Break the Duopoly: Why the Green Party Still Matters

A number of things have prompted this post: a lot of people have asked me for my thoughts on the Green Party of Canada leadership contest, the American election is heating up, New Brunswick is having an election, the Conservative Party of Canada just had a leadership race, and all of them have been slowly re-awakening my political attention after a much-needed rest.

Before I start, I’m not going to endorse a leadership contestant. The thoughts I share here are not reflective of the views of Shadow Cabinet, or even of the Electoral District Association of the Green Party in Northumberland – Peterborough South, though I’m using our website as a venue for them. They do reflect my personal views, and the kinds of questions I’m asking as I decide where to place my vote for a leadership contestant, and I hope they’re helpful in framing things for you as you go through that same process.

I was planning on writing a post today about the dominant rivalries in Canadian politics, so it was handy that Freakonomics Radio replayed a post from 2018 about America’s Hidden Duopoly, all about how America’s two main parties profit enormously and serve the public poorly by keeping out any serious competition. The details are different in Canada (we have five elected parties, for example) but the main thrust of it is the same, and detailed in fantastic books like Dave Meslin’s Teardown, Susan Delacourt’s Shopping for Votes, and Elizabeth May’s Losing Confidence. It was reading Elizabeth’s book that prompted me to join the Green Party, and the arguments she makes there are why I still think that the Green Party is relevant. That shapes my view of the future of our party, and what I’m looking for in a leadership contestant.

The Place for the Green Party

Are we really asking if the Green Party is still relevant? In a recent op-ed in the Tyee, a founding member of the Green Party of BC suggests that climate action might be better served by Greens ending our pursuit of political power within the formal system and focus on place-based activism that develops community engagement and local networks that can do more to support climate action than a failed election campaign. To that I would say: that kind of activism and community building is something that we should be doing anyway, and is in no way mutually exclusive from running a Green electoral campaign. Some have argued that by staking out the “environmental territory” in the political field, we’ve prevented other parties from fully embracing environmental issues, and we would be better to work within other parties, or in a radically different way outside of electoral politics. To that I would say that Elizabeth May came to the political sphere after heading one of the biggest environmental NGOs in Canada because she felt she could be of more use in the political arena; and current leadership contestants Glenn Murray and David Merner both came to us from the Liberal Party at the provincial and federal levels, because they found that they couldn’t work within other parties and still actually accomplish what was needed.

But beyond those arguments, the Green Party is needed because we don’t engage within the duopolistic and combative relationships of the Canadian political scene. That duopoly (the Liberal/Conservative coalition that prevents other parties from gaining power through things like opposition to electoral reform, refusing to participate in debates with smaller parties, and otherwise leveraging their larger support base and “war chests” to dominate the media to the detriment of others without their resources) has framed Canadian politics since our nation was founded, and it has become so entrenched that it has taken obvious precedence over actual policy. Our two (maybe three) major parties no longer exist so much to solve the problems we face as a nation, as they do to beat each other. Here are some examples:

The Duopoly in (In)Action

Consider a carbon tax. It’s been touted by the world’s leading economists as the most cost-effective form of climate action. Back when the Liberals favoured industry regulation and cap-and-trade as the primary mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Conservatives supported a carbon tax as the simpler, more fair and market-driven mechanism. They did it quietly, because they have an ongoing bias against taxation, but they supported it. But as soon as the Liberals embraced a carbon tax, the Conservatives were not only set against it, but they demonized it to the point of blatant propaganda campaigns that turned out to be in violation of the constitution. (And yes, I know that this was the Ontario PC Party, which is technically different from the federal Conservatives, but that’s a distinction that blurs when it’s convenient for them – it should also blur when it isn’t.) Meanwhile, the Liberals have flipped to say that regulations aren’t sufficient, and that we really should have a carbon tax – something that they didn’t support back when Stephen Harper was the one proposing it. All of this has happened over more than a decade of increasing emissions; the fight between political parties for support has prevented either party from actually doing anything serious about greenhouse gas emissions.

Or beyond a particular policy, let’s look at the big picture for the most stark example. Thousands of scientists from around the world who have devoted their lives to knowing as much as possible about our natural world have declared that we have less than a decade to reverse the trends of rising emissions, and until 2050 to get our economies to a point where we’re taking more greenhouse gases out of the air than we’re adding, a feat that economists (again, some of the smartest people in the world who are dedicated to figuring out the best way to do things) have determined will take a major overhaul of the way we live and do business. And in light of that, the biggest political stories of this year remain partisan scandals and the level of public debt. These are the exact same issues that have always dominated the political scene. In the face of the biggest challenge to survival, much less society, in human history…we carry on with partisan bickering.

