Daniel Tseghay and Andrew Weaver: Greens demonstrate power of independent thought in politics

By Daniel Tseghay and Andrew Weaver

In a packed hall near the southern shore of Vancouver’s False Creek, Elizabeth May, the leader of the federal Green party, detailed what imperils our country and our world. During her speech at the Green party gala on November 16, she touched on the dire threat of climate change—but it was her depiction of her fellow members of Parliament which might have counted as the most astounding and disillusioning.

In a message she repeated in front of a cheering crowd of 1,300 in Victoria on November 19, she pointed out that many of her colleagues—NDP, Liberal, and Conservative—are directed on how to vote on various pieces of legislation. And, in light of that, they simply don’t read much of the legislation which lands on their desks. They don’t have to, they reason—and, as she suggests, if they did, they might be appalled by what they’re voting for. So they just avoid the trouble and refrain from reading it at all.

Consequently, the Canadian democratic tradition of responsible governance is in peril. Our politicians are not informing themselves about important pieces of legislation. And they’re letting things through which will benefit corporations while hurting many people—all without their consultation.

This is where the pending ratification of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) enters the picture. This FIPA, a treatise which enforces binding obligations in favour of foreign investors, will not be Canada’s first with another state, but it certainly ranks among the least transparent. It will also do far more to serve the interests of Chinese investors than Canadian citizens.

“Its main role is to protect Chinese-owned assets from legislatures, governments, and courts in Canada, and vice versa,” writes Gus Van Harten, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and author of Investment Treaty Arbitration and Public Law. “Because there is more Chinese investment in Canada than Canadian ownership in China, the treaty’s investor protection mechanism puts disproportionate risks and constraints on Canada.”

There’s far more to this proposed treaty than many of us currently know. And it’s time our leaders communicate this reality to the people. Fortunately, there are some leaders still willing to do just that. Elizabeth May was the first to ring the alarm on FIPA. After Stephen Harper signed the FIPA agreement on September 9 without broad consensus, May asked, 10 days later during question period, when the text of the treaty would be made public. A week later she held a press conference, raising the possibility that Canada would become a “resource colony” if FIPA went through. It was only on October 31—nearly two months after Harper’s first move—when the leaders of the Liberal party and the NDP finally raised the issue during question period.

May’s example speaks to the power of independent thought when many of our elected officials have no real incentive to engage in such a thing themselves. The Green party—federal, provincial, and municipal—represents the interests of those engaged in clear and sustained analysis of the issues that will affect us all. In times like these, the people deserve representatives who embody these pivotal practices.

Daniel Tseghay is seeking the nomination to become the B.C. Green candidate for Vancouver-False Creek.

Andrew Weaver is a Lansdowne professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Victoria and is the B.C. Green candidate for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

Comments (14) Add New Comment
Not Green
I really can't stand the Greens. Not because they're a single-issue party, but because their solutions for that one single issue are pretty crazy and would only perpetuate other social problems. They are definitely not like the Greens in Europe.

Also, if they were so independent, Elizabeth May should sit as an independent then.
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notgreeneither
@NotGreen : aside from your comment having nothing whatsoever to do with the content of the article, are you even aware how much of a fool you sound like when you spout off so incoherently?
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Skywalker
Elizabeth May kicks ass. She's a green who has experience in business, she used to be a lawyer and is able to see what most corrupt politicians can't: environment and economy go hand in hand. The people who bad talk the greens have no idea about their platform they just hear the word "green" and automatically think of pot smoking hippies.
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greenplatform
Here is a link to the Greens platform. I' haven't voted for them ...yet, but keep an open mind and read it. I think you'll find it to be quite reasonable...

http://www.greenparty.ca/sites/greenparty.ca/files/attachments/green-boo...
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Jhal
@Not Green: I think if this article proves anything, its that the Greens are anything BUT a single-issue party. Elizabeth May stood up against the antidemocratic aspects of the Chinese FIPA long before any in the "official" opposition, or in the Liberal caucus. I agree the CDN Greens are not like the Greens in Europe, they are much more centrist. Thinking about how refreshing the Greens' ideas are in Canadian politics makes me excited that Elizabeth could be joined by two more MPs in a few short days.
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Lee L.
E May's party platform is like all the rest insofar as you have to hold your nose and choke down what you find distasteful to choose that which you agree with.

