in Victoria and very well known for his good work so how can anyone consider the TV person as a viable candidate, along with the ex weather person from the CBC, both affected by the shedding of employees.We intend to see our MP returned to Ottawa

Unknown said...

While I agree with the overall thrust of your article, I have to say that Murray Rankin's environmental credentials, while certainly impressive, aren't quite as dazzling as you claim. This is politics, after all, where grey is more common than green. I'm thinking of his having appeared as an expert witness for the investor before a NAFTA tribunal in the Bilcon case. Bilcon, with Mr Rankin's assistance, succeeded in its claim against Canada for having followed the advice of an independent environmental review panel.Bilcon wanted to build a rock quarry, together with a processing and ship loading facility, on the shores of Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy for export to New Jersey. The environmental review panel rejected their proposal. Bilcon appealed and Murray Rankin appeared as an expert witness for the US corporation. David Schneiderman wrote up the case in the June 12 Globe and Mail; you can find the details there.

Daves Markets said...

Bill, Thanks for this article. Sometimes the 'no holds barred' approach is best. I quite appreciate that you made sure Joanne had a chance to offer her approach on the same post.

This is what our election should be about...... direct and yet civil discourse, equal time...

I like it.

Thanks, Bill

Cocoabean said...

If there were indeed significant differences between any of the parties you may have a point.

Which party advocates smaller government, cuts to spending and taxing? Which advocates the right to own a gun? Which opposes NATO involvement? Which will abolish the minimum wage? Which will downsize the military? Which will allow private medical insurance? Which will abolish agricultural subsidies? And which will rein in the Bank of Canada?

It makes not the slightest difference which colour wins the election.

Heather and Dan said...

If I were a party hack, I'd be ticked about the competition running strong candidates against mine. But I am a voter and I'm delighted to choose between excellent candidates. I don't know much about the Liberal in this riding but Rankin, Roberts and (Conservative) John Rizutti are all great people.

Half my friends are in ridings where they don't want to vote for any of the candidates. Me, I'm spoiled for choice. It's a nice problem to have.

cocoabean said...

The whole question is probably moot. According to today, the Tories have only between 11 & 13% support in Victoria.

Unknown said...

Please read this to get the NDP view..

Dix to Clark: Time to Break Pipeline Silence
No evidence submitted to Gateway hearings, no public stand. Who will speak for BC?
By Adrian Dix, 6 Jul 2012,

Unknown said...

Read with interest the column and Ms. Roberts response. The point she either missed or decided to ignore is the hypocrisy of the Green Party. I agree that the Green Party has every right to run candidates wherever they want. The problem is when they climb on their sanctimonious high horse to suggest they are somehow different from other political parties and should be viewed as such. They are not. The Green Party is partisan, self-interested and makes their decisions based largely on the hope they will garner a few more votes or achieve some political advantage over the other parties. This is generally true for Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP as well and it is certainly true for the Greens. The contradiction I believe Mr. Tieleman points out is the inability of Ms. May, her candidates or operatives to simply be honest about that.

Anonymous said...

You're forgetting one basic thing here Bill. In a democracy, Canadian citizens do have the right to run as a candidate if they so wish. If the Green candidate runs and competes with the NDP one, so what? It just means the NDP candidate has to work a bit more to earn the vote.