Partisan bickering is a feature of the duopoly. So long as there are only two serious contenders to form government in Canada, they don’t need to actually address serious issues in order to achieve power. It’s much easier to win by casting aspersions on the other party and paying lip service to major issues than it is to take on an ambitious policy shift that might backfire. We need a party that can break the duopoly, that won’t try for power by playing the same game. The NDP seems to have been trying to go mainstream by competing with the big parties on their own terms. It’s backfired; they have more seats that us, but they seem to have lost their raison d’etre. Greens should not make the same mistake. We need to break the duopoly by doing what we’ve always done: refusing to participate in the negative politics that degrade our institutions, and instead actually addressing the major issues with concrete policy proposals that reflect the best advice of the experts in order to attempt to actually do something.

The Ideological Conflict

The Liberal/Conservative duopoly is its own beast, but for all of its existence it’s been rooted in the left/right ideological divide that, starting in the late 19th century, was largely defined by two dominant ideologies: socialism and capitalism. While North America has always had a market economy, our systems have varied over the years in terms of our approach to the level of economic redistribution and regulation of industry. The term “socialist” has been associated with Soviet Communism since the 1950’s; outgoing Conservative leader Andrew Scheer made this association in his farewell speech just a few weeks ago, trying to pin it to the governing Liberals.

In the US, where the “red scare” and the demonization of socialism has been the worst, there’s been a recent trend toward owning the term, with “Democratic Socialists” like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gaining a significant following for proposing bold policies – often the same policies that the Green Party of Canada has been promoting for years. In light of this, there are two contestants in the Green Party of Canada’s leadership race who are pushing for the Green Party to explicitly embrace the “socialist” terminology. This is a mistake.

Not only would embracing socialist ideology and terminology alienate half the population or more, but it would do so by inserting us into the 19th century conflict that is the basis of the duopoly. We wouldn’t be considerably changing our policies: we already support a Guaranteed Livable Income, eliminating tuition, increasing access to childcare, a shorter work week, universal pharmacare and mental healthcare, and more. The “socialist” policies of these two leadership contestants are largely already in our policy platform, and have been for years – even as many called us “Tories on bikes” because some of our other policies were friendly to centrists and conservatives. We currently have to resist the urge everyone seems to have to insert us into the duopoly; we should certainly not make it easier for them to do so by doing it ourselves.

The Way Forward for the Green Party

I haven’t picked my favourite leadership contestants, and won’t be personally endorsing anyone, but I will share with you what I’m looking for.

We need someone who is committed to keeping us outside of the intractable conflict of socialists vs capitalists. Both of those ideologies are incredibly outdated. It’s the 21st century, not a good time to fight the ideological battles of the late 19th century.

We need someone who is likewise committed to keeping us out of the duopoly, in the sense of being committed to not adopting the combative, controlling, and cynical approaches of the big parties. We won’t win on their terms, and if we did manage it, I wouldn’t like what we would have to become to do it. The strength of the Green Party is that we focus on solving problems – the very thing political parties are supposed to do, but that the duopoly prevents them from doing effectively.

We need someone who can communicate not just policies, but also values – and to do it in a way that Canadians haven’t seen from us before. There are a lot of tired environmentalist tropes that we have to campaign against every time we knock on doors, and we spend half of our time telling people what we aren’t (no, we don’t want to make everyone become vegan luddites; no, we aren’t all about weed; no, we don’t have a single-issue platform; etc). We need a bold new vision of the party itself, to help people get to know who we are and what we value as well as the policies and outcomes we’re looking for.

We need someone who can support the internal management of the party, so that our electoral district associations can be developed into organizations with an ongoing presence in the community rather than a skeleton crew that valiantly tries to pull together a campaign team every four years. Then we will not only be more election-ready, but we will be able to engage in the kind of grassroots organization and activism from which the Green Party grew in the first place without compromising our political credibility. We need someone who can help us thread that needle of balancing activism and politics proper, and help us be more organized on both fronts.

And frankly, we need someone who is a bit of a palate cleanser. Elizabeth May was leader for long enough to become central to the Green Party of Canada’s brand, and the next leader will be constantly compared to her. Whether you love her or hate her, she’s incomparable – and most people love her. This leader needs to be able to stand apart from Elizabeth, start the party down a new path, and prepare for their successor.

