Sunday, August 01, 2010

Amateurish

Not taking anything away from Georges Laraque- who does seem to have a genuine social conscience- but the Green Party decision to name him deputy leader reeks of amateurism, at the worst possible time in the history of the party:
The federal Greens are hoping a former NHL tough guy will boost the party's profile and help it to score big in the next election.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May named Georges Laraque as a deputy leader of the party on Saturday.

The 260-pound former Montreal Canadien will focus on promoting the link between physical health and the environment.

Laraque only just joined the Green Party six months ago, which makes his ascendency to the number two slot almost embarrassing and woefully transparent. There is some value for the Green Party, having a former Hab on the ticket will give needed exposure in Quebec. However, that rationale is quite narrow, because the move also cements the message that the Green Party lacks a professional demanor. For any upstart party, piercing the credibility barrier is job one, this move does nothing in that regard, if anything a step backwards. Again, nothing against Laraque, but his former role in the NHL was that of a goon, low on skill. Quite a feat, from bruiser to the Green Party deputy LEADER in a few months. People already question May as a legitimate alternative, having Laraque by her side- I fail to see the ultimate political upside.

The Greens are at a bit of a crossroads at the moment, part curiousity, part serious alternative. It isn't exactly encouraging, that the Greens choose to artifically elevate a complete novice to such a position of perceived importance and power. The perception isn't one of a sophisticated party offering a true alternative, but more a "not ready for prime time" quirky sideshow.

20 comments:

JimBobby said...

Well, Steve, when a Liberal PM appointed a political neophyte Haitian immigrant to the highest position in Canada, there was a lot of grousing and nay-saying, too.

The GPC generally has more than one deputy leader. I ain't sure how many deputies sheriff May has right at the moment but being deputy does not necessarily indicate leader-in-waiting status.

The Liberals pulled a bone-headed move of far greater negative consequence when they panicked after Dion's poor showing and anointed the magnificent Ignatieff to leadership position of the number two party in Canada without so much as a leadership campaign, not to mention no contest or members' vote. I ain't so sure any Liberal's in any position to criticize any other party considering how that decision has worked out.

The rest of the article from which you quoted went on to describe a dedicated humanitarian. Laraque donated $100,000 of his own money to Haiti post-earthquake relief. He's stated that he wants to move past his former role in sports and into an area where he can make a positive difference in the world. His principles, if not his political experience, seem admirable.

When Harper appointed the illiterate Jacques Demers to the Senate of Canada, it raised plenty of eyebrows, too. I understand that Whipper Billy Watson ran for the Conservatives.

The GPC needs to raise its profile, especially in Quebec. There's a strong environmental movement there that has been largely uncapitalized upon by the Greens.

If the old question of "Who would you rather have a beer with: Ignatieff or Laraque?" were posed to the average Quebec voter, I suspect Laraque would win hands down.

Deputy leader of the Green Party does not translate to deputy Prime Minister of Canada. Heck, even the staunchest GPC supporters do not think Elizabeth May of any GPC leader will be PM in this or the next generation. Greens garners a significant percentage of Canada's popular vote and deserve a voice in parliament. We don't expect to win a majority government and the relative inexperience of a Quebec lieutenant does not disqualify the party from representing environmentally concerned Canadians. Lord knows, Ignatieff doesn't love the planet enough to denounce the tar sands or nuclear energy.

Mark Francis said...

I second JimBobby.

Laraque's effectiveness will be based upon what he gives that Party, not on how people perceive he got to where he is -- unless he fails to deliver.

If Iggy had put in a masterful performance as Opposition leader, I may have come to forgive how he got there. He has not, so I have not.

I remain politically unaffiliated, BTW.

CK said...

JimBobby, hockey is a religion here; I suspect that Quebecers would rather have a beer with Laraque than with even Gilles Duceppe.

Mark Francis, not sure if you attended any event to date on the liberal express tour, but I think you would have been pleasantly surprised.

