Doing Politics Differently, To The Extreme

When I go on the radio or TV and do my pundit thing, there’s something I say a lot (maybe too much) in many different ways that I can’t seem to keep away from. It all comes back to this premise: things can change fast, and things can get crazy. I know that’s not always true, but it always seems like when you least expect it, bang, something like that happens.

This has been the case during COVID, and certainly was the case during the Trump years. Yet even despite all the crazy things we’ve seen over these past years and all the things that came to past we never had on our bingo cards, the hits keep coming. That’s the only way I can describe with what’s happening with the Greens and their leadership. I’ve had a fair bit to say on this and after the last time I wrote about it, things seemed to finally settle. The party announced that it wasn’t moving to strip leader Annamie Paul of her membership and the moves to remove her as leader were apparently abandoned.

The news didn’t totally add up, mostly because in her press conference after the news, Paul seemed to still be begging the party to re-instate $250,000 in funding for her campaign in Toronto Centre. That felt odd for a party that was supposedly reconciling, yet given how crazy this whole story has been, it was just as possible par for this Green course. Paul wouldn’t tell anyone how this had all been resolved, and the party wasn’t speaking, so it seemed that maybe they had gotten their stuff together. Well this afternoon that façade just came crashing down and again, I’m surprised and stunned at the details:

Well this news answers a hell of a lot of questions all at once, multiple birds killed at once with the weight of a stone made up of legal documents. First the news breaks that the Green Party has taken Ms. Paul to court, through a notification by the party to members (which is quite something). Then more details come out in the court action, pointing out that the party had gone to court “to overturn an arbitrators’ decision that said they could no longer immediately peruse a non-confidence motion against Leader Annamie Paul”. And oh yeah, if this all wasn’t crazy enough, Ms. Paul was quoted in the media just earlier today saying that “It’s certainly great that that has been put behind us for now”, which she followed up with by saying “What we didn’t have, and what we have now, is just more certainty … about my leadership.” In quick retrospect, those are some chef-kiss worthy bad quotes.

There are a few things about these newest revelations that blow my mind. Firstly, all is clearly not well Green-land and there clearly hasn’t been any reconciliation of any sort here. In fact, it looks like things are only getting worse if the party is actually taking their own leader to court to basically have the right to remove her by whatever means necessary. Insane folks, this is totally insane.

Secondly, I can’t help but continue to be struck by how poorly both the party side and Ms. Paul’s side keep managing this crisis. Last week Paul continued to refuse to be transparent with her members and the media, refused to answer the most basic questions and basically left all these clear signs that all was not right sitting out there for anyone to put together. And that’s not the first time this has happened in this whole situation. Remember when Ms. Paul basically tried to tell the media that the party had just dropped their actions against her, which only lead to the party president to come out to the media correcting her and demanding a retraction. Seriously, she did that almost as if she didn’t expect anyone to ever follow up with the other side or that somehow no one would ever rebut her on this.

And that’s exactly what she appears to have done here again. She wasn’t open, transparent and clear with everyone on what happened, when it’s clear that all of these details would have spilled into the open once a court case was initiated. So now not only do we know the whole truth about what happened, it comes from someone other than Ms. Paul. It also forces her members, the media and the public to question what else she isn’t being totally transparent about. If last week she had just said before the media “this issue went before an arbitrator and I cannot comment on the outcome”, that would have sufficed. Sure, it would have opened the questions about the arbitration, but we ended up there anyway, and we would have regardless.

Finally, and maybe most materially for the election that’s soon to come, this brings the Greens no closer to solving this crisis or actually resolving a thing. It’s actually worse, because now the party is spending their scarce resources in court fighting their own leader. Just imagine how much of their fundraised money is going towards legal and court fees just to slug this out even further. This is all plumbing new depths of insanity and just when we think we’ve finally hit bedrock, we find new paydirt to dig through.

There is no way this ends well for the Greens and I’m positive that all the other parties are just watching on with amazed glee as this once rising party tears itself apart at the seems in such a thorough way. We could very well be witnessing the ugly death of the Green Party of Canada. Some may think that I might be exaggerating a bit, when you consider that this appears to be the first time in Canadian political history that a party is taking their own leader to court, in a dispute about their right or ability to remove them, it doesn’t feel like that much of an exaggeration. Just another crazy example of what happens when “Doing Politics Different” goes horribly wrong, to the extreme.

Talking the Unofficial Start to #Elxn44 on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Alise Mills. We discussed what has become the unofficial start to the next Federal election, what this all might mean for a campaign to come, how Indigenous issues may affect the coming campaign, the lifting of COVID restrictions and the value in vaccine passports, the lack of leadership politically on the matter and a lot more. You can listen to it all below.

Doing Politics Differently, In the Worst Way

I love to write this blog, it’s something I enjoy and it’s something I’m so glad I was able to bring back into my life after a decade on the Hill. But there are sometimes when I just get the feeling inside that I don’t want to write about a certain topic again, yet it’s inescapable. As much as you don’t want to feel like you’re piling onto the situation, new events happen that are just so out there, so mind-blowing, that it forces you to the keyboard.

That’s the point where I’m at with the internal drama gripping the Green Party right now. I’ve had plenty to say about this saga so far, mostly because it’s been so out there and mind blowing. It’s been one ugly twist after another and all the while, it’s just become a bigger and bigger disaster. After last weeks latest piece, I thought that maybe this would settle for a bit. I mean, how much crazier could this all get? Well today Alex Ballingall of the Toronto Star managed to drop another mind-blowing bomb on #cdnpoli, and folks, I think this could be the moment that changes this story:

I had to read that story twice to believe what I was reading. According to Ballingall’s reporting, the Green Party’s Federal Council met last night and launched a review of leader Annamie Paul’s membership. Not her leadership, her very membership in the party. The move didn’t require a vote of any kind, and was able to be done with the simply stroke of a pen by the party’s executive director. All parties have measures to review or remove the membership of a member, but they are rarely used. I can’t think of a single example of such a member being used against someone who was a candidate or an elected person, let alone the leader of the bloody party. Yet here we are.

Of course, this creates all kinds of new questions as it effective throws Paul into some strange state of limbo. The Greens code of conduct says that “individuals are suspended while their memberships are under review, and that during that time they cannot “represent the party in any capacity.”” So she is still leader, but can’t represent the party “in any capacity”? Seriously? That’s effing insane. I mean totally, self-immolating insane.

But for me this turn of events has the potential to change this story because of the route they have taken here and why they might have. It was just yesterday that it was reported that the Green Federal Council had a motion before it to pull $250,000 of funding to support Ms. Paul’s campaign in Toronto Centre, which was followed by further reporting that one-time Green Leader Jim Harris had previously written to the Federal Council suggesting this, and pushing Paul out as leader. Those actions, in isolation, looked terrible. But when you add them to such an apparently aggressive move to toss Paul from the party itself, it looks that much worse.

From the start of this situation, my view has been that both sides had made mistakes here and that both sides had things to apologize and answer for. No one had clean hands in this clusterfuck. Yet even as we saw weeks of back and forth on this from both sides, this piece of news ratchets things up a few more levels and in my opinion, tilts the scales of blame here. Why is that?

Well folks, it’s all about the rules and trying to work the system. If Ms. Paul faced a leadership review, as the motion passed about her a couple weeks ago suggested would happen if she didn’t take certain steps, it was going to take a 75% vote from the Federal Council as leader. That is a very high bar and with all the resignations from that council, it appeared that those who wanted to toss Paul wouldn’t likely meet that level.

But as Ballingall points out today, the Greens code of conduct says that “any Green member can be expelled from the party by a simple majority vote of the federal council after their membership is reviewed.” See, going this way would lower the bar, making it easier for them to try to toss Paul, while essentially admitting that they couldn’t get the support together to meet that much higher threshold.

Why else take such a drastic step if you could meet the 75%? Heck, given that the vote on for 75% would become on July 20th, if you had the votes, it would end this sage sooner. But by taking this route, the party member has 30 days to mount a defense. That timing put any “resolution” of this review into mid-August, right when many are expecting the election to start. That basically means you’re giving up on trying to win anything in the next election, which could spell the death of the Green Party of Canada.

Where this move changes things for me the most though is the adherence to basic fairness and natural justice. You could have argued that Paul’s leadership to this point merited a leadership review and facing potential removal, the case was there to be made and it wasn’t an inconsequential case. There was a lot of meat on those bones, and it could have stood up. If Ms. Paul lost her leadership through a process that was designed and intended for such matters, that would have met the test of fairness. Would it have been politically smart? That’s out for debate, but you could argue that it was above board and stuck to process.