The Green Party NPS Supports Anti-Racism

Black Lives Matter anti-racism protest. #BLM

Photo by Joan Villalon on Unsplash

These past few weeks, the world has watched as Americans grapple with the systemic racism that results in the deaths of so many Black people at the hands of police. We have been reminded many times (we could post links here all day) that this is not just an American problem: Canada also has systemic racism in our history, laws, and economy. We have racism right here in Northumberland – Peterborough South.

None of this is new or surprising, but it’s resonating with more people right now than ever before. Images of police brutality in America are encouraging others to come forward with their stories, and the calls for serious action are spreading. Governments are listening, and beginning to implement changes.

The Green Party of Canada and the Green Party of Ontario uphold Respect for Diversity as one of our core values, but that doesn’t mean that we are immune to racism. There is a long history of racism in environmentalist movements, and in the 2019 federal election we fielded the whitest slate of candidates of any party. Candidates with diverse identities, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC), as well as gender and sexual diversity, reported encountering discrimination from their own volunteers and riding associations. The Green Party of Canada has created a staff position charged with addressing inequity and promoting diversity within the party, our recent hires and election to Federal Council featured more racial diversity, and our current leadership contest is the most diverse of any party – so we’re far from perfect, but we’re making a concerted effort to challenge systemic discrimination internally.

I don’t write this so Greens can pat ourselves on the back; changes in our party need to be reflected locally as well, and we want to be a resource to the constituents of Northumberland – Peterborough South. The population in our riding is ~97% white, so many of us have been able to remain ignorant of the racism in our area. Now that we are being confronted with the extent of racism in our society, many of us are experiencing a lot of different and conflicted feelings. We’re seeing this internal struggle expressed on social media as people process what they’re seeing. Few people are good at this, none of us are perfect, and all of us are part of the broken systems that keep some of us down. With that in mind, here are some resources that can help white people process and understand systemic racism and our role in perpetuating it – and stopping it.


Because white people rarely experience or even see racism, it can be difficult for us to acknowledge it, much less dismantle it. Learning more about systemic discrimination in our history, including gender and sexual discrimination, and especially hearing the stories of individuals, helps us to contextualize it and address it. This is by no means exhaustive! Please do your own searches too, and let us know if you find resources that are particularly helpful!

Discrimination, then and now

Processing discrimination, becoming an ally


Policy Change

Canada has an anti-racism strategy, but it’s mostly focused around education and information campaigns. Education is great, but there are concrete policy changes that can counter systemic discrimination. Some of these seem like radical ideas, so please check them out before passing judgment – they actually make a lot of sense, especially if they are implemented in a thoughtful way that reflects the needs of the communities where they are implemented. Here are a few that we support:

What else should we be doing? How can we better address discrimination in our community? Do you have a story of discrimination that you want to share? Let us know. Our community needs to be safe for everyone.

Jeff Wheeldon Acclaimed as 2019 Green Party Nominee

The Green Party NPS Riding Associations’ Annual General Meetings and Nomination Meeting were held last night (March 6 2019) at the Cobourg Community Centre. The meetings yielded a good turnout and positive results: both the GPO and GPC riding associations increased the size of their Executive with new volunteers, and Jeff Wheeldon was acclaimed as the Green Party of Canada nominee. Jeff will become the Candidate when the campaign period begins.

Patricia Sinnott and Minne deJong will be maintaining their positions as President and Chief Financial Officer of the GPO riding association. They will be joined by Secretary Rob Taylor and Membership Chair Andy Kirkpatrick.

The Green Party of Canada riding association saw a new CEO, Pascal Barabé, and new Financial Agent Tom Telford. They will be joined by Secretary Rob Taylor and Membership Chair Andy Kirkpatrick, who have both agreed to do double-duty, fulfilling the same position in both riding associations. Rob Taylor has also volunteered to take on the Communications Chair post.

There are more positions available, including Organizing Chair, Fundraising Chair, and numerous volunteer activities. Contact us for more information.

Jeff Wheeldon gave a short speech before his acclamation:

My name is Jeff Wheeldon, and I want to be your MP.

Not just because, though I believe strongly in the role of a public representative and would consider it an honour to represent the people of this riding;

I want to be your MP because there are problems that need to be solved. We’ve grown accustomed to hearing bad news, especially lately:
-climate change is potentially the biggest threat in human history;
-economic changes, driven by automation, artificial intelligence, and online retailing are predicted to cause an economic disruption 4x the size of the Industrial Revolution;
-demographic changes and population growth challenge our social safety net and ability to provide for our most vulnerable;
-technological changes and the internet are disrupting the way we relate to each other, and we’re becoming increasingly polarized in a society that is described as “post-truth”;
-and in the midst of all of these changes and the challenges they provide, our political institutions and economic models maintain the status quo.

