Mike Donovan: Unparty seeks to bring consensus decision-making to B.C. politics
Unparty: The Consensus-Building Party aims to fundamentally change B.C. politics from one dominated by power rivalries to one based on consensus decision-making. Today, elected politicians continually represent (re-present) their party to us and not the other way round. They constantly strive to convince us of their party’s special correctness even when their decisions run counter to our own understanding and needs. Unparty, however, values consensus-building as a means to reach decisions that fit with the common good.
That each of us has a political representative in Victoria, acting in our best interests, is but a fairy-tale taught to schoolchildren. But supposing your delegate strains to represent you, even disobeys her/his party to do so, is that good? I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want someone to represent me on issues I find important. I want to represent myself. I don’t want someone making decisions on my behalf; I want my own voice. And I want you to have yours too. What’s more, I won’t insist that I am right and you are wrong. We can all participate in discussions, deliberate, and find some common ground.
Searching for common ground, or consensus decision-making, embodies certain values: participation, collaboration, inclusion, equality, respect, and agreement-seeking. The governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut practice formal consensus governance. Criminal juries must reach consensus. In fact, we see it in daily life, such as when friends decide on a restaurant to dine in together, or a family chooses a vacation spot.
Consensus decision-making is great in many ways, but its coolest trait is its potential for innovation. All members of the group share their knowledge and viewpoints. Information is never secret, and people build off the ideas of others (think Wikipedia). Participants propose solutions that could not have been dreamed up by any one individual or by a small leadership elite. As an example of group creation, this article you are reading now was crowdsourced at Unparty.ca.
In adversarial systems, such as our current political one, speech is aggression. Therefore, strong people with weak ideas succeed where weak people with strong ideas fail. But, today, more than ever, we need to hear and implement those strong ideas. The crises are getting more severe and frequent: climate disruption, economic calamities, increasing job insecurity, reduced social services, environmental degradation, the democratic deficit, and more.
These ideas propel Unparty. Unparty currently has no formal policy ideas on healthcare, the environment, jobs creation, et cetera. This is for you (all) to figure out and share with the rest of us. Unparty, itself, as an organization has no fixed form or course either. Unparty's configuration and action, its very future, are open to all. It’s our time, the people’s time, to come together, work together, in order to bring forth a better future! The key is to stay true to the consensus decision-making principles mentioned above and build from there. Observing the NDP-Liberal fighting, you might conclude that consensus decision-making is impossible. But let us refuse to allow those parties to define the possible!
Unparty will be on the ballot in a couple Richmond districts. But its future is undetermined. Maybe all towns, municipalities, and cities should have an Unparty of their own (or a local, autonomous chapter of this Unparty?), a place for people to connect and discuss. And the multitude of Unparties across B.C. should communicate and deliberate with all the others using the same consensus-seeking value system. You decide. The future is unwritten. Will you play a part in it?