I went to the one in Montreal and Iggy is nothing like the "arrogant, condescending stuffed shirt professor" much of corporate media, the Harpercon pundits and the rest of Stevie Spiteful's cheerleaders paint him to be. Very positive response. Everybody I have spoken to who has attended an event has pretty much said the same thing.

Iggy was never my first choice, but we're stuck with him; let's make the best of a bad situation, or else we're stuck with a Harpercon majority. Simple as that.

As for the tarsands, no one is going to shut those down. Employs too many people and contributes to the economy. We're as addicted to oil as a junkie is addicted to heroine.

Even in so-called green Quebec, looks like we're going to eventually cave in and allow drilling at Old Harry; the long disputed well located somewhere between Labrador and Quebec; no matter whether the Liberals stay or the Parti Quebecois take over.

Sorry,in my opinion, the environment cannot be a deal breaker to risk a Harpercon majority, the more he says and does and reveals his dictator junta ways, the more terrified I get.

Frankly, I want him out of office and don't really care how it's done.

BTW: Lizzie May ain't that progressive; I seem to remember her anti-abortion ways and she did get her start in lyin' Brian Mulroney's cabinet.

Steve V said...

JB

You know I have a soft spot for the Greens. I'm not sure that a return fire attack on the Libs, necessarily deals with the optics of giving a "rookie" a top slot in the party. This isn't partisan, I just think this move marginalizes the party.

ottlib said...

All political parties like to have their star candidates to give them some more exposure. If BGL is theirs then sobeit. It is still the Green Party however so do not expect it to have any real impact at the ballot box.

JB, the Liberals have made some mistakes but they have demonstrated over the decades that they can govern and most Canadians would agree that despite their recent troubles they will probably find themselves there again in the future.

The same cannot be said for the Greens so making somewhat amateurish decisions like this one are quite risky.

As well, no party "deserves" a voice in Parliament. They have to earn it by impressing enough Canadians on e-day to win a seat in that institution. So far they have been abject failures at that.

They have made inroads towards respectability but they have not reach a point yet where enough Canadians believe they warrant a seat in the House.

JimBobby said...

Ottlib -"As well, no party "deserves" a voice in Parliament. They have to earn it by impressing enough Canadians on e-day to win a seat in that institution. So far they have been abject failures at that. "

With roughly the same number of Canadian voters casting ballots for the GPC for the separatist BQ, that party elected more than 40 MPs and the GPC elected none. Even the mother of Parliaments in Westminster is working on democratic reform. The FPTP system is what has ensured disproportional representation and eventually it may come to an end --- even if it will be an uphill battle since FPTP is most unfairly favorable to the very ones who solely hold the power to modernize it.

@CK - Elizabeth May's position on abortion has been wildly distorted. Her words -- not those of her political opponents -- speak to pro-choice ideals. She quit her junior job as a lawyer in Mulroney's government in protest of his refusal to grant a thorough environmental assessment for a Manitoba dam project. That was more than 20 years ago, btw.

FWIW, I am not as huge a May booster as I once was. I think she's made some boneheaded political moves and has a bit of a propensity for sticking her foot in her mouth. I am among those GPC members who want to see a leadership race this year. That said, the GPC is the only party that has increased its membership numbers since the last election.

@Steve - My return of fire on the Libs is simply my opinion that you guys made a huge mistake wrt Ignatieff. You're stuck with an albatross and I don't think you're in a position to point fingers. One of Elizabeth May's biggest weaknesses is her soft spot for the Liberals. She's rather lose against MacKay or Lunn than run against a sitting Liberal in a winnable riding. When the environmentally conscious Dion was leader, that was understandable. With the decidedly earth-unfriendly Ignatieff at the helm, I'm at a loss as to why she still gives the LPC an easy ride. Ignatieff could win more votes if he'd smarten up wrt the environment. That's not an attack. It's advice.

Steve V said...