I’m running for office because these problems aren’t being addressed. I like to run a positive campaign, and I’d rather talk about what we need to do rather than what other people are or aren’t doing, but I can’t pretend this isn’t part of my motivation. We’ve been let down by the establishment, status-quo parties:
-the Liberals pay lip service to important issues like electoral reform, climate change, and reconciliation, but they have too little follow-through and too many broken promises;
-the Conservatives have embraced far-right populism and abandoned traditional conservative values and policies, stoking outrage and pandering to racist groups while they offer plenty of criticism but no policy alternatives;
-and the NDP is in the midst of an identity crisis, struggling to mobilize its own party behind their leader or the Leap Manifesto.
None of these parties have a vision for the future. They aren’t planning ahead for the new economy that is transforming and eliminating our jobs every day; their emissions targets aren’t adequate to even meet our lukewarm international commitments, and they’re not even talking about mitigating the damage of climate change; and they plan their platforms based on market research about what is popular, rather than on the challenges we face.

I’m running with the Green Party because I want to do politics differently. I had the opportunity to run as a Liberal in 2015, and I turned it down: I know that as a Liberal MP I would have to put the party ahead of my constituents, or face the consequences. I’ve been invited to join conservative parties too, but they’re worse in this regard, requiring an oath of allegiance to the leader. Even the NDP punishes MPs who step out of line to put their constituents first: we’ve had two NDP MPs cross the floor to join us for this reason. But especially for the Liberals and Conservatives, it’s not just a matter of party discipline, but of the longstanding relationships these parties have with corporate interests. Inside these parties and inside the governments they form, there are too many opportunities for corruption: what good is it if I gain the whole world, but lose my soul? I joined the Green Party because we do politics differently, and this is evident in the way that our representatives conduct themselves. We take a candidate’s pledge to behave in ways that reflect the dignity of our office and our constituents, with high standards for transparency and accountability, and we always put our constituents and our country ahead of the party. It was Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner who led the way in banning corporate and union donations to political parties, and Elizabeth May was recently polling first as the federal leader seen as the most ethical in Canada. Her principled stand against the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Expansion pipeline project led to her being arrested for civil disobedience alongside protesters, clergy, and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart who is now mayor of Vancouver. These kinds of principled, ethical leaders remind us all what politics is supposed to be: people who represent and uphold the best in us, working together to build a better nation. Partisanship has no place in the Green Party, and a Green government would have an all-party Cabinet to ensure that all parties have a voice and an investment in solving the crises of climate, affordability, and employment that we face. These issues are too big to let partisanship get in the way of real solutions.

This will be my third campaign in two years. I am campaigning because there IS good news to be had. We have the knowledge, technology, and policies we need to solve these problems, and the means to implement them. What we lack is the awareness, the proper priorities, and the political will to do so. There is a gap between what needs to be done and what IS being done, and we can close that gap by engaging with our communities and rallying people behind solutions, no matter who ultimately implements them. There is no limit to what we can accomplish if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, and our campaigns are about building communities that are resilient and engaged so that we can do more together.

I was speaking with someone the other day and they mentioned how cynical they feel about politics – that after a while they just want to give up on the whole thing. I understand that feeling, but we have a choice in that moment: we can either give up, or we can step up and change it. I choose to run as a Green because I choose to be the change I want to see. We have all of the ingredients for good news, but if we want to see that good news we have to make that good news. We can’t rely on others to do it for us; our future is ours to make.

By choosing to make the future we want, we will also make history! Across the country and at every level, the Green Party is surging. Even here in Northumberland – Peterborough South we’re getting unprecedented numbers of volunteers, from all party backgrounds and none, saying that this is the year that they’re going to step up and make a difference. Are you willing to do what it takes to make the future you want? Do you want to be part of making history? Stand with us, hit the street with us, host us in your home or plan a community event – we can only do this together. And that’s fitting, because doing great things together is what politics is all about.

Jeff was acclaimed as the nominee after his speech. The meeting wrapped up just after 9pm.

John Draper of the Cobourg News Blog attended. His coverage can be found here.

The campaign team will be planning a volunteer meeting sometime in the coming month. Members will receive notice of the meeting via email; contact us here or on Facebook if you are not a member but want to volunteer!

AGMS and Nomination Meeting: Tonight!

Please join us tonight for the Annual General Meetings of the Green Party of Ontario’s Northumberland – Peterborough South Constituency Association and the Green Party of Canada’s Northumberland – Peterborough South Electoral District Association, as well as our Nomination Meeting to select our candidate for the 2019 federal election!

