Today I am announcing my withdrawal from the Green Party of Canada leadership race.
It’s a heartbreaking decision that I have come to after deep reflection and after consulting with my team.
Announcing my withdrawal from the Green Party of Canada leadership race – Thank you for your support! The struggle continues ✊
Posted by Alex Tyrrell on Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Although many Green Party members are eager to renew the party by moving beyond the personality cult, the unfortunate reality is that the Elizabeth May era will continue for the foreseeable future.
I would like to thank the hundreds of people who have supported, volunteered for and donated to my campaign over the past few months. I had the privilege to meet with Green Party members in Ontario, Alberta and BC before the COVID pandemic hit and I have met hundreds more online since the confinement began.
When I decided to put my name forward for the federal leadership, I did so under the assurance that Elizabeth May would not intervene in the race. Although this held true for the first few weeks, her intervention in the race has become more and more visible on social media, behind the scenes and most recently when she launched a fundraising tour with one of her preferred candidates.
At the same time that Ms. May has been intervening in the race on a daily basis, she has consolidated power in the party by presenting a slate of candidates – managed by her husband, for the federal council elections. Although the federal council elections were not very visible, received no media coverage, had limited voter turnout and were not even given the importance of organized debates, Ms. May has told the membership that these internal elections are arguably more significant than the leadership race. I chose to focus on the leadership race and did not run a slate of candidates for federal council. This turned out to be a mistake. I was not expecting Ms. May to consolidate power in this fashion.
Over the past months and weeks Ms. May and her entourage have made it amply clear to me that they will do everything in their power to oppose my candidacy, my political agenda of moving the party to the left and that they will fiercely undermine my leadership in the event that I would win the federal leadership race.
In a CBC article published a few days ago, Ms. May’s husband, who is now the party’s vice president, compared my criticisms of their consolidation of power to, and I quote, “fecal matter,” before adding that I “understand nothing about governance” and that I should “return to study.” I view these comments as ageist, condescending, paternalistic and outright disrespectful.
The level of disrespect shown to me by Ms. May, her husband and their entourage has sent the message to their supporters that it is ok to bully me, to send me hateful messages and to bend the rules against my candidacy. This has led to a toxic atmosphere where my supporters and I are attacked on a daily basis. All this in a party that functions without a formal complaint process and where people are not held accountable for their actions if those actions benefit Ms. May’s agenda, grip on power or wishes.
I have never heard of an outgoing leader stacking the party’s highest decision-making body with family members and political allies at a time when they are supposedly stepping back from politics so that the next generation can take over.
In addition to Ms. May’s intervention in the race, the environment within the party is not favourable to democratic debate. I do not understand how candidates who would like to represent the party in the televised leaders debates for the next general election are unwilling or unable to debate the way forward with Green Party leadership candidates. Any legitimate and polite contrast or criticism of other candidates in the race, their policies or lack thereof is met with a barrage of negativity, insults and toxicity.
As the most experienced candidate in the race, having run for the Green Party in 10 provincial elections and having debated with many cabinet ministers, political opponents and other party leaders it is clear that debate performances are one of my greatest strengths. However, in an environment that is so strongly opposed to democratic debate and especially points of view that question the current centrist approach put forward by the party establishment, connections to (and support from) Elizabeth May have become more important than ideas, the ability to debate and the merits of any given candidate.
This race also falls during this massive and highly unfortunate global pandemic. Before the pandemic hit, I had visited 4 provinces and had begun building significant support. My plan was to spend 7 months on the road criss-crossing the country meeting with members and activists while taking positions on issues of local and national importance. I was the first candidate to hit the road but the COVID crisis has made those plans impossible to complete. Although there are ways to reach people online, it’s not the same. We are not able to build the same kind of meaningful and long-lasting relationships that we can build during face to face encounters.
To make matters even more difficult, the party has refused to provide leadership candidates with a means of contacting the membership online. In most leadership races candidates are provided with a membership list which includes email addresses. In this leadership race the party has refused to provide candidates with membership email addresses and will only be scheduling two official debates.
I am exiting this race at a time when I have received more media coverage than all of the other candidates combined. I am happy to have been able to contribute to the debate. I am happy to have called into question long-standing but ill-founded principles of the party such as fiscal conservatism, the lack of party discipline and the party’s centrist approach to Canadian politics which has failed over and over again.
Some of my critics will point to the fact that much of the media coverage surrounding my campaign has been controversy based. This is a criticism which I somewhat agree with – however in an environment which is so closed to political debates about the way forward and in the absence of any kind of meaningful all-candidates debates, it is no wonder that much of the media coverage has been focused on controversy. This is a consequence of the lack of willingness of the party establishment and some of the candidates to debate the issues.
Although many of the things that I have said so far are negative, I remain hopeful that the Green Party of Canada will be able to renew itself during this leadership race. It may be unlikely, but it is not impossible. What I have realized over the past few weeks is that with the level of opposition that I face from Elizabeth May and her entourage that it will be impossible for me to unite the party. It would have been possible if Ms. May was willing to step aside and let the next generation take over but it is not the case at the moment and it is unrealistic for me to become leader of the Green Party of Canada under these circumstances.
