Green and growing

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What is missing in the debates

I can't believe it has been a week since I last posted. It has been a very busy time.

We have had a few debates already, three more this week. Four of the candidates are the same as 2006, and generally, we have had decent and respectful discussions, even when we disagree. We have been able to share some stories and some laughs together as we do our best to show, in one minue or less, what our parties stand for. The interesting thing for me is that at the end of 2006 debates, I am confident that I could have delivered the opening or closing speech for any of the candidates there (perhaps not with the same conviction, but with the right content).

What I think we are missing in this election is a critical and honest evaluation of Stephen Harper's leadership. The other four parties in my debates, including me, often point out issues and concerns that they have with the performance of the government, and their track record on key issues such as income trusts, Kelowna, fixed election dates and Afghanistan. It has been my observation that nobody seems to notice these concerns. This, in turn, is concerning to me.

The only way that I can rationalize what I am seeing is that voters have only ever seen Liberal and Conservative federal governments. In Ontario, we saw one provincial NDP government, which did go terribly well for them. So, I think that some number of these voters look at election time as a choice between red and blue, between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. If one of the teams is predicatably weak this year, well, then we'll support the other.

Leadership has been the defining issue of this campaign. Yet, it is not so much about evaluating Harper's leadership as it is about the speculative fear of Dion's leadership. Some of these people are drifting to the NDP and to the Greens. But we have not seen a wholesale rejection of Harper's way of doing business. This is the thing I can't understand. If we vote, once again, for a government that is closed, secretive, changes positions as needed, and flaunts the very regulations that it brings into law (fixed election dates, for example), then are we not saying to them "Go ahead, do whatever you want". Is that the message we want to send?

If anybody can help me understand this, please comment and tell me why is it that the government's record seems to be irrelevant in this election?

From where I sit, the message needs to be (1) stop campaigning 24/7 and govern the country, (2) Stop insulting and derogating your opposition .. after all, Canadians voted these people in and the government should respect their choice, (3) work with all of the parties in the house to achieve effective change for Canadians, and (4) don't use your office to promote your party. Oh, and (5) do what you say you are going to do, or at least give us a good reason and an apology when you change course.

The only way to send this message, in my opinion, is to vote Green. Every Green vote says, it is time for a new way to govern. A Green vote says, I care about my country, my people and my planet.

By the way, there is a very interesting blog post about the track record of the government at


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