The meeting will be held at the Cobourg Community Centre, 750 D’Arcy St, Cobourg, from 7:30-9:30.

The GPO CA AGM will start at 7:30, followed immediately by the GPC EDA AGM at approximately 8:00, followed immediately by the Nomination Meeting at approximately 8:30. Refreshments will be provided. Here are the agendas:

Please join us as we take the first steps toward a fantastic 2019 campaign!

2019 Green Nomination Contestant: Jeff Wheeldon

On March 6th 2019, the Green Party of Canada’s Northumberland – Peterborough South Electoral District Association is hosting their Annual General Meeting at the Cobourg Community Centre, 7:30-9:30pm. This meeting will double as a Nomination Meeting to select our 2019 federal candidate. The Green Party of Ontario Constituency Association will also occur at the same time, as both organizations have largely overlapping membership pools.

As of February 7th, Jeff Wheeldon is unopposed in his bid for the Green nomination. Jeff currently serves as the International Affairs Critic on the Green Party of Canada’s Shadow Cabinet (since 2016), as well as Secretary for both the federal and provincial riding associations in Northumberland – Peterborough South. He previously ran municipally in Brighton last fall; provincially for the Green Party of Ontario in the NPS riding in Spring 2018; and federally for the Green Party of Canada in 2015 in the riding of Provencher.

Jeff is a REALTOR® in Brighton, where he has lived with his wife Andrea and two sons since 2016. Originally from BC, Jeff has also lived in Alberta and Manitoba, but has family roots in the riding: his wife Andrea grew up in Norwood. The Wheeldons settled in Brighton to raise their children, leaving behind careers in higher education administration in order to provide a great environment and community in which their kids could grow up.

Education, Work, and Volunteer Experience

Jeff holds a Master of Arts degree in Systematic Theology, and wrote his MA thesis on the role of ethics in reforming social institutions – a topic which largely inspired his involvement in electoral politics. Before moving to Brighton he worked in higher education administration in various roles including some teaching work, finally serving in a director-level position as Registrar in 2014-15. His work experience also includes several blue-collar jobs, including two years as a factory worker and various trucking jobs over a decade. He has served in various volunteer capacities, from several poverty-related ministries in downtown Vancouver, to teaching roles in churches, to serving as the founding CEO of a Green Party riding association. He is currently a member of the Rotary Club of Brighton, and identifies strongly with the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self” and the organization’s emphasis on the obligation of the business community to high ethical standards and generous community engagement.

Goals for Canada and Northumberland – Peterborough South

This section is contributed directly by Jeff Wheeldon:

The nature of federal politics is that most decisions are made on a scale much broader than any particular riding, but that virtually all decisions made for Canada as a whole and even in international relations have some effect on every riding. The challenges we face are on a massive scale, but will have a major effect on the economy and lives of people in Northumberland – Peterborough South. Thankfully, we have policies to address these challenges, and help us to not only survive but to thrive in the difficult transitions ahead. My policy priorities in 2019 are:

  1. Climate change. This is possibly the most serious issue human beings have ever faced, and certainly the biggest issue we’ve knowingly faced. Since we know it’s happening, we can do something about it. The science is clear, the policy solutions are clear, but the political path to real action is cloudy.The Conservatives continue to work against climate action: despite the fact that carbon taxes have the support of all other parties and numerous Nobel-prize winning economists, they continue to argue against any form of it, claiming to favour industry-by-industry regulations; but let’s not forget that a generation before, under Stephen Harper, they supported carbon pricing and argued against the more costly and complex approach of industry-by-industry regulations. Ultimately we need both, and clearly they will not support either approach so long as another party is suggesting it.

    The federal Liberals, on the other hand, talk a big game about climate action and have even borrowed the Green Party’s plan for a carbon-fee-and-dividend system to price carbon; but their emissions targets are the same as those set by Stephen Harper, and are vastly inadequate to effectively combat climate change. At the same time, they continue to subsidize fossil fuel companies by billions of dollars per year, and went so far as to buy a pipeline to continue to support the expansion of the oilsands. We cannot talk out of both sides of our mouth, and climate change doesn’t care if we say the right things – only real action matters.Green policies to combat climate change include transitioning our oil economy to renewables as quickly as possible, investing in energy retrofits on a large scale to save energy (and money!), and to put a price on carbon that will actually have an affect on the market by providing large enough incentives to affect consumer behaviour and, most importantly, industry behaviour. Our carbon-fee-and-dividend system, borrowed by the federal Liberals, would ensure that no individuals are punished by the increase in energy costs by paying out the dividend cheques on a monthly basis; but would also include a higher carbon fee (and therefore a larger dividend) that would have a much faster effect on our markets, incentivizing lower levels of consumption and levelling the playing field for low-carbon products and energy sources. All of these policies will create significant jobs, and not just in Alberta: per million dollars of investment, renewables and energy retrofitting create as much as 10x the number of jobs as investments in oil and gas, with wages averaging $80-90,000/year.

