Why I choose David Chernushenko for Green Party leader

I have decided who I support for leadership of the Green Party of Canada –David Chernushenko.

Without trying to sound too politically correct, all three candidates have many valuable skills. Elizabeth May has a wealth of personal connections across all sorts of social circles, has proved herself as an activist who gets results, can speak French, and has an ability to win over people from all walks of life. Jim Fannon speaks with a commanding presence, and is an excellent orator and motivator with a tremendous amount of passion.

But David Chernushenko seems like the best candidate – for a variety of reasons.

1.) I believe David is the best candidate to heal current divisions within the party – divisions that are once again rearing their ugly head, and threatening to become a long-term problem for the Green Party of Canada. From listening to and reading David, it is obvious that he understands the rifts that exist within the party, and that he appreciates that no single side is “right” or “wrong” – that everyone has key priorities that they want to see promoted and realized, and that we should all work together in order to achieve common goals.

I must stress that neither side of the division is without fault – both sides in this split have good intentions, yet are resorting to tactics in order to realize their vision that are seriously damaging the party and its internal unity, and its public image and reputation – and possibly even the party’s future electoral success.

There is a rift, it is significant, and it has the potential to halt the Green Party’s increasing support amongst Canadians. It needs to end – and now. Not by force – but by a collective decision that compromise and unison are far superior to division and pettiness. There must be a willingness to accept that not all members will find agreement on all issues – but that it is better to build consensus and move forward together, and that is it best to “agree to disagree” and accept the majority’s decision, rather than to plot the other side’s downfall when one does not win their own way.

Having been in the Green Party for many years, and yet also being very progressive and wanting to see the Greens evolve and raise more support while staying true to its crucial founding purposes, David Chernushenko has significant knowledge of the internal split. He wishes to see the Green Party progress to become a majority player in Canadian politics, and to have a thorough policy agenda covering all issues that appeals to most Canadians – without watering it down so much as to alienate party originators and environmentalists.

Ultimately, David Chernushenko seems to want progress, yet is crucially supportive of compromise, rather than division as the means to furthering the GPC’s success, so that the vast majority Greens will be satisfied with the party’s evolution over the next few years. He speaks in a conciliatory tone, and is inclusive of the diverse variety of opinions within the party.

I want a leader who will heal the current internal divide – someone who has the ability to inspire us all to put a firm end to any and all pettiness, and to encourage us all to work together – whether “dark” or “light” green, whether a long-term member or a new convert, whether young or old in age, etc. I want a leader who will make us all realize that cliques, slates, and internal divides are obstacles to the party’s success, and that we all need to work together, and be willing to tolerate diversity and differences of opinion.

While Elizabeth May is very inspirational, and would give lots of media attention to the Greens if she became leader, I am not convinced as to her ability to end internal division. She has a background as an incredibly successful activist, which many “old school” GPC members, “dark” greens and one-issue environmentalists will love. However, I fear that she will inevitably favour the party originators and “activists” over those who wish to see the party evolve into an effective political machine, much like how many people allege that current leader Jim Harris has preferred fresh blood with new ideas over those who have helped build up the party since its founding. A true leader must inspire the trust and dedication of everyone in the party – not just one particular element of the membership.

I believe that Elizabeth May would likely be a more uniting leader than Jim Harris has been. However, David Chernushenko is the only person who has clearly articulated the need for increasing co-operation, tolerance and respect within the GPC. For example, in David’s recently released Plan for Green Growth, he says that as leader, he would:

  • [create] a culture based on mutual trust and respect, where internal disputes can be reasonably discussed without tension or animosity.
  • [establish] clear guidelines with a ‘Code of Conduct’ to which all members are expected to subscribe.

There is a large diversity of interests and goals within the GPC – but none are likely to reach fruition if we’re all too busy stabbing each other in the back, instead of moving forward towards common goals. I feel that David Chernushenko is the best-equipped leadership candidate to end the internal division and re-energize the party towards achieving common goals that we all hold.

2.) David has noted the importance of making the Green Party more transparent and accountable. Part of re-uniting the party membership will be about developing a culture of tolerance and mutual respect of internal diversity, as mentioned above. But, perhaps an equally important role for the new leader will be to ensure that party rules are both improved, and perhaps more importantly, enforced.