"That's not an attack. It's advice"

Sort of like saying gimmicky moves won't help in the end :)

JimBobby said...

Just some friendly advice form a guy in a party that's growing to a guy in a party that's shrinking. :)

Like Mark said, the proof will be whether Laraque attracts members and votes, gimmicky or not.

BTW, an afterthought to CK: Those LPX events are pretty much only attended by LPC supporters. Preaching to the choir is easy stuff. That said, I don't doubt that Iggy is more personable than his detractors make him out to be. Just like Lizzie's not the anti-abortion Mulroney lover her opponents make her out to be.

FWIW, BCer in TO Jeff Jedras has an interesting comparison of Harper and Ignatieff wrt handling similar unforeseen incidents on the campaign trail. Iggy's human. Harper ain't.

http://bcinto.blogspot.com/2010/07/tale-of-two-fainters.html

RuralSandi said...

JimBobby is a devoted Green, so we expect him to come out fighting, as is his right.

I used to admire Lizzie, but lately she's scrambling and it doesn't do her good.

I don't understand why the put the Greens as progressives - they are on the environment, but otherwise they lean more "central" right.

JB - if Lizzie's going to keep on attacking other parties over parliament/democracy - she better straighten up her act. Her move to have Blair jump to the Greens and sit in parliament - so she could be in a debate - turned me right off. I think she would have gotten on because of public outcry without that nonsense.

She's looking more and more like a Lizzie in a tizzy.

I don't think this hockey guy will make a difference.

JimBobby said...

Sandi, I don't think it was the Blair thing that clinched her seat in the debates. I think public pressure and the voices of the LPC, BQ and CPC leaders carried more weight. Layton was the only leader who opposed May's inclusion. The fatcat Broadcast Consortium that sets the rules for debate inclusion moves the goalposts at will and they'll continue to do so until the debates are handled properly by Elections Canada and not by commercial broadcast interests.

As far as whether or not the GPC is "progressive" depends upon one's own idea of where the centre lies. I like the Political Compass method for gauging where the parties stand (or at least where they stood in their 2008 election platforms). Their methodology is transparent and relatively comprehensive.

Here's how they pegged the parties in 2008.

You'll note that the GPC is a bit to the left and less authoritarian than the LPC. I define that as being more progressive. The GPC is quite a bit to the right and more authoritarian than teh NDP and BQ. I guess we're less progressive than them and more progressive than the Libs. We're all a lot more progressive than the Cons.

FWIW, my own personal spot on the compass is almost dead centre in the lower left quadrant. Obviously, I don't fall into line with the entirety of GPC policy. I find, however, that the internal mechanisms of the GPC allow my voice to be heard and I can have some influence on policy. I even helped draft our current position on ethanol and bio-fuels and the policy was endorsed by a vote of members at our last general meeting. All GPC policy proposals are voted on by all party members via a secure web-based ballot, btw.

ottlib said...

JB,

According to the rules of our Parliamentary democracy the Greens have not done what it takes to gain any seats in Parliament so they do not deserve a seat in Parliament.

As with the NDP, they have failed to build a party that even a small plurality believes can govern and it the end most Canadians vote for the party they believe will do the best job governing.

Until such time as the rules of our democracy change, which is not going to happen any time soon, the Greens are exactly where they belong for a party that has failed to be seen as anything more than a fringe party by the majority of Canadians.

If they want to change that they are going to have to do the hard work of gaining credibility with Canadians. That will take time and effort not quick fixes or gimmicks.

Mark Francis said...

@RuralSandi: Greens can be found all over the spectrum, but most are very progressive on social issues.

I know some people dislike floor crossers, but insisting people stick with the Party they were in when voted in only increases the already disproportionate power of political parties. Frankly, people need to connect more with their local rep, and less with party leaders and centralized political propaganda.

The GPC council needs to respect its constitution better. Elizabeth is just one vote there.

Steve V said...

JB

Interesting graph, and it looks like all the parties are to the right, more authoritarian than when I took that test. Bit surprised.

