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Liberal Rejects Good Enough For Greens?

By Stuart Hertzog
August 30th, 2008

Canada’s first Green MP was ejected from the Liberal Party caucus

Blair Wilson, MPVICTORIA, BC — It’s being billed as an historical moment, but I can’t help feeling filled with abject despair at the fact that the honour of becoming Canada’s first Green MP has fallen — metaphorically and literally — to Blair Wilson, a former Liberal party MP who was ejected from caucus and barred from renomination following allegations of election financing misconduct published in BC’s The Province newspaper.

Why don’t I see this as good news? Because in accepting Blair Wilson into its ranks, Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May has shown that she’s prepared to throw out fundamental Green political principles just so she can be included in the nationally-televised leadership debate. Put simply, that sucks.

Former BC Liberal caucus chair and Vancouver 2010 Olympics critic

Although an eight-month Elections Canada investigation cleared him of any serious wrongdoing, Wilson admitted that he had made mistakes in not declaring $9,000 for campaign materials and 144 printed umbrellas that were not included as campaign expenses. His brochures had to be destroyed anyway because they carried the Olympic rings, an Olympic copyright infringement.

The former chair of the BC Caucus of the federal Liberal Party and Liberal critic for Sport and Vancouver Olympics, Wilson was first elected as the MP for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast in 2006, when he defeated his Conservative opponent, lawyer John Weston by 976 votes. Wilson polled 37.5% (23,867 votes) in that campaign, compared to only 6.2% (3,996 votes) captured by then Green Party provincial council member Silvaine Zimmermann.

In a compliance agreement with Elections Canada, Wilson acknowledged that he had also failed to appoint an official agent and an auditor before accepting contributions or incurring campaign expenses. Wilson claims that he has shared “deep and detailed” financial information with Green Party leader Elizabeth May to satisfy her that he has been cleared of any misconduct. Was it proof enough?

Apparently, it satisfied Elizabeth May. But that’s not quite what Elections Canada ruled. Wilson was cleared of “serious misconduct” — not totally exonerated. Whether his protestation of innocence will satisfy West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast voters in the upcoming general election remains to be seen — provided Wilson will in fact become the Green Party candidate in that riding.

Catch A Fallen Star

And what effect will this appointment from ‘on high’ of a fallen Liberal star as Canada’s history-making first ‘Green’ MP have on local Green Party members? Were they consulted about this, or did they learn about it from the media? Will Wilson become the Green candidate by leadership fiat after the soon-to-be-announced writ is dropped, or will he have to compete for the candidacy?

I’m not living in that riding, but as a card-carrying Green I’m disgusted at this display of old-style, élitist political behaviour. Secret, back-room negotiations to persuade star candidates to run under the Green Party banner, or even to vet fallen stars as suitable to run (apparently, Wilson approached the Green Party) is not the way to open, democratic politics and ecological security.

Such shenanigans may create a brief flurry in the media — but at what cost? Blair Wilson MP has done well in the past by toeing the Liberal Party line, but the Liberal party’s environmental record is not good. Canadians saw little genuine progress in environmental enforcement during the decades it was in power.

Has Blair Wllson suddenly discovered a new ecological consciousness as a newly-minted Green? Or is his greening as pale as the current attempt to paint the Liberal Party green after its decades of environmental neglect? What are his Green credentials? He may call himself a Green MP — but is he really one?

Even justifying the exercise as a way of leveraging Elizabeth May into the national leadership debate is a strategy fraught with uncertainty. There’s no guarantee that the national broadcasters will agree to including the leader of the Canadian Green Party, especially if the major parties play hardball and refuse to participate with May present. Harper has already hinted at this possibility.

Not grassroots democracy

Green politics was supposed to be different, an alternative to the moral and financial corruption of old-style politics. But Canada’s Green parties seem to have drifted away from these Green ideals. As the Green ‘brand’ grows in popularity, a new wave of political opportunists are hopping aboard the little green wagon as it trundles slowly but seemingly inevitably towards Ottawa.

South of the border, Americans are looking to Barack Obama to revitalise the US Democrats and offer new hope for their country. Many Canadians see the same democratic possibility in Elizabeth May and the Green Party of Canada.

Let’s hope that people’s aspirations for an honest and ethical political system with which ordinary citizens can become involved, and which moves society towards genuine ecological and financial security, will not once again be dashed against the rocks of short-term political expediency.

As far as I’m concerned, Canada’s first ‘Green’ MP has yet to be elected.


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