Good Sunday Morning – January 28

Good Sunday Morning!

I am back in Ottawa this morning to attend the State Funeral of Ed Broadbent. State Funerals are a rare honour and rarely held for an opposition leader. I knew Ed Broadbent quite well and am honoured that both Jonathan Pedneault and I will be able to attend together.   It will be in late afternoon so I am happy to be able to attend morning services at my old church St. Bartholomew’s for communion, followed by one of my favourite sacraments- coffee hour. I have a lot of old friends at St. Barts, a nickname used with affection. When I was Executive Director of Sierra Club, we lived quite near and I taught Sunday School there from 1993 until 2008 when we moved to B.C. My mother made a life size papier mâché donkey, Esther, for the church school pageants.  Routine repairs and maintenance of Esther who remains at St. Bart’s  is an ongoing connection with my late mum.

Tomorrow JP, Mike Morrice and I will hold a press conference on Green Party priorities for the spring session. Which brings me to my theme for this morning’s letter– the background and progress in moving the Green Party of Canada to the co-leadership model.

It has been more than a year since the leadership race and access to leadership candidates’ websites and platforms. It is a good time to review what JP and I set out as a plan for the transition to co-leadership. We are now steering those changes through resolutions heading to the on-line General Meeting, February 24-25.  Register here!

The 2022 Green leadership race was the first time that four candidates ever presented as two co-leadership teams. Members had the choice between two leadership candidates running conventionally to become sole leader as well as Anna Keenan and Chad Walcott running as a team, as well as Jonathan Pedneault and me presenting as a co-leadership partnership.  In fact, it was the first time in which any prospective leaders presented together. In the 2020 leadership race, co-leadership came up frequently in the various candidate debates.  At the time, it seemed to me that Green members were keen to move to co-leadership, but that was only an impression.

Soon members will have a chance to vote on the constitutional amendment to the Green Constitution to make the move official.  JP and I will really need your support when voting opens, so (assuming you are a GPC member in good standing), please watch your emails for news on your ballot.

It seems a good moment to share why I believe co-leadership strengthens the party. Green parties all around the world use the title leader or co-leaders. We stay within the conventions of other political parties, but we are not conventional. In other parties, the leader has power. Loyalty to the leader is absolute – or punishments ensue. Unfortunately, the role of prime minister in Canada has moved to be ever more presidential. Over the last few decades, in terms of media coverage and control over MPs, the leader-centric aspect of politics has gotten more pronounced. But in the Green Party, that is not the case. We are grounded in values of grassroots democracy that keep the leadership role to that of “chief spokesperson.” Under our constitution, policies and by-laws, the leader cannot refuse to approve candidates, even though the federal Elections Act gives party leaders that unilateral power. In the Green Party of Canada our bylaws and policies ensure that just as the Green leader in parliament does not have the power to whip votes, neither can the leader reject a candidate nominated by a local EDA (Electoral District Association). To refuse a nominated candidate, a super majority of Council is required. (I remain both mystified and devastated that somehow former leader Annamie Paul managed to reject candidates leaving us with more than 84 ridings with no Green candidate at all. Clearly this violated our Constitution). That painful chapter is over and JP and I move on making steady progress in re-building.  Despite the clear references to GPC leader as serving the membership; even with no real “power,” the term “leader” still suggests some form of authority. The shift to co-leaders better reflects our values of distributed leadership.

The huge advantage of the co-leadership model is in representing greater diversity as well as in avoiding disastrous difficulties in leadership transitions. Such difficult successions are not unique to the Greens. Witness the quick rejection of new leaders after electoral failure for the Conservatives- from Harper- to Scheer- to OToole to Poilievre.  In a co-leader model, succession planning is rather built-in.

One of my favourite friends in the Green movement, Caroline Lucas, convinced me of the benefits of co-leadership from her life experience.

In 2010, Caroline Lucas, then Leader of the Greens of England and Wales, was the first Green MP elected in a first past the post voting system. She stepped down as leader virtually immediately after winning her seat in Brighton-Pavilion. The party elected Natalie Bennett to be Leader.  Natalie, now a Green peer in the House of Lords, is also a friend. She is smart as a whip and super funny. But, sadly, stumbled in her first UK election campaign. After disappointing results, Natalie stepped down as leader.

The Green Party of England and Wales decided to move to co-leaders. Caroline Lucas, MP came back in the co-leader role with a younger, lesser known, but extraordinary Green, Jonathan Bartley. After a term serving together, Caroline stepped down as co-leader and Jonathan Bartley picked a new partner to run for co-leader as a team. He and Siân Berry, younger, lesser known,  were elected as new co-leaders.

