Sunday, September 06, 2009

Elizabeth May and the Politics of Self-Service

Lizzie May helps herself to party funding in nomination contest

More trouble seems to lie ahead for Elizabeth May in her quest to become the Green Party candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Yesterday May's challenger, Stuart Hertzog, asked Elections Canada to investigate a transfer of up to $62,000 to that riding's Green Party riding association. According to Hertzog, the transfer was made contingent on the riding choosing Elizabeth May as its candidate, and giving control of the money to John Fryer, May's campaign manager.

For her own part, May doesn't think it's a terribly big deal.

"It's a minor matter," May said. "Once he understands that he's got the wrong end of the stick on this, he'll be quite satisfied."

The funds are connected to a Green party scheme to enact it's "#1 priority" of getting Elizabeth May elected.

"That's a reasonable priority for a party that wants to move beyond being a movement," May explained, and suggested that Hertzog just isn't getting with the program.

"I think he actually doesn't think Greens should aspire to be politically relevant," she suggested. "I don't think we have any place in the political arena if we're not serious about being in the House of Commons."

According to Hertzog, however, his objection isn't stemmed from any belief that the party should remain irrelevant, but that party nominations should be decided fairly -- in the absense of interference from the party executive.

"Elizabeth May has a funded campaign she can use to win the nomination," Hertzog said. "The funding has come from the party specifically for her to win the nomination and then the candidacy."

Apparently, funds have been released to the riding association -- $50,000 promised by the Green Party federal council and $12,000 donated by other ridings (at the federal council's request), but Fryer hasn't been granted signing authority for the money.


Interestingly enough, May hasn't yet won the nomination for Saanich-Gulf Islands. So if those paying attention to this particular episode suspected that the $62,000 could be something of a bribe for the riding association. One may even wonder what the federal council would do should the riding association decide not to select May as their candidate.

This particular episode could be viewed as what takes place when a political party institutes what Barry Cooper describes as the politics of public virtue within its own organization, and then allows it to be poluted by the politics of self-service.

As the leader of the Green party, Elizabeth May has decided that she's entitled to help herself to party funds in order to conduct her relentless quest to get herself elected to the House of Commons.

In May's mind, getting herself elected is the most important thing for her party -- perhaps even the only thing that truly matters. And in order to do that, she's willing to divert tens of thousands of dollars in party funds to the riding association she's chosen to run for even before she's been selected as the candidate.

Whether Elizabeth May wants to admit it or not, that is much more than a "minor matter". Based on the optics of it alone -- let alone questions about the party's priorities -- this particular matter should be setting off alarm bells in the minds of many Green party members.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Mark Kersten - "The Cost of Shifting Priorities"

A View From Science - "Can May Win?"

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