    As International Affairs Critic I have also been engaging in developing policy options for treating climate change as the greatest security threat in the world – an approach that has recently been emerging from our Forces as well. We have some of the highest trained forces in the world waiting to be used in a violent conflict, even as millions of people are displaced by natural disasters, droughts, famines, and conflicts that come from such conditions, all of which will increase in a warming world. I will continue to promote the cross-training of our forces to have special forces designated for firefighting and disaster relief to be deployed in Canada and around the world to bring stability and aid before conflict starts. A connected goal is to stabilize areas in crisis to reduce flows of migrants: most refugees want to return home as soon as possible, and of course they would have stayed in their homes if they could. Canada has a larger role to play on the world stage to help provide the stability needed to reduce the number of refugees in the first place, in addition to our role in resettling refugees here in Canada.

  2. Automation, AI, and the New Economy. The economy has already changed, and our federal and provincial governments don’t seem to recognize that they’re playing catch-up. 40% of Ontario’s economy is in manufacturing, and Ontario represents 40% of Canada’s economy, but the number of jobs that make up our manufacturing sector are dwindling. The Liberal approach has been to “foster innovation” by promoting Ontario as “Silicon Valley North” and hope for a boom of jobs in the tech sector, the NDP and organized labour is fighting to keep jobs that are increasingly obsolete, and the Conservative approach has been to talk about how they’ll “bring back” manufacturing jobs without getting into further detail. The reality is that those jobs are gone and not coming back, and the transition to the new economy is just getting started. We need a plan that doesn’t involve fighting the future, like the Conservatives and NDP, or fuelling the economic transition without planning for massive job losses as the Liberals have been doing.The Green plan for a new economy begins with implementing a Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI), which is not only an incredible streamlining for our existing social services with potential to save significantly on how we deliver our social safety net, but which will also provide a stronger foundation from which Canadians can launch their own contributions to society. A GLI would provide us with the stability we need to take important risks such as going back to school and starting our own businesses. It would also provide a basis for an economy with increasingly fewer jobs that have to be shared by more people: with a GLI in place, funded at least partially by taxing the productivity of the robots that replace human workers, more people will be able to get by working part-time or in job-sharing arrangements. With this system in place, governments would also be better able to focus on the purpose of the economy (the productivity needed to support our lives and society) rather than the means of achieving it (fighting robots for deskilled, low-wage jobs just to survive).

    At the same time, there are many jobs that need more workers right now. Agriculture, for example, can benefit tremendously from more sustainable and organic farming practices – but that generally requires more workers, and agricultural workers are often temporary foreign workers. Sustainable farming is critical for reducing emissions and combating climate change (not to mention for feeding us!), and employment in this sector will increase under Green policies. That’s excellent news for us in Northumberland – Peterborough South, where agriculture is a major industry!

  3. Democratic Reform. Remember when Justin Trudeau said, so clearly and unambiguously, that “2015 will be the last election under First Past the Post”? Democratic reform means much more than that: it’s about restoring the confidence of Canadians in their government, correcting the abuses of our institutions and violations of our trust, and ensuring that our democracy is one that engages citizens in the decisions that will shape their lives.

    This is a particular emphasis for me because I value ethics and transparency. I know that our political system was designed to function in ways that it no longer does, either because Canada has changed drastically since 1867 or because political parties have learned to game the system as it stands. Our political structures were designed in a time when only white male landowners were considered persons and all of them knew their MP; now we have universal suffrage, and ridings with 120,000 constituents with a much wider range of interests and perspectives than an MP must address. At the same time, the winner-takes-all style of FPTP elections incentivizes constant campaigning, which feeds party culture that puts messaging ahead of problem-solving and enforces party discipline on all MPs to ensure that they present a united front for the next campaign. The result of all of this is that MPs largely serve to represent their party to their constituents rather than representing their constituents in the House of Commons; consultations are PR exercises more than attempts to actually engage the citizenry; and parties design their platforms based on a marketing strategy rather than on meeting the needs of their constituents and facing the challenges of our time.I joined the Green Party because we believe that a good government is honest, focused on the best interests of its constituents rather than the best interests of the party, and therefore willing to make hard choices and not sugarcoat important issues. I’m proud to have taken the Green Party candidate’s pledge in both 2015 and 2018, dedicating myself to a higher standard for service and a better vision for our democracy, and I look forward to taking the pledge again in 2019. I’ve had the chance to run for bigger parties in the past, but I’ve chosen to run as a Green primarily because my integrity means a lot to me: I will not compromise the best interests of my constituents for fear of a party whip.