I would also like to say a few words about diversity within the party. It is no secret that the Green Party of Canada has huge problems with racism, discrimination and exclusion of marginalized communities within its ranks. In the last election the party presented fewer candidates of colour than any other party – including the racist, populist and ignorant party led by Maxime Bernier. This is a situation which is wrong, embarrassing, immoral and that must be addressed.
In the last provincial election the Green Party of Quebec presented one of the most diverse, if not the most diverse set of Green Party candidates in Canadian history. We went from having 20% women candidates in the election before I took office to 58% women candidates under my leadership in the 2018 provincial election. We went from having very little diversity to a slate of candidates which more actuarially reflects the diversity of the province. We paved the way for candidates who wear turbans, hijabs and kippahs to run for provincial office by forcing the government to change rules that excluded them from participating in elections based on their appearance.
What I have learnt about increasing diversity in politics is that it’s not about quotas or tokenization. It’s about presenting policies that are relevant to minority groups. It’s about denouncing racism on a regular basis even when it makes some of the majority community feel uncomfortable. It’s about marching with Black Lives Matter. Its about supporting indigenous uprisings and direct action. It’s about denouncing laws designed to discriminate against religious minorities. It’s about being present to listen to and engage with minority communities. The party’s current approach is based on quotas and tokenization and will not succeed until policies are changed and the party becomes vocal on these issues.
Although the Green Party of Quebec has more progressive policies than the Federal Greens (and we have been criticized across the country for shaking things up within the movement), I firmly believe that the Green Party of Quebec should be a strong voice within the Canadian green movement. We should be able to participate in conventions, we should be able to have our voices heard and we should be treated with respect. What we have experienced is the polar opposite. Our progressive and principled stances on anti-oppression within our own province have been repeatedly contradicted and undermined by our federal counterparts. We have been sidelined on numerous occasions and we have been blocked from participating in the internal democratic structures of the Green Party of Canada. In 2017, the Green Party of Canada went as far as to schedule their 2018 federal policy convention for the day before Quebec’s fixed election date. They did this despite our formal objections. This continuous marginalization of Quebec within the federal green movement is counterproductive, immoral, undemocratic and it needs to stop.
While many people are upset with the way I and other progressives within the Green Party of Canada have been treated, I want to be very clear; quitting the party is not the solution. A progressive exodus from the federal party will only pave the way for more centre-right policies which will be detrimental to the environmental and social justice movements of this country. The Green Party of Canada is an important voice in Canadian politics and we cannot allow it to be compromised by centrist policies, special interest lobbies and eco-capitalism. We must stay and fight for a progressive Green Party which will uphold social justice rather than working against it by doing things like reopening the abortion debate.
I look forward to working with the next leader of the Green Party of Canada no matter who it is. I may choose to endorse a candidate further along in the race but my decision has not yet been made. I would like to support one or more progressive candidates. For the moment, most of the candidates running have very limited platforms and political commentary on the public record. I look forward to hearing more from them and meeting with as many of them as possible. I am happy to have contributed to the policy development of the party and of the Canadian environmental movement through the publication of my version of the Green New Deal. I hope that one or several of the other candidates will be able to carry these policies forward.
As for myself, I plan on continuing to be a progressive voice within the Canadian Green Movement while leading the Green Party of Quebec to the next provincial election scheduled for October 2022. I love my work in the Green Party of Quebec. I love the team that we have put together and I love the environmental and social justice movements of this province. Never before has the Green Party of Quebec been so well represented and I look forward to continuing this important work. The pandemic has created unprecedented opportunities for progressive change in Quebec while we rebuild our society and rethink our collective values.
I would like to thank everyone who has helped and supported me through this campaign which has been all in all a great experience. To our deputy leaders of the Green Party of Quebec, Alice Secherese and Halimatou Bah, thank you for holding down the fort during my absence and for contributing to the advancement of social justice and environmental protection. To my official agent, Nicholas Lescabeau, to my friends, family, supporters and to everyone who organized events for me on the road – Vince Folito, Nicole Peltier, Preston Smith, Constantine Kritsonis, Billy Crumplin, Evelyn Tanaka, Cassandra Romain, Vanessa Scott, David Mills, Kathleen Somerville, Alain Joseph, Stephanie Stevenson, chief Jessica Hill, Elder Raymond Robinson, Elder Marlene Hale, Wissal El Allaoui, Tony Leah, Rebecca Ketch, Roberta Herod, Corinne Mintz, Naiomi Hunter, Mary & Greg from Peterborough, Gabrielle Bruser, Carmen Budilean and to the entire team at the Green Party of Quebec and to everyone who supported me – thank you for giving me this opportunity for which I will be forever grateful.
Thank you all so much for your involvement in my campaign. I look forward to working with all of you in the future!