A letter from Elizabeth May

Dearest Green Party volunteers, and supporters:

I have been asked by Mary Ann Grainger (organizer extraordinaire and good friend) to condense a longer message to our team about the confusion near the end of the campaign about whether I had or had not supported strategic voting.

Many of you already recognize the hard work I put into the past election and the last two and a half years, and the distortions that the media made which seemed to contradict those efforts. But many still have their doubts, worry that perhaps there was truth behind the stories, that I did support strategic voting (at least sometimes). For the benefit of those whose support for the Green Party has never been in question, but wonder if I share that support, I would like to offer the following statement.

Almost anything I said about strategic voting, which wasn’t direct condemnation, was played out to be support, and I know that those reports caused disappointment and discouragement among some of our strongest supporters. Long hours of in-depth and wide-ranging political discussion were snipped down into misleading and misrepresentative sound-bites, and those reports hurt our party.

Without intending to, my comments led to confusion. For this I am sorry.

In this past election I learned that being honest with the media can be a double-edged sword, turned against me and the party. Moving forward, I have resolved to be honest about those things Canadians need to know about – our policies and our candidates, and how they are superior to those of other parties. On topics that Canadians don’t need to hear about from me, I will neither lie nor be dishonest – I simply cannot – but I will defer. I will not answer the questions that are not even put to the other party leaders, such as whom I would support as PM instead of myself, or which other parties are closest in policy to us. Such answers can only continue to confuse voters, which is not an honest benefit to the electorate. When asked what is good about another party’s platform, I will send the reporter to ask that party instead. It is not our job to present or sell what the other parties have on offer – even the parts which we share – and attempting to do so only harms both parties in the long run. As Green Party leader, I will set aside my long-time, non- partisan habits of objective comparative analysis and focus instead on presenting what Canadians most need to know yet hear so little about – Green Party values and policies.

Many, many Canadians have expressed support and approval for my refreshing brand of honesty, something all too rare on the Canadian political scene. At the same time, some of my honesty has been exploited by the media for their own purposes — whether to build more sensational stories, or to subtly promote a partisan agenda. From this I have learned a new appreciation for the old saying, that sometimes discretion is the better part of valour. If the question does not deserve an answer, or the honest answer would be of no service to us, then the best response is silence. The media will never run short of questions, after all, and I can hold my honesty in check for a more appropriate query. (For 37 days, at least).

Since seeking the party’s leadership and winning it in 2006, I have wished for nothing more than to increase our vote and put Green Party members into office. This election has shown us all how difficult that can be, yet also that it is within our grasp. I hope that everyone in the party will recognize that I am fully supportive of ALL of our candidates, and am grateful for the support they have shown, and continue to show, for me in return. If you feel that I betrayed you in any way, please know that this was never the case, and please forgive my trusting honesty which was turned against me in so many instances. The feeling of disappointment is mutual, but I believe I have learned from this election and will be able to present our shared goals in a way that cannot be misinterpreted in future. Let us join hands and journey together into a Green tomorrow.

4 responses to “A letter from Elizabeth May”

  1. James Scarrow writes:

    I thought Elizabeth did a great job during the election. Nobody’s perfect, and the media can be very tricky to manage. We all live and learn. I continue to support the Green Party, and Elizabeth May as leader. Let’s capitalize and move forward on the gains in popular support that have been achieved under Elizabeth’s leadership!

  2. Disenfranchised writes:

    This is condensed? This is a long, rambling half apology for the wrong offense. Elizabeth squandered the party’s only hope of representation by selfishly needing to beat MacKay instead of choosing a safer riding to campaign in. It is far more important (and long overdue) for Elizabeth to share her strategy for moving forward. How does a party, completely devoid of representation move forward when we are sure to be locked out of the next debates?

  3. Bob Halstead writes:

    Without denying anything Ms May has said, I add this to her comment, addressed to Toronto-Danforth and posted in mid November.

    There are two forces in particular that affect all political organisation, including the Green Party of Canada. One force requires that our “command structure” become more hierarchical and so less flat, more authoritarian and so less egalitarian, or in other words, more top-down and less bottom-up. The other force requires that we become more overtly partisan, in order to define ourselves more clearly with better focus, and to defend ourselves against confusion with and attacks from other partisan organisations.

    Note that the media insists that we attend to both of these forces.

    Also note that much of our support has come from people who favour more of a grass-roots movement that is less partisan, not so top-down.

    There are many roads from grass-roots awareness to political achievement, but all require that we remain intellectually broad-minded on the one hand and adopt a narrow authoritarian focus on the other.

    The more we become like other parties, something the NDP has done over the last two decades, the less we are likely to survive as a national party, yet we may have to survive as a political party for another decade or longer.

    However, Canada’s “first past the post” electoral process creates a political climate that favours two parties, not more unless they are regional.

    I hope that I may raise our awareness of these forces and this dilemma without also having to conclude as to how we should proceed in order both to survive politically in Canada and to have a positive effect on Canadian environmental policy.

    However, in the absence of a better electoral process, we may have to choose between being an effective political organisation and an effective force for good.

    I wish our movement great success because we have such a good intellectual command of so many critical issues.

  4. bluegreenblogger writes:

    Having read the letter, and comments above, I agree that Elizabeth did a pretty good job winning us earned media coverage. That’s why I supported her for the Leadership, because we were building the ground war, or in other words, our grassroots campaign skills, BUT we didn’t have sustained media coverage throughout the campaign.
    When Chernushenko got the boot, we switched one campaign element for another. Elizabeth has done little or nothing to enhance our organisation at the grassroots level. We need BOTH to succeed. We need campaign schools, canvas training, database management, etc. We also need sustained media coverage to give that ground war team something to capitalise on. IF Elizabeth used all the media she gets to constantly ask people to join the GPC, then we would be in so much better shape. Please, if you get a chance, ask her to use her strengths to build the strength of the Party.

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