Over the past weekend, the Green Party of Canada held their annual convention in Fredericton, NB. Michael Luba, a Green Party enthusiast and employee, shares his thoughts.
You’ve probably heard and used the word democracy at various points throughout your life. Join the crowd. In Canada, the word democracy gets passed around like a joint at a Justin Trudeau dinner party. It’s used as gratuitously as hair gel at one of Justin Trudeau’s public appearances. Alas, in Canada, democracy, like Trudeau, just doesn’t mean what it used to. But that doesn’t mean democracy is dead forever. There is one party that claims to be “the only truly democratic party in Canadian parliament.” No folks, it isn’t the Lemon Party (we wouldn’t do that to you). This weekend, the Green Party of Canada held its Convention in Fredericton, NB. “True Democracy” was on the agenda.
Before we wade into the boring “what is real democracy?” debate, it’s worth mentioning just how enjoyable the Green Party Convention was. Convention-goers enjoyed all-you-can-eat buffets (featuring a self-serve ice cream bar), live music, and a list of guest speakers that included Canadian comic Cathy Jones and Canada’s first PBO: the legendary Kevin Page. But the real fun started after hours. The Green Party of New Brunswick invited the feds to a local watering hole, and one night the Yukon Greens bought everyone beer. What happened on those occasions is worth repeating, which is exactly why I can’t write about it. Let’s leave it at this: I was extremely impressed by how late people stayed up and how early and happily they rose the next morning, always ready to take on the world. Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk democracy.
What does “true democracy” look like at the party level? If you believe the Greens, you need only watch them. The party functions as a grassroots democracy, so the voting members who attend the Convention vote on everything, including adopting party policy. On the first day, the plenary came together to vote on topics ranging from appointing a “Fairness Committee” to approving the agenda for the meeting in which they were already participating. The members are irritatingly empowered. Before every vote, everyone has a chance to visit a microphone and voice a concern. Stephen Harper, was it ever boring! On one occasion, the plenary had to endure lengthy back-and-forth between two members before it could vote to adopt the minutes from the Green Party’s 2012 General Meeting in Sidney, BC. If that isn’t a controversial topic, I don’t know what is. So what’s the point here? Grassroots democracy can be a real pain in the Tom Mulcair.
Given this description, you might feel like true democracy and progress are mutually exclusive. Yet, somehow, despite nearly every member exercising the right to contribute, the Convention moved along (mostly on time) to its closing ceremony. Even though members often disagreed strongly on important points, they never fought or disrupted the flow of the event. We must conclude as follows: either the Green Party Convention exists in some sort of conflict-free alternate universe, or people respect one another when they are genuinely empowered to make decisions that affect their own lives. I feel childish for suggesting that people might be that respectful…I’ll stick with the alternate universe explanation.
Either way, with the Convention in the books, the Green Party is ready for the 2015 election. It has defined itself exactly as its members voted that it should. So, naturally, it’s already collecting materials for the world’s longest marijuana cigarette, which it will collectively smoke on the night of the first full moon after the election. Right?
Actually, I didn’t hear a single reference to marijuana all weekend. Even though the party has long supported taxation of legal marijuana, it seems that most members are chasing a new, delirious high that you can only get by sitting for hours in one of the tedious meetings that characterize grassroots democracy. So is grassroots democracy “True Democracy”? That’s a question you have to answer for yourself. I’ll tell you that the best way to answer it is to stop using the word democracy and instead start trying to experience it in person. It helps put things in perspective, and if you find the right answer for you, it will really blow your mind.