This year, October 4 Green Party Canada(GPC)members will elect a new leader to replace their retiring, much appreciated leader, Elizabeth May.

Judging by the media hoopla surrounding the four lack luster candidates seeking to win the Conservative Party of Canada August 21 ballot to replace the not so much appreciated Andrew Scheer, you’d be justified in wondering how come there is so little attention to the GPC leadership election being held a little over a month later—and having some fascinating people and perspectives up for election.

But, then, that’s our corporate owned Canadian press priorities.

Among the Green Party leadership candidates there seems to be a wide variety of perspectives, experience and personalities.

Andrew West, an Ottawa lawyer promotes his conservative credentials as a political moderate, who wants the Greens to appeal to progressive voters with social justice policies and environmental commitments, then add to that base by including fiscally conservative policies in the platform. West believes there are Conservative voters who are concerned about climate change but are not willing to venture far from their fiscally Conservative values. According to West If the party shifts towards the left, “which a lot of … candidates want to do,” then the Green Party will have more candidates fighting for a “smaller piece of the pie.”

Wow, if West wins the GPC leadership we can stop talking about splitting the progressive vote three ways. Two on the left; two on the right has a certain ring of balance to it. What I wonder about, that West doesn’t address, is what reason do we have to believe that conservative value orientated voters would suddenly switch to a pseudo conservative party with progressive values on climate change? Nor does West discuss the idea that Green Party environmental values go far beyond just climate change. I am unconvinced that Conservative Party supporters can be won over to a party that has not been passionate about putting moneyed interests over conservation values. Or is he talking of a complete remake of party values? West is not going to win the leadership race. From an outsider’s point of view, I don’t think West will even manage to shake up GPC values significantly. How can a party that has valued:

Grassroots democracy,
Social justice and equal opportunity,
Ecological wisdom,
Nonviolence,
Decentralization,
Community-based economics,
Feminism and gender equality,
Respect for diversity
suddenly become an alternative to the Conservative Party of Canada?

Then on the opposite side of the Green Party spectrum from the Andrew West conservative greens we have Dimitri Lascaris, a Montrealer who proclaims himself to be a deep green socialist. Lascaris argues that the Greens can become the natural home for left-leaning voters through clarifying the natural connection between caring for our Earth and caring for its peoples. Lascaris is calling for the GPC to endorse huge spending programs to spur growth and shift to a cleaner economy.

I like Lascaris as a leadership candidate. I have heard him speak in the Comox Valley about his passionate belief that Palestinians deserve the human rights we designate to all other people. He spoke clearly, passionately and profoundly informed about the need to recognize the human rights of Palestinians. He spoke unflinchingly about being fired from his position with the GPC because he spoke up for the rights of Palestinians. I could see/feel his unwavering, passionate commitment to human rights for all. He effectively mobilized the GPC to stand up to/rescind Elizabeth May’s firing of those in the Green Party executive who dared to defy her and speak up for human rights for all.

In 2012, Lascaris was named by Canadian Lawyer Magazine as one of the 25 most influential lawyers in Canada, and in 2013, he was named by Canadian Business Magazine as one of the 50 most influential persons in Canadian business. He is well-known for standing up for the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, and the oppressed.

Lascaris is an accomplished securities class action lawyer, having led a team that has recovered more than $450 million from corporations and executives engaged in illegal financial practices, human rights abuses, and environmental destruction. Lascaris has served on the boards of numerous public interest organizations, including The Unity Project for the Relief of Homelessness, Pro Bono Ontario and Toronto350 and Bail Out Oil Workers, not Oil Executives.

According to Lascaris our justice system is neither fair nor accessible. It works best for the economic and social elites who have access to money. Only the very wealthy can afford to access the legal system. To redress this imbalance Lascaris calls for reducing funding for the RCMP by 25% over a five-year period and reallocate the savings to initiatives and systems that empower communities to promote their wellbeing and prevent violence before it escalates.

There seems little doubt that Lascaris is the most capable leader among the ten candidates for the Green Party of Canada leadership. He has the will, the values and ability to champion the causes of social, environmental, and economic justice in Canada and around the world. Whether there would be a great exodus of conservative Greens from the party if Lascaris wins the leadership is up to the GPC membership to decide.

What disturbs me about Lascaris as leader of the GPC, is he has so little to say about the relationship between the GPC and the New Democratic Party (NDP) if he becomes leader of the Green Party. Actually it disturbs me that none of us are talking about the relationship of the GPC and federal NDP.

My gosh, when the Canadian right is so split it keeps them out of office—they fix it!—thus the Progressive Conservatives, Reform Party, the Alliance Party , Conservative Party are all just incarnations of the right wing in Canada. Incarnations that soon learned (were forcefully told by funders) that a split right wing electoral base is a right wing out of office.

This isn’t just a Lascaris failing. It is the failing of the Left in Canada—not that we don’t come together in common cause—but we don’t even talk about coming together in common cause; even if it means we don’t get meaningful action on a whole long list of social justice and environmental issues. So the Liberals muddle along with token efforts to create a fair tax system, a secure, effective healthcare system, piddly efforts on climate change (well not piddly—damnable; buy out failing pipe lines, public pays for cleaning up the oily mess after corporations take away the profits , a housing strategy that isn’t, a failing/halfhearted reconciliation with First Nations, a fisheries strategy that isn’t.

Meanwhile the NDP and GPC, with more overlapping values than the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservative Party, twiddle their thumbs as our country falls into a pit of venomous/disabling regionalism because we have lost a unifying vision of working together for our common good.

I expect a person with the vision and leadership skills of Dimitri Lascaris to speak openly and convincingly of a vision that can bring us together in creating a more just, sustainable, democratic, sustaining Canada. To come so close and fail at that next, crucial step of talking about how the left in Canada can come together rather than quarrel impotently apart is a major failing of a highly capable candidate for leadership of one of Canada’s major left wing parties.

Lascaris does have a stated plan to bring the left together –everyone in the NDP can pick up stakes and join the GPC. Well if that is all he has to say about uniting the Left in Canada, I have exaggerated his vision and his abilities. There will be no coming together on the Left until people and leaders on the left learn how to hear from each other, how to talk about shared values and how to define compromises that can bring about a greater social and environmental good than we could have quarreling apart.

I have covered only 2 of the 10 GPC leadership candidates. If others have perspectives on where the GPC is going, who will/should lead them, send your perspectives to me at nreynolds (at)shaw.ca and I will put them into a collection to post on this TideChange.ca blog.

Norm Reynolds