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The Corporatisation of the Green Party of BC

By Stuart Hertzog
July 24th, 2007

Corporate thinking has infected the BC Green Party council

Over the past year, the BC Green party’s provincial council has stealthily been gathering power to itself while covertly restructuring the party into a conventional, ‘top-down,’ authoritarian, and decidedly anti-grassroots fundraising and vote-grubbing machine.

Since dumping leader Adriane Carr last year, the BC Green Party’s primary decision-making body has cut itself away from the party’s grassroots membership, hidden its decision-making processes, and not once disclosed the party’s financial status or fundraising progress.

It’s a disease called corporatism, and it functions through elitism, control of decision-making, and restriction of information.

The party’s governing council seems to have wholeheartedly adopted the corporate mindset. This includes a hierarchical power structure that disempowers the membership, plus a belief that those elected to council are smarter than the others and therefore deserving of absolute power.

Regional associations excluded

Without consulting the membership, council members appointed as interim leader and awarded a hefty part-time salary to a corporate political consultant who lists former Liberal cabinet minister and leading continentalist John Manley among his clients.

But possibly the most destructive aspect of this attack on grassroots BC Green democracy has been the exclusion of almost all of the party’s regional groups of constituency associations — the grass roots of the BC Green Party — from representation on their own provincial council.

This un-Green act of centralisation was achieved by devising a Byzantine set of rules that effectively made it impossible for regional associations to elect a representative to carry their voice and views to council, despite this right being guaranteed in the party’s own by-laws.

Strangely for a peace-loving Green Party, these disenfranchising rules were devised by a committee headed by a Green Party councillor who is the owner of an Ottawa-based company that makes video guidance systems for missiles and artillery, and video security software.

How can a weapons manufacturer be allowed to become a member of the provincial council of the Green Party of British Columbia?

Only in Canada, you say? Pity….

Centralisation of power

Other aspects of the centralisation of power into the provincial council include:

  • the party’s web site, recently revamped to empower member participation, has been allowed to atrophy;
  • vital party information is unavailable on the web site or out of date;
  • a general email discussion list that allowed members to exchange views has been cancelled;
  • information newsletters to members have been poorly-written, few, and tardy; and
  • the notion of encouraging members to take part in issues-based email lists to formulate policy has been ignored.

The effect has been the corporatisation of what was intended to be the most open, anti-authoritarian, eco-centric, and citizen-based political party in Canada.

It could result in the end of a valiant, 25-year attempt at establishing a grassroots democratic party that could act as a model for citizen-based political organisations everywhere.

What would be different?

Even if it were to come to power, it’s unclear what a Green BC government would change. Rather than introducing a genuinely ecological era, we may just see ‘more of the same’ if pragmatic back room deals trump Green political principles.

Right now, many Greens are wondering whether the Green Party of British Columbia can still claim to be Green.

On this, the jury is still out.

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Posted in BC, Corporatism, democracy, Green politics, leadership | 3 Comments »

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3 Responses

  1. Roger Benham Says:

    Yes, quite so, that’s all so true. Not much chance of me joining again.

  2. Cameron Wigmore Says:

    The picture you paint is not a very realistic one. The images you invoke seem to be pure fiction, and your choice of words in this essay – while artful and provoking emotion – are misleading and at times over the top.

    Still, there is a reason why you hold this opinion, and it seems you may still have faith in the BCGP, which shows you haven’t yet given up.

    I’ve just moved back to BC, and I intend to be a contributing member of the BC Greens. I’d like to join in the effort to improve this province; I’d like to be a part of the solution rather than an armchair critic.

    This is an exciting time for the BC Greens. They are electing a new leader, and this along with other renewal effort will help to draw increasing support for the party.

    I hope you’ll consider joining in the effort to ensure that the BC Greens continue to remain a grassroots, decentralized political party.

  3. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Welcome to BC, Cameron, and thanks for your comments. While the movement within the party may be unconscious on the part of those responsible, I think that the danger to which I am pointing is very real.

    The difference between grassroots politics and corporatism is the extent to the grassroots citizen or member is empowered to make decisions, and the transparency and inclusivity of that process.

    Exclusivity and secrecy have been the mark of the Executive committee of this outgoing provincial council, and I hope that the incoming Council can consciously reverse this pernicious tendency.

    This web site is my active effort to ensure that, as you so well express it, “the BC Greens continue to remain a grassroots, decentralized political party.” I’m gratified to find that you and others want to help ensure that the party is brought back to a healthy democratic state.


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