But taking this step, trying to use a provision to remove members that was clearly never intended to be used to remove a leader, spits in the face of fairness and natural justice. And that irks me, badly. This group is basically admitting they can’t win the day with proper process, so they have to do this another way. I’ve never voted Green and never will, but I believe that in matters as important as this, process matters, and proper process needs to be followed. When people look for shortcuts to try to undertake such a weighty matter as removing a leader, that’s an abuse of process, period. There are many things you can accuse accurately accuse Ms. Paul of when it comes to her leadership style, but such B.S. abuse of process clearly isn’t one of them. She has made lots of mistakes, but what she hasn’t done is try to use cheap loophole tricks to try to do what she could never accomplish by following the rules.

The fact that this group seems to be going so far and abusing process in such cheap ways doesn’t speak to Paul’s leadership faults. Those failures may merit removal as leader, but they don’t merit removing her by any underhanded means necessary. Taking this approach speaks poorly of those who have decided to take the Greens down this dark, ugly path, and that’s for them alone to answer for. This all reeks to high heaven and it’s increasingly clear that this party won’t be pulling it together before this campaign, if ever again. But the one thing that’s getting clearer to me is that while Ms. Paul may not be the best leader ever of a political party, she’s clearly better than this group of Greens are showing themselves to deserve. These ends do not justify whatever means are being looked at here and if this is how you treat those who are elected to lead your party, you deserve what comes when good people won’t come forward. I know the Greens like to talk about “doing politics differently”, but this isn’t the kind of different that makes them look good at all. What a bloody, awful mess.

Talking Canada’s COVID Vaccine Donations with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Lindsay Maskell & Kate Harrison for “Political Heat” panel. We talked about Canada’s donation of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries, the message that might have been sent while doing so, whether provincial governments should be considering vaccine passports, the red herrings being thrown around by those who are opposed to them, the Branson/Bezos “space race” and how that story feels so disconnected from everything going on. You can listen below starting at the 17:00 minute mark.

A Disturbing Following in Manitoba

We are living in crazy days folks. I’ve seen a lot in my career in politics, but it seems that this year things keep happening that manage to catch me off guard. Sadly in 2021 we’ve seen too many thinks that we never thought we’d see in our part of the World, yet they’ve happened. The mixture of anti-vax, anti-public health, COVID conspiracies and the far right has brought us some toxic, disturbing scenes to be sure.

But today one of those stories went somewhere especially disturbing. Back in May I wrote about a small group of churches in Manitoba going to court selfishly trying to quash the provinces public health orders. That case was back in court today and the day started with a stunning announcement from the judge overseeing the case that added another layer of disturbing to this situation:

CJ Joyal’s Comments Mad… by ElishaDacey

Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal made the detailed statement above to the gathered proceeding the recent events that lead up to today. He was followed by a private investigator supposedly attempting to catch him breaking COVID-19 rules. This was apparently an attempt to embarrass the justice while he is presiding over this case on those very same measures. According to the reporting on the matter, the private investigator even followed him to his home, and had a young boy ring his doorbell while he wasn’t home in an attempt to confirm where he lives. Joyal disclosed this, saying that it would be “unthinkable” to not share it with the court because of its potential implications in the administration of justice.

Needless to say, this is chilling and disturbing on a few levels. Firstly, this appeared to be an attempt to either embarrass the justice or worse. Why hire someone to follow around a judge if it wasn’t to somehow have an impact on the outcome of the case? And who would have interest in hiring a PI to undertake this kind of surveillance of a judge? Well the answer came clear pretty quickly, and it was as obvious as it was disturbing:

Yep, it turns out that it was John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, who admitted that his organization hired the PI. But it turns out that Justice Joyal wasn’t alone in being surveilled, as Carpay admitted to Global News that “his group has organized private investigation surveillance on a number of public officials across the country.” In a statement made to Global, Carpay is quoted as stating “I accept full responsibility and sole responsibility for my decision to to retain private investigation firms, for observation of public officials… And the my error in judgement in in this case is that it was it was poor judgement. It was a bad decision to have done this observation during a court case. That was an error in judgement.”

Error in judgment doesn’t come close to covering what happened here. Remember it was Carpay and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms that launched this court challenge to begin with, so this wasn’t some innocent “whoopsie” on their part. This was clearly some part of their plan for the case because why else would you do it? Why would you spend the money and resources on hiring a PI here if it wasn’t to be a part of your case?

Of course, the other potential explanations are much less charitable and probably more legally troubling. The fact that Justice Joyal had to state that this turn of events won’t affect his ruling tells you a lot, as one could easily jump to the conclusion that this could have been intended to affect this ruling. Also, given the environment that we are living in these days, it’s impossible not to think about how these same kinds of activities are used in far less democratic nations or in dictatorships to try to either intimidate or even assassinate public figures like judges. I’m not suggesting that’s what these folks were up to, but when you look at it through that lens, it’s easy to see why the Winnipeg police and the Government of Manitoba’s Internal Security and Intelligence Unit are investigating this.

What makes this even worse though is that it appears by Carpay’s own statements that this isn’t a one off. Note in his statement above, he mentions the “observation of public officials”, plural. So who else are these guys surveilling and potentially trying to intimidate? Before this morning I wouldn’t have asked that question but given this revelation, it makes complete sense to ask now. I hope that the appropriate officials are also investigating that as well because those are tactics used by authoritarians when they don’t have lots of legal options at their disposal. It’s disturbing to say the least, and raises a lot more serious questions going forward.

We’ll see how the fallout from this case goes but it’s getting clearer that many of these groups pushing anti-public health measures are going beyond conventional protesting. Tactics like these are not acceptable in a democratic society and the irony is not lost on me that those who falsely claim they are victims of government tyranny appear themselves to be using the tactics of tyrannies elsewhere. You’d think that they’d get that, but heck, we could have said the same about so many other things along the way during this pandemic.

The Green Implosion

This site has been relatively quiet over the past week or so as I’m back home trying to take some slower time with my family while working at a distance. As a result, I haven’t written as much as I’ve been recharging my batteries after a year that has been harder than most of us have experienced in a long time. Lots of people are doing that this summer and with an increasingly likely election on the horizon, so are many others.

That would normally make for a quieter time around #cdnpoli, yet somehow, someway another story that I was talking about a couple of times has managed to pick up more steam when it would be so easy for it to be forgotten; the saga of the Green Party. Two strange developments took place in the past week that left me just shaking my head and resurrected our attention to the happenings there. The first came over a week ago, with these two media stories:

The Globe and Mail reported that Green Leader Annamie Paul said that the Green Federal council told her that “she no longer has to follow through on an order of her party’s federal council that directed her to repudiate a former advisor who criticized members of caucus.” She followed that up by stating that “I really believe that our members, and also most of our councillors, too, want us to just move on as quickly as possible, try to recover as quickly as possible. So that’s what I am going to do.” It all felt very odd, especially given the source with no follow-up from the Federal council itself.

Yet, as if almost on time, the next story came just a few hours later Liana Cusmano, interim president of the party’s federal council, came out in a media interview with the Canadian Press and said that wasn’t the fact at all. She even went so far as to ask Paul “to retract comments to media that suggested she no longer has to go through with the disavowal.” This whole exchange was bizarre, even by the standards of this particular saga. It also struck me as very amateurish, as if somehow the plan for Ms. Paul was to say this and that no one would call her out on it. Otherwise it doesn’t seem to make any sense why you would trigger this, as it just revived the story and brought more attention to the Greens troubles. But that attention didn’t end there, as over the past couple of days this story just got wilder:

These two interconnected stories just blew my mind on a couple of levels. Firstly, how in the sweet Hell does a party leader get “muted” by party staff? Seriously. I know that the Greens like to say that they “do politics differently”, but that isn’t different, it’s just downright rude and crappy behaviour. Then you add to the story the fact that this was all around laying off half of the party’s staff, just as an election is coming around the corner. Just as all parties are ramping up and hiring as they get ready for the campaign to come, they are slashing their staff and clearly undercutting the leader’s ability to fight that next campaign.