CK said...

JB: Anyone who wanted to go to these LPCX events could go. In fact, I think the Liberals encouraged it. They were free of charge.

I did catch BCer in Toronto's post. I always knew icewater or should I say crude oil runs through Master Steve's veins? That video of Steve and his reaction to the kid fainting was chilling to say the least the least.

If you're to say that Miss Lizzy is soft on Liberals by not running against Liberal incumbents, then the same would have to be said about her not running against Bloc or NDP incumbents. Fair is fair.

rockfish said...

I can agree with JB on one thing - it is admirable that Laraque is committed to helping change things and to make a difference. So many of today's high profile people are all about their own bottom line.
However, the plight of the Green Party is gonna be a lot less -- as it will be for many underrepresented groups and people as demonstrated by Harper's labelling those who support other parties and non-profit lobby groups as 'special interests' -- if more green supporters don't choose wisely next election. Harper's plan to pulling the carpet on public financing of political parties is going to mean you'll need Sydney Crosby onboard to get any publicity and funding.
And when JB says things like this:
"With roughly the same number of Canadian voters casting ballots for the GPC for the separatist BQ, that party elected more than 40 MPs and the GPC elected none. Even the mother of Parliaments in Westminster is working on democratic reform..." he is devaluing his own argument.
You can't compare the vote nationally to one that's provincial. This is the electoral system we've got; if you don't work within it first, you'll be only whining from the outside. Get on board and help us change from within. I'm not asking you to dance with Ignatieff, but start listening with half-opened ears for a change.

CK said...

rockfish: You can't compare the vote nationally to one that's provincial. This is the electoral system we've got; if you don't work within it first, you'll be only whining from the outside. Get on board and help us change from within. I'm not asking you to dance with Ignatieff, but start listening with half-opened ears for a change.

It's what I've been trying to tell others more or less. It's a less than idea situation, but let's try to make the best of it.

I hear a lot of how folks want proportional representation and that's a deal breaker. I had someone over at my blog awhile back saying they categorically refused to vote Liberal because Iggy doesn't support legalized marijuana, for heaven's sake.
I told those people basically that with a Harpercon majority (or minority), you're not going to get none of those things.

Yes, I support legalized Pot, it just makes sense; regulate it and tax it.

Proportional representation? I'm on the fence with this one. Need to study it more before I can form an opinion one way or another.

Parliamentary reform,(progation, too much power for PMO,etc) absolutely, but again, not gonna happen under Harpercon.

For me, the priority is getting that dictator out of office. Then we can fight for those other things later on. Would these things happen with Iggy at the helm; perhaps not, but Far better odds with him or some another government in office than Harpercon that's for sure.

Iggy was never my first choice for Liberal leader, as I've said, but I'm willing to try to make the best of a bad situation.

JimBobby said...

Sounds like the message is: "Vote Liberal. We're not as bad as the other guys."

In some ridings, a strategic vote for either the LPC or NDP could help topple the Cons. I don't see too many Grits or Dippers advocating that people vote for any party other than their own even when they are an obvious third place finisher.

The Green vote is not really the deciding factor in very many ridings where a progressive vote split puts the Cons in power. There were a few ridings where the Greens came in second place in 2008 but very few. If I am not mistaken, one of those was Guelph and a Liberal was elected despite a strong GPC showing.

In one previous election, I did as you're suggesting -- held my nose and voted Liberal -- in an attempt to prevent a CPC win in what appeared to be a close LPC/CPC race. As it turned out, the CPC still would have won even if every single GPC vote went to the Libs. The Libs also would have needed more than half of the NDP votes to prevent the CPC from taking a seat that had been held by the LPC for 14 years.

You'll never convince every single Green voter to vote Liberal simpoly because the Liberals are not as bad as the CPC. The sensible thing to do would be to focus converting GPC and NDP votes only in those ridings where the LPC presents a strong second place.