  4. Housing is an issue that needs to be addressed at all levels of government, but one that affects Northumberland – Peterborough South significantly. Because I work as a REALTOR®, it’s also something I think about quite a bit.

    We are in a housing crisis. There are many causes and no easy solutions, but there’s a lot that can be done at every level to make it better. First, the housing crisis is an indicator of the health of the rest of the economy too: it’s not just that houses are too expensive for people to buy (although that’s true), it’s also that people aren’t making enough money to buy them; our economic policies will create more jobs with good wages (see point 1 above). Supply is also down: there are almost no rental vacancies in this county at all, much less affordable housing; the federal Liberals have promised $40 billion over the next decade to help with that, and I would support continuing that funding as well as working with provincial and municipal governments and agencies to address the incentives provided by programs and structures at those levels to stimulate housing supply. In tandem with implementing a Guaranteed Livable Income (see point 2 above) we also support a housing-first strategy for addressing poverty, which would provide federal and provincial funds to provide affordable housing as a baseline condition on which other services can build to help the poor.

    I am reminded all the time that fixing the housing crisis is bad for my day job. As a political candidate I’ve been lobbied by my own industry organizations to support policies that would keep us limping along in this unsustainable market by getting the government to subsidize mortgage down-payments and reduce homeowner taxes – but that would ultimately just pass more costs on to citizens, including those who still can’t afford a house, by putting a bigger burden on the government and requiring more tax revenue. These policies are being entertained by federal (Liberal) and provincial (PC) governments, but the only winners with such policies are real estate agents. We need better solutions for everyone.

  5. I want to know what your big issue is! The role of an MP is to communicate between constituents and the government, which means your concerns are always in my top priorities.

Please come to the AGM/Nomination Meeting on March 6th to hear from Jeff and anyone else who seeks the Green nomination in Northumberland – Peterborough South! We will also be filling positions in the EDA Executive and campaign team; see where you fit!

Election 2018 Debrief

Last week we had a meeting to discuss the 2018 Ontario election results, and how to improve our campaigning for next year’s federal election. We had a decent turnout, and some great discussions that have me hopeful for more growth here in Northumberland – Peterborough South.

The Election Results

I joined the Green Party of Ontario because of our strong platform, which is rooted in principles that are well embodied by our leader, Mike Schreiner. Mike’s landslide victory in his own riding, as well as his popularity across the province, will help us in our next campaign; and our platform continues to be very strong, with evidence-based policies recommended by relevant experts. But if we’ve learned anything from the 2018 Ontario election, it is that effective campaigning has a bigger impact on election results than a party’s policy platform or their leader’s popularity, and that other factors (in this case, a deep a long-nurtured distrust of the Liberals) can play an even bigger role.

We can’t control for other factors, though we will gear our campaign toward them; but we can control the way that we campaign, and in that area we have a lot of room for growth. In this past campaign we made a strategic decision to focus on events and online presence, based on the resources we had. We used a minimal number of signs, mailed out postcards in just one area, and only ran ads on the radio in the last few weeks of the campaign; effective advertising campaigns can add 2-4 percentage points to our vote, and we did see some positive return on our advertising in the form of slightly higher votes in areas that had radio ads or mailout. Signs were moderately more effective, not only because they served as a form of steady presence on a street, but also because they themselves are a sign of support, and people are more likely to support a candidate or party that they see others supporting. But the greatest impact, worth 6-12 percentage points in a well-run campaign, come from canvassing.

We didn’t do much canvassing in the 2018 Ontario election for two reasons: first, the riding is huge and running a canvassing campaign in a big riding is very challenging; and second, because we had very few volunteers. Knocking on doors and speaking directly with citizens remains the most effective form of campaigning, and we even saw that in our results: the polls with the best vote count for Greens were those in the immediate areas of anywhere that we actually canvassed, specifically the polling station in my neighbourhood in Brighton and the one in David Brister’s neighbourhood in Cobourg. Considering the canvassing we did was unsystematic and sporadic, the fact that we can see real results from it speaks volumes.

The Importance of Membership

The way to build on our positive results this year is to make sure that we can run a good ground campaign next year in the 2019 federal election. In order to do that, we need more volunteers – and to get more volunteers, we need to grow our volunteer base, i.e., members.

