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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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14 Responses

  1. Steven Hurdle Says:

    How can he be both a “fallen star” and a “star candidate”, as you suggest in the article? He is one or the other, no? (Good point — corrected. Ed.)

    I’d be less impressed if he jumped from the Liberals to the Greens, but he sat as an independent for the better part of a year. Would I prefer that he merely announce his intention to seek the Green nomination? Yes. But I am willing to take Mr. Wilson on his word that he recognises his mistakes, and given that Elections Canada cleared him of serious wrongdoing I think using charged language like “abject despair” and “disgusted” is excessive I believe. Perhaps you’re correct that someone choosing to switch parties is not the best route to “open, democratic politics and ecological security”, but IMO neither is that kind of , another long-held symbol of old-style politics, a good route to “way to open, democratic politics and ecological security”.

  2. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    I disagree, Steven. “Old-style politics” is the habit of accepting anyone into a party for short-term political gain, especially when that decision is taken behind closed doors. And I don’t think that offering an honest statement of feelings is “attack-style language.”

  3. janfromthebruce Says:

    good post – heart-felt – honest – thank you.

  4. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Thanks!

  5. Right From Hamilton Says:

    I used to think the Green Party had potential until they started pulling stunts like this. Jim Harris was a lot better than May.

    That said Blair Wilson had a strong campaign team that to a certain extent appears to belong to him and not the Liberal Party (why else would he win where the Liberals had lost before when they were going down?). That plus the incumbency and the WOW FIRST GREEN factor should help him. I don’t think he’ll get reelected but I imagine a strong second behind the Conservative candidate.

    The big question is how will he fit into the post 2008 Green Party. If Elizabeth May fails to win her seat will she be deposed. Will Wilson Run to Succeed her? Anyways that’s my take on it.

  6. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Excellent question! I don’t think Elizabeth May realises the consequences of taking Blair Wilson into the Green Party. He can easily out-manœuvre naïve Greens.

  7. dylan Says:

    I appreciate your honest response to the “acquisition” of the GPC’s first MP. In the end I must disagree with your post.

    You have to look at the “floor crossing” (which it really isn’t) like a free agent being picked up by a pro team again. Wilson wanted to run for the GPC to, let’s be honest, increase his chances of winning his seat back in the next election. He wasn’t going to be the Liberal incumbent and the likelihood of winning as an Indy wasn’t great. The GPC had potential to bring in Liberal and NDP votes to hold onto the riding from CPC hands.

    Enter: the real quest for the GPC. The GPC’s intentions ought not to be to replace the Liberal Party, or NDP; but rather the Conservatives.

    We all wish the Greens would play a different ball game than the other parties. But until they are really a part of the federal political game by having a sitting MP – their idealism will only get them so far. This move helped out the Greens to get into the debate and by election time no one will even remember who Blair Wilson is.

    The next move is to dump Elizabeth May for a viable leader against the backdrop of all the other parties. Chernushekno or Claude Genest would be my first two picks.

    Idealism, hope, innovation, and principles are what win elections. Having a leader who is level-headed, rational, and capable of delivering that message to the masses is what will inspire voters to put an ‘X’ beside their beliefs. Not having a leader in the debate seriously hinders the chances of the GPC, with May or without, from doing that.

    Wilson is a means to an ends. He knows it. May knows it. The guy has balls and if he waited until the writ was dropped to seek the GPC nomination, and the media found out that May COULD have been in the debates IF he had stepped forward a little earlier, I wonder if we would be blogging about the missed opportunity.

  8. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    I doubt it.

  9. janfromthebruce Says:

    Just the same old, same old – NOT DOING POLITICS DIFFERENT – no matter how one spins it.

  10. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Right on, Jan!

  11. Cameron Wigmore Says:

    He is not the first elected Green MP. We will wait to see if that will happen in the next federal election. He is however, the first Green MP in Canada. Last time I checked, the Green Party was inclusive – not exclusive – welcoming new members and supporters all the time. Even without a shining environmental record Mr Wilson seems to find the Green arty attractive. After all, the Greens are about more than just the environment. Even you know that.

    Wilson resigned from the Liberal caucus last fall after allegations of spending irregularities in his 2006 campaign.

    He was cleared by Elections Canada this summer of any improprieties following an eight-month investigation, and May said he shared “deep and detailed” financial information with the Green party over the past week that proves his innocence.

  12. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    He was not proved innocent, just judged by Elections Canada of not committing major election fraud. He had to ’fess up to his “mistakes” as part of his compliance agreement. His protestations of innocence suggest that he still thinks that he had done nothing wrong. If he is so lily-white, why did the Liberals not allow him to stand again as their candidate?

  13. fire_walk_with_him Says:

    My question is: is Blair Wilson re-electable as a Green Party candidate? What is his support within the riding? What about this bizarre family feud that appears to be ongoing? How strong are the other candidates?

    Bottom line: an elected Green Party MP could figure in a balance of power situation in a minority parliament. And an incumbent usually has a much better chance of election than a newcomer ….

  14. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Normally, yes. But I hear that there’s a backlash building against Mr. Wilson in this riding.


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