Without trying to take sides in the current internal divide, there have been many accusations of party procedures not being followed, or that internal rules are simply not being up to scratch to ensure the smooth operation of the GPC. This must change.

We need to prevent and discourage internal political struggles, conflicts of interest, and secrecy. We need to ensure that ALL party decisions are recorded and made available for the entire party membership to read and scrutinize, with very few exceptions. While we constantly portray ourselves as being the most democratic and “grassroots” political entity in Canada, fewer and fewer party decisions are made public to the membership. This is a worrying trend, and should be not only halted, butreversed. Why should even council or shadow cabinet decisions be private? Some strategic decisions may need to be kept hush-hush, to prevent other parties from foiling our ideas for elections – but if decisions are related to policy, all membership deserve to be informed.

3.) David has clear, realistic and achievable plans for increasing Green support and ultimately electing Green MPs to parliament. His ideas are well thought out, contain small steps that logically compliment each other, and use methodical planning and carefully-nurtured growth to achieve realistic targets. David’s path for the GPC to popularity and representation in parliament is not based upon one or two “landmark” situations that the Greens have no direct control over, such as inclusion in leader debates. Instead, he admits that there is no “silver bullet”, but instead that a clear plan towards building the party up step by step is what willeventually bring electoral results.

For example, David is not foolishly pinning his entire reputation to the next election’s results – and why should he, seeing as he doesn’t control when the election will take place, what the main issues are likely to be, whether the media will be more accepting of the party, etc. Instead, he admits that it will likely take two more general elections before Greens elect an MP to parliament, and that it’s about a gradual build up, not just about flash election results.

He also stressed that it is absolutely crucial that the Greens get to work in building up their reputations between elections, not just during election campaigns. This makes sense for a variety of reasons:

  • The media have gone on record as saying that Green parties across Canada seem to disappear between election campaigns, are do not regularly express opinions on key policy issues while parliament is in session.
  • Election campaigns generally last one month, while governments usually last four years. If we go out and sell ourselves to Canadians who don’t know us well solely during election campaigns, we minimize our impact and ability to convey out message to Canadians – whereas if we’re always out selling ourselves as a legitimate political force, we’ll have roughly 4700% more impact. A staggering difference, surely.

4.) David has expressed the need for the “creation a culture of knowledge and education” within the GPC. By this, he means:

  • developing infrastructure and processes that nurture ‘progression’ within the Green Party so that members can benefit from the knowledge, experience and skills of others at all levels of the organization.
  • inviting Canadians to contribute, share, educate and help the Green Party build a coalition driven by the need to protect the planet and make Canada a world leader in climate change abatement, health promotion and ecological economics.
  • positioning the GPC as the Party of innovative thinkers, problem solvers and positive contributors.
  • introducing a more timely process for policy development between General Meetings.
  • continually refining our policies, strengthening our messages, and communicating in a clear, comprehensive and professional manner.

I fully agree. We need to use the varied skills and talents of our members/volunteers/supporters more effectively. Instead of just assigning people odd jobs, we need to find our what their particular abilities are, and to maximize those. We need to invite all Canadians to contribute to our policies, not just GPC volunteers. The Living Platform is a good first step, but we could do so much more.

We also need to share internal learning better – do we have logs of “do’s and don’ts” that EDAs have learned in the past, that we pass on to new EDAs? Or do we simply let them fend for themselves, and repeat the past mistakes of others? A knowledge bank would be a wonderful asset as the party plants firm roots across the country.

5.) Perhaps most impressive of all, David has challenged all Green Party members to go beyond their “comfort zones” in terms of promoting the GPC. When attempting to sell the party to new Canadians, what’s the point of focusing on environmentalists and others who likely already support us? That’s not to say that we don’t need regular dialogue with those who agree with us – but why don’t we approach people from backgrounds and organizations that we have never attempted to “convert” in the past?

This makes sense – isn’t it futile to watch election returns, with fingers crossed and hopes high, if we haven’t spoken with many people who may not seem to be “natural” Green supporters? We need to get out and sell our message to Canadians of all walks of life, from all parts of the country, of all genders/ages/ethnicities/religions/languages/etc. The more, the merrier.

These are the reasons why I think David Chernushenko would make the best leader for the Green Party of Canada.