But the details to these cuts also speak to the situation, as some of the staff let go are staff directly staffing Paul herself, essentially cutting her legs right out from under her. Again, this is insane and unprecedented, that a party would basically kneecap their own leader like this, right before an election no less. It looks even crazier when you consider the rationale; lack of funds. As some of the media reporting notes, Elections Canada filings show the party raised $3.4 million in 2020 and so far in 2021, the party has raised $677,539 in the quarter, about $100,000 more than it raised during the same period last year. Yes, they aren’t the richest party on the block, but they at least seem to be no worse off than before.

Other stories quoting Ms. Cusmano pointed to dwindling membership figures, along with funding, as problems brought about by Paul’s leadership and playing into a defense of cuts like this. But as anyone who has been involved in a leadership campaign knows, it’s quite typical for membership numbers in a party to fall in the year after a leadership. That’s because many people sign up to support a specific candidate and when that candidate doesn’t win, they go away. All parties go through that and it’s an ongoing challenge for parties to try to convert those new leadership campaign members into permanent ones. And who does most of that work? The kind of party staff that just got laid off.

So what does this all mean? A bloody mess, that’s what. As I mentioned the last time that I wrote about this saga, “I can see truth in both sides that are being presented”. These recent events drive that impression home, that both sides in this dispute have things that they need to answer for, and the answers that have come so far are quite lacking. And like most civil wars that take place, the further you get into the dispute, the harder it becomes to get back to the start and reconcile.

Taking actions like literally trying to hamper your leader’s ability to win a campaign or be prepared to fight it shows just how far down the rabbit hole of this dispute that they have gotten. As of right now, there’s no way the Greens are ready to fight the next election and these developments from the past week just show that they are more focused inwardly than on the election to come. Heck, right now things are so bad for the Greens that Max Bernier’s PPC has almost twice as many candidates nominated than the Green team does. And when you look at what’s happening here, that doesn’t seem likely to reverse itself anytime soon. At this point you have to openly wonder who will end up leading the Greens into that election and if they will manage to even come close to having a full slate of Candidates. They are about 300 candidates short of that target now, with at best 2 months to go.

All told, this has gotten uglier and faster than I ever expected. I can’t remember a situation like this rising to this level before in Canada, to the point where good staffers have lost their jobs as a ploy, merely casualties of a party civil war. Things are probably too far gone now for the Greens to pull out of this before a Fall election, so the question now becomes if they even make it out of that campaign in one piece. This story is becoming less about the future of the Green Party and more about what it might mean in many ridings across the country if there is no Green candidate to take 5-7% of the vote. In a campaign where a potential majority government sits on a knifes edge, that could make the difference in enough places to have a bigger impact than whatever the future of the Green party might be. We’ll see where this all goes going forward but this story doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon, regardless of what comes of Ms. Paul after the July 20th vote on her leadership.

Talking the Potential Fall Federal Election with Rob Snow

On Wednesday I joined Rob Snow on CityNews Ottawa radio’s “The Rob Snow Show” along with Jason Lietaer for the “Political Fix” panel. We talked the current state of the horse race in Federal politics, the polling struggles of Erin O’Toole’s and the Conservatives, what it could mean for the campaign to come, the stepping down of Minister Catherine McKenna, what it means for the Trudeau government and what it might mean for the city of Ottawa itself. You can listen to the audio by clicking below and starting at the 27:00 minute mark.

Talking About a Different Canada Day on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Lisa Kirbie. We discussed this years Canada Day, how it felt different from past years, does this mark a moment for hope for positive change, the burning of some Catholic churches and how society feels about that and speculation about the expected Fall election. You can listen to it all below.

Talking Teaching Residential Schools in Ontario with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Lindsay Maskell & Kate Harrison for “Political Heat” panel. We talked about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s comments on the need for the teaching of Residential Schools, how his past actions hurt that very thing, the discussion about what to do with Canada Day celebrations this year, how this year feels very different, and Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s decision to step away from politics. You can listen below starting at the 19:00 minute mark.

Talking Infrastructure Minister Not Running in #Elxn44 on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Alise Mills. We discussed the sudden decision of Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna to not run in the next election, what it might mean for the Liberal Party, why McKenna’s decision was understandable, Minister Carolyn Bennett’s texts at Jody Wilson-Raybould, why they were so bad, why the Prime Ministers reaction hasn’t been good enough, Conservative Erin O’Toole leaning into ethics attacks on the Liberals and why that approach might backfire on them. You can listen to it all below.