Additionally, if you're really interested in toppling the cons and not simply interested in a stronger LPC showing, you've got to allow a strong second place NDP candidate to win. This needn't mean dropping out of the race but merely providing zero federal party support and funds to ridings where the LPC cannot win but can split the progressive vote enough to prevent an NDP win. This strategy has been practiced, albeit quietly, in past elections. It makes good sense when your party's war chest is not exactly overflowing.

Here are the 2008 results from my riding: Haldimand-Norfolk

CON: Diane Finley: 19,657
LIB: Eric Hoskins: 15,577
NDP: Ian Nichols: 5,549
IND: Gary McHale: 4,821
GRN: Stephana Johnston: 2,041
CHP: Steven Elgersma: 501

You can see that if every single GPC vote was given to the LPC, the CPC would still have won by a 2000 margin. Tell me why a GPC supporter would compromise his or her principles in such a situation.

FYI, the Independent candidate in the 2008 was running solely on the Caledonia land claim issue and was basically running on an "I hate Indians" platform. I can be assumed that he took most of his strong showing from the CPC. had he not been in the race, the CPC would have won by an even wider margin.

Strategic voting can be useful but only in certain ridings where certain conditions exist. To make blanket statements that all Greens should vote Liberal because the Liberals aren't as bad as the Cons doesn't make sense in most ridings. Additionally, if teh LPC wants to win over Greens, it needs to be done by presenting a positive, environmentally sound platform. Ignatieff has been disappointing to say the least. With him as leader, there's little chance of the LPC winning over Greens, even in those very few ridings where it could make a decisive difference.

As for democratic reform and proportional representation, I'm over 60. I don't expect to see much change in my lifetime. That doesn't mean that the status quo is good enough or is defensible. I will continue to work for PR and democratic reform. I have grandchildren who may benefit from my efforts. A strong GPC showing coupled with a disproportionally low number of elected MPs drives home the message to all but the most intransigent partisans that our system is unfair and needs fixing.

James Bow said...

Six months is a rather short time between joining a party and ascending to the deputy leadership. However, I would recommend taking a wait and see approach. If he can impress, he will, and if he can't, then he and the party will pay for it. But you shouldn't try to make the party pay for it in advance.

And I would also caution against complaining about the Green Party "stealing" other parties' votes. For one thing: those aren't your votes. You aren't entitled to them. If the Green Party "steals" them, it's your fault for not being able to keep them, not theirs.

And, frankly, I don't think all of the Green Party's votes have come from the other parties. Eliminating the Green choice won't automatically ensure that the Green vote goes Liberal. Remember, the Conservatives took four years before they were able to put together a showing that equaled the combined performance of the PCs and Canadian Alliance, and right now it continues to poll well under that level.

Take a person's choice away, and they won't automatically vote for you. I think they're far more likely just to not vote.

Incidentally, have you noticed the combined Conservative/Liberal take in the last poll? With the Conservatives at 31% and the Liberals at 26%, that's a combined vote of 57%. If you add the PC and Reform/Canadian Alliance performances together in the 1990s, there has NEVER been an election in the history of Canada where Liberal and Conservative forces have tallied less than 70% of the vote. With the NDP still at their core numbers, this means that the bulk of the Liberal/Conservative vote has shifted to the Bloc and the Greens.

Remove the Green Party as an option, and some of those votes might head towards the Conservatives.

crf said...

Well, what does a deputy leader do? He protects the leader and the party.

If Dion had Laraque as deputy leader, he might just be PM right now ;)

Steve V said...

Not sure this type of coverage ultimately works for an upstart party, trying to pierce the credibility barrier:

http://photos.cyberpresse.ca/51-8229/?utm_categorieinterne=trafficdrivers&utm_contenuinterne=cyberpresse_en-photos_269_accueil_ECRAN1POS2#enVedette/0/recherche/Rechercher%20un%20album/0/onglets/51/0/album/8229/200007/