David Piccini ran a very effective ground campaign, prioritizing canvassing over other forms of campaigning and utilizing up to 125 volunteers, with at least 25 involved in his Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaign on election day reminding people to vote. This effectiveness is evident in the fact that our riding had a voter turnout 10 points higher than the provincial total. While some of his volunteers and funding came from the PC party, who were investing in NPS as a swing riding they wanted to win, most of it came from his membership base. But when he started campaigning, a year and a half before the campaign began, there were only 35 active PC members in the riding; by the time the election campaign started, he had over 2,000.

Membership is almost an old-fashioned concept: service clubs and churches and social clubs have all seen a decline (and greying) in their memberships, because younger generations aren’t as keen on being “joiners” even if they’re often more personally active in volunteering for various causes. We’d rather stand for a cause than with a group. I’ll leave it for sociologists to determine why that is, but I can’t stress enough how important party membership is for our cause, especially because we are a political party.

First, practically speaking, membership is a form of funding ($10/year per member) and helps us maintain contact with our supporters and develop a pool from which to draw volunteers and donations. And second, because as a political party our cause is only really served by us being a unified group. If the work of a charity or service club can be accomplished by the organized work of volunteers who are otherwise unaffiliated, membership isn’t very important; but in a political party we can only accomplish our goals by being a large group or movement that is committed to promoting the group itself. Our platform is our cause, but our goal is to get elected, and members drive election campaigns.

Preparing for 2019

The time to start preparing for the next election is right now. We’ve gained ground in the 2018 campaign, and we’ve learned a lot from it too. The next step is membership. 2,727 people voted Green here in 2018, but only about 40 of them are actually members. That’s more than David Piccini started out with, and if we can get even 1/4 of those 2,727 voters to join the party, we will have a much bigger base from which we can draw volunteers and donations, which gives us many more possibilities for campaigning in 2019. Some of the things we’d like to do include:

  • Canvassing in your neighbourhood, which not only increases voter turnout but also provides opportunities to gain even more members, further growing our support base!
  • Have a bigger lawn sign presence
  • Have more local events beyond all-candidate meetings, such as coffee parties and barbecues in smaller communities
  • Run issue campaigns before and during the election, dealing with important federal issues such as:
    • Climate Change: pricing carbon, meeting Paris targets, and mitigating the damage we’re already seeing
    • Trade: NAFTA, TPP, CETA, and the Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions in those deals that undermine our sovereignty and ability to address climate change
    • Defense: NATO, Peacekeeping, and our place in the UN
    • Economic reform: Guaranteed Livable Income, addressing tax evasion, supporting a green economy
  • Have a paid campaign staff to organize all of these other things!

How to Get Involved

If we can grow our party membership to 650 by this time next year, so many more possibilities open up for us! Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Sign up for membership! It’s only $10/year ($20/year if you join both the federal and provincial parties). It’s a minimal commitment, but it’s the first step toward really making a difference! Join here.
  2. Give us feedback: what made you vote Green? What did we do really well in our campaign, and how can we improve it? What’s the most important issue in your community, and how can we address it?
  3. Volunteer! Are you willing to:
    1. Knock on every door on one street (about 1-2 hours commitment, training provided)?
    2. Hand out fliers for a few hours?
    3. Host a coffee meeting or barbecue and invite your friends and neighbours?
    4. Put up a lawn sign, or wave signs on a street corner for a few hours?
    5. Spend election day calling supporters to remind them to vote, or being a scrutineer at your polling station?
    6. Deliver signs to supporters and pick them up the day after election day?
    7. Become a member of the Electoral District Association executive council, meeting semi-regularly and helping to plan and organize our efforts?
  4. Donate: while we run very lean and efficient campaigns, the more money we raise the more we can do to support our volunteers, run advertising campaigns, and take all of our efforts to the next level!
  5. Talk to a friend about becoming a member. Politics is often portrayed as something nice people don’t talk about in public because it’s offensive and divisive. We want to do politics differently: tell your friends about your concerns, but mostly about solutions and reasons for hope. Having a better national political culture starts with the way that we think about politics and how we talk about it with others, so let’s be the change we want to see in Canadian politics. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s also effective and attractive.

We have much to be proud of from this campaign, and I’m so grateful to all of you for your support. I want to make sure that we make the most of our growth, so I’m asking you now to please make that support pay dividends by purchasing a membership, and then send us an email to say that you’ve done it, along with any volunteer commitment (from the list above or otherwise) that you might see yourself doing in 2019. Together, we can turn this campaign into a movement that sees growing Green influence and presence in Northumberland – Peterborough South!


Jeff Wheeldon


Jeff Wheeldon