After reading some of the heated debate regarding Green Party of Canada (GPC) President Paul Estrin’s controversial blog post, I would like to take this opportunity to voice my opinion on some of the issues at hand.
First and foremost I am in solidarity with the official position that Elizabeth May -GPC leader and Ronnie Smith, -GPC Peace and Security Critic have recently been advocating for: “The mutual escalations and potential violations of international law must be condemned by the world with equal ferocity.”
At the core of the debate surrounding Mr. Estrin’s blog post are issues of party discipline, unacceptable discourse and how and when to apply the rules.
There are many differences between the GPC and the Green Party of Quebec. For one, Elizabeth May has repeatedly undermined her own leadership by stating that party policy, even when adopted by the membership, is not binding.
I am a strong supporter of participatory democracy. However, in any democracy votes are counted, decisions are made, and strong, coherent leadership is required. The idea that party policy is merely a suggestion is a recipe for disaster.
Although a “big tent” approach may attract more people to a given political party in the short term, it will have long term consequences. The more the party grows, the less stable it will become. Internal divisions will ultimately manifest into a large group of people pulling in all directions.
In Quebec we had our share of divisive politics surrounding the Parti Québécois’s attack on religious minorities, and their proposal to ban individuals wearing religious symbols from government employment.
Those lines of division ran through our society and to a lesser degree through our party. With the election to be fought on that issue, our party had to make a choice. Were we going to allow people who held discriminatory views towards religious minorities become candidates- yes or no?
Fortunately our membership had voiced their overwhelming opposition to the Charter of Values in an internal referendum. This made our decision easy; no pro-charter candidates would represent our party in the 2014 election.
This approach served us well. People who supported the controversial charter had no place associating with us. Any political party will be approached by people with unacceptable views who seek to piggyback off the legitimacy of a well known party such as the Greens.
A political party is about consistency, transparency and integrity. Voters need to know what you stand for. Having a party leader saying one thing only to be publicly contradicted by a party president or a candidate must be avoided at all costs. Minor disagreements are one thing, but people should agree on the fundamentals.
The recent controversy surrounding Paul Estrin’s unconditional support for Israel brings me back to my previous point. Will the GPC allow Mr. Estrin to propagate hatred against the Palestinian people and advocate for war on the party’s official website using his title of party president despite the fact that the convention and the leadership adopted the polar opposite position less than a week before?
Is this what the members envisioned when they were told that the GPC holds grassroots democracy as a core value?
In this case Mr. Estrin has gone too far. He has undermined Elizabeth May’s leadership, advocated for war, and should either resign from his post or be removed immediately to avoid a repeat of this kind of thing.
Good thing we are not in the middle of a federal election campaign.
In solidarity with Elizabeth May,
Leader of the Green Party of Quebec