Green and growing

My story about being a Green politician in Canada, and why it was the best thing I ever did.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The campaign continues

It has been some busy times since I last posted. I have had a couple of all candidates debates, I have ridden a tractor through downtown Wallaceburg to protest farm policy, I have conducted numerous media interviews, and I had the good fortune to spend some time with the leader of the Green Party, Jim Harris.

First, Jim was not invited to the leader's debate, and let's face it, he should be. There are two more debates, and there is still time. Please sign our petition to add the Green voice to the national debate. We have over half a million votes, a million dollars of your money, and we have 308 candidates once again. Interesting statistic: there were approximately 10,000 emails from Canadians asking various questions to the leaders. We have more than 30,000 names on our petition, three times the interest level! Please add your voice to ours.

Second, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed campaigning with Jim Harris. He is a great speaker, he knows his subject matter, and he has both intensity and a sense of humour. He is very passionate about the issues that Canadians face, and I applaud his sincerity and his commitment to the Green movement.

Third, I want to comment on the two all party get togethers in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex that I attended. One was a debate, and we made speeches at the other. The debate was regarding the need for cleaning up the environmental safety of the St. Clair River. It is so sad to read the list of spills into the river from chemical valley in Sarnia. It is time to isolate these industries from the water and put safety first, where it always should have been. The time for action is right now!

In Wallaceburg, I heard first hand the frustration of the farmers of the region, whose commodity prices are often below input costs. Since then, there has been a temporary countervailing duty imposed on corn, which will help in the short term, but does not represent a long term solution to the problem. We need to move to fair trade over free trade, and build an agricultural support system which will assist the farmer in developing new markets, new distribution and direct access to consumers, so that they can get their fair share of the retail dollar. You will notice that the retail price of beef did not drop by 80% during the BSE crisis, but the price farmers got for cattle did. The processors and distributors still did all right during that time, because we kept eating beef, but very little of that money ended up in the producers pocket.

More later ..

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ed Broadbent

One last observation for today. Ed Broadbent has spoken out that he feels the Green Party should be represented at the national leader's debate. Now THAT is statesmanship!

Credit where credit is due

My son, Devin Johnston, is a strong supporter of the NDP party, and he has started a blog about this election at . He, in fact, inspired me to begin this blog. I want to say thanks for the inspiration and I am very proud of him. I also want to acknowledge his contribution to the NDP. He is a thoughtful and articulate writer, wise beyond his years, and I am blessed to have him in my life. Devin, I wish you and your associates well in the next election.

Devin's blog was noticed by a prominent NDP member, Paul Summerville. His web site is listed here:

Devin's blog has a list of reasons why you should vote NDP. It is worth reading. Except, when you read it, substitute Green for NDP. It still works.

Door to door canvassing

One of the Elections Canada requirements to be a candidate is that you have to get 100 voters in your riding to sign a list endorsing their belief that you should be on the ballot. They do not have to vote for you, they just have to believe in democracy enough to allow you on the ballot.

Since I live in one riding and work in another, I do not know 100 people in my home riding. My riding assoication friends have helped me out be getting signatures. We also did a little door-to-door canvassing. This was quite an experience. First, it is darn cold. Second, most people do not want to talk to politicians. After all, 40% of them don't even vote. Third, some people will not do anything to aid and abet a party which is not "their" party. Fourth, many people do not trust politicians, people who knock on their door, and especially, politicians who knock on their door. It takes about two hours to collect 15 signatures.

I don't understand why this ritual of signature collections exists. It definitely serves large parties, as they will have at least 100 members in their well-established riding associations. They can hand out the forms at one meeting, and have them handed back in a few days. What do these signatures mean, anyway? These people who signed don't know me. Some felt they were participating in a democratic process, and some just felt sorry for me. I was never asked for identification by anyone. I think the signature process is a barrier for new parties and new ideas.

If I'm a candidate endorsed by a political party and the party got 1800 votes in this riding in the last election, what further purpose is served by this activity?

I have to admit that I became angry at people who didn't want to sign. It's no skin off their noses. After I had cooled down a bit, my friend Norm reminded me that the political system has made people that way .. the system disenfranchises them, alienates them, insults them. It says, vote for someone, who then goes to Ottawa and does whatever they want (or whatever their party leader wants). Even if you vote for someone who wins, they get one out of 308 seats in the Parliament. And most people vote for someone who "loses". Isn't that sad? In my riding, 60% of the votes were cast for someone other than the MP. Who speaks for them? No wonder they don't want to talk to politicians.

I think it is incumbent on politicians to act in such a way as to restore voter faith in the political process. Central to that objective is the need for electoral reform. Please get out and vote for the people who will make it happen.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Leaders Debate

I heard from Jim Harris last night that he is disinvited to the leader's debate. I include a portion of his press release:


The decision by the broadcast consortium to exclude the Green Party flies in the face of its previous rulings. Despite having no seats in Parliament in 1993, no official recognition from the Speaker, and only 75 candidates, the Bloc Quebecois was included in both the French and English debates. Preston Manning participated in the 1993 leaders' debate based on the 11,154 votes Deborah Grey won in a 1989 byelection with a 47 per cent turnout. In 1993, they only ran 207 candidates.

In 2004, the Green Party ran a full slate of candidates and won 583,000 votes, over double the Reform Party's performance in 1988. Still, it was excluded from the debate in 2004. The consortium cited the "large number of political parties contesting the 2004 federal election" as a reason to exclude the Green Party from participating in the debate and that five leaders would be unwieldy. But evidently, at least five parties can fit in the studio as they did in 1993, 1997 and 2000. A sense of fair play and the consortium's own precedent suggest that the Green Party should be able to join the debate.


The Green Party receives over a million dollars of taxpayer money because they are considered a "legitimate" party, receiving over 2% of the popular vote (more than double that criteria, in 2004).

I think there is a fear that resides in the Liberal and Conservative parties that their voters will start to flow to the Greens once it becomes more socially acceptable to do so. So they cling to their power, afraid that some political party will come and steal it, and forgetting that the power belongs to the people .. always has .. always will.

This is an unfortunate outcome, but in spite of being shut out last time, more than half a million Canadians voted Green, saying, in effect, these are the values which should govern our country. I have seen polls as high as 9% and 11% so far, more than double the last election. Noone can deny that groundswell.