I would likely never vote Green unless I felt they could not reach a majority, but I think I would vote for E May as an independent simply because she seems to be doing her job. Kudos to her for reading the legislation and shining a light on it.
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Argulion
Democracy becomes a dictatorship when the 'elected representative' is under party orders not to do their job.
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iang62
In 2001 and 2005 I ran for the Greens here in Vancouver - the main reason people didn't vote Green is that because we would not win. Here I am 10 years later STILL trying to figure that one out !
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Please, Please, Please
Your campaign also had something to do with not winning, Ian (iang62).
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Please, Please, Please
Jhal
"Elizabeth May stood up against the antidemocratic aspects of the Chinese FIPA long before any in the "official" opposition"

Yeah, not really.

I have mailings from the offical oppsotion on my desk from late September than detail concerns with the CCFIPA. May has done a good job, dont get me wrong, but just because Green supporters are not aware of or choose to not see what the other parties are doing doesnt mean they arent doing it.

Jhal
"... Elizabeth could be joined by two more MPs in a few short days"

Not this time, and maybe not for a while. I believe that the Greens did themselves a long term electoral disservice by going all in on May's seat and not building capacity in other ridings in BC and some national urban centres. I dont think that the long term electroal boost from having May as an MP is substantial to anyone but her, frankly. Then again I could be dead wrong, but until someone other than her wins, that is all the Greens have - a leader in one seat. Whether or not that can be built on remains to be seen.
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Carey Campbell
Thank you for the excellent article. The Green Party is right. We need eco jobs for the economy. Solar jobs, Wind jobs. Geothermal jobs. Weatherization jobs. Rail jobs. The Green New Deal, is the real deal. Going Green is great for business. Sustainable green eco profits. Going Green = the right thing to do. Vote Green Party.
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Carey Campbell
The Green Party's pro eco for the economy Green New Deal of solar jobs, wind jobs, geothermal jobs, rail jobs is a winner for business. Greens advocate for common sense positive solutions. Sustainable economic growth. These fiscally conservative green values are showing the most positive economic impact where the Green Party has the most power. Germany has the lowest unemployment rates in the western world. The Green Party controls a third of upper federal legislature, and elected a Green Party Governor, Winfred Kretschmann the President of the "Bundesrat". The Green New Deal works economic wonders, and grows as a powerful political force around the globe. The Green Party is in power in Austraila, New Zeland, and growing every where else. Richmond, California has a Green Party Mayor. Arkansas just elected a former basketball star of the Globetrotters, Fred Smith, Green Party to the state legislature. These are realist, pragmatic pro-Green business Green Party leaders. Thanks again for superb Green Party article.
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RodSmelser
@Please, Please, Please

"I have mailings from the offical oppsotion on my desk from late September than detail concerns with the CCFIPA"


Surely you don't think trivial things like that, actual facts, really matter do you? There are people in the media who need the Greens for a variety of commercial reasons and they simply don't care what the story is on CCFIPA or anything else.


Rod Smelser
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greengreen not brown green
The temporizing of the so-called Green party and Elizabeth May re the sewage treatment in Greater Victoria during the recent federal byelection here shows just how opportunistic and feckless they can be.

They should change their name to the Brown Green party - if after 40 years of discussion about the need for sewage treatment -they say their is no need for immediate action (See Brown Green candidate Galloway's website).

Thank goodness the NDP's Murray Rankin stood up alone and clearly - and courageously - called for action now.
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