The experience of the German Greens led to JP and my proposal to satisfy expectations of the Canadian political scene with the designation of a chief spokesperson in the writ period. The German Greens had a consensus process to decide which co-leader would stand for chancellor on the ballot in 2021. This was the first election in which the German Greens ran a candidate for chancellor. By consensus, they chose Annalena Baerbock to lead the ticket running for Chancellor with co-leader Robert Habeck in full agreement.

Following the election, both Annalena and Robert entered the new government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, as Cabinet ministers in critical roles. They stepped down as co-leaders. In early 2022, Omid Nouripour, 46, and Ricarda Lang, 28, were elected as new German co-leaders. Iranian-born Omid is a German Green veteran MP and Ricarda is the Greens’ youngest ever leader, elected to the Bundestag for the first time in fall 2021.

We have a lot of Global Green experience in co-leader models. Not all Greens have co-leaders.  New Zealand does, Australia does not. Scotland does, England and Wales too, but not Ireland. Sweden yes, Norway no. Most of the EU Green parties have co-leaders. African Greens mostly have sole leaders. We are a big Green tent of over 80 nations with Green Parties with over 400 elected MPs at the national level. In my experience where co-leadership has an unparalleled advantage is in the mentoring and preparation of the next leaders team.

At the GPC members general meeting in spring 2022, held virtually, a motion was put forward to move to co-leaders. It proposed that following a leadership race the two top vote getters, whoever won and whoever came in second, would serve as co-leaders. That proposal was defeated. I voted against it. My strong sense of the elements that make co-leadership work comes from my friends and colleagues who serve as co-leaders in Green Parties around the world. I once asked James Shaw, who was at the time climate minister in New Zealand and co-leader of the Green Party of New Zealand. if he had ever seen down sides to the co-leader model. He replied (and not necessarily an observation from New Zealand) that the only trouble he had heard of was when two co-leaders had trouble getting along with each other. Big trouble.

Clearly, the idea of co-leaders being matched based on any random forcing was not workable. JP and I approached our partnership with deep and prolonged mutual questioning. In a real sense each of us was trusting the other with our very lives- our reputation and our future success. We drafted and committed to our own partnership contract. We agreed to dispute resolution, our shared values and set out only one “deal breaker” – dishonesty. We have each other’s backs, through thick and thin. Having entered into our agreement more than 18 months go, I am grateful on a daily basis for his extraordinary strengths.

As we approach the February 24-25 General meeting, members will be asked to vote on constitutional amendments.

In choosing JP and me in the leadership race, members have had a first vote in the process. I have cut and pasted this process from our 2022 leadership platform

The Nitty Gritty – getting there from here:
1.If one of us becomes leader, the other will be appointed Deputy Leader as per our current Constitution. This will explicitly be seen as a step to co-leadership – but only if, and, when members approve the Constitutional change and ratify it.

2 At the first opportunity, we will propose a Constitutional change from “leader” to “co-leaders.”  The co-leaders would be prescribed by various identifiers of balance and diversity. Co-leaders should reflect diversity in various ways including different genders, languages, cultures, sexuality, ages, backgrounds, race, aspects of focus in previous life’s work, etc, guiding the party for the future.

3.We will share the one vote and one seat at the council table currently occupied by the sole leader to avoid any increase in leader power or authority.

  1. On the second round of GM voting, where will be two votes on the question: the ratification vote and a vote to confirm that the Green Party of Canada’s first co-leaders will be Elizabeth and Jonathan.
  2. Performance reviews post-election will continue as per the current Constitution voting on co-leaders as a team.
  3. Assuming members agree, the changes to the Constitution should be completed prior to the 2025 election.
  4. There will then be a consensus-based process to decide which co-leader takes on the role of lead for the national debates and any other Elections Act or campaign requirements for a single leader during the writ period. The choice of either Jonathan or Elizabeth will be ratified by members, but we will remain co-leaders outside of the writ.

Comparing what we have accomplished with the platform plan, we are moving through the steps quite well, despite delays in holding the General Meeting. As you know, I am serving as Leader under terms of our current constitution, and JP is Deputy Leader, also a post in our current constitution, and one of the few “powers” o the leader, to appoint up to two Deputies. Now we are moving to point 2, the Constitutional change.

Please let JP and me know if you have any questions on the various resolutions. We are in the process of “work-shopping” the resolutions in hope of emerging with one proposal to be accepted by consensus.

Thanks again for all your support!

There was much to share this week on the Federal Court ruling on the Emergency Act and on the International Court of Justice and Gaza… maybe next week!

Love and blessings,


Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens