2020- 2022 Policy Process | Green Party of Canada
Where GPC membership collaborates to develop our policies
G21-B007 Democratize the Policy Process by Prohibiting Limitations and Functionary Commentary On Members’ Motions
This proposal was discussed in the workshop during Phase 2 of the VGM. However, there was not enough time for this proposal to be voted on in plenary by the members during Phase 2. Therefore, this proposal will not be included in the ratification vote.
Bylaw 4 is hereby amended by adding thereto the following two subsections:
4.3.6 Notwithstanding any other provision of these Bylaws (including Bylaw 6.4.3), neither Shadow Cabinet, Federal Council nor any committee thereof nor any official, employee, representative or Unit of the Party may impose any limit whatsoever on: (1) the specificity of Motions submitted for consideration by the Members at a General Meeting; or (2) the number of words contained in the operative part of such Motions. For greater clarity, but without limiting the generality of the preceding sentence, Members shall be free to specify in any Motion the strategy and/or tactics to be employed by the Leader, Shadow Cabinet, Federal Council or any committee thereof.
4.3.7 It shall be absolutely prohibited for the Leader, Shadow Cabinet, Federal Council or any committee thereof or any official, employee, representative or Unit of the Party to include any partisan commentary on any voting ballot submitted to the Members.
To democratize the GPC’s policy process.
Within the collectivity of the GPC membership, there is a vast pool of expertise on a broad array of issues. Empowering GPC members to adopt specific policies and to specify strategies and tactics will enable the GPC to benefit from that expertise in the policy-making process.
Supporting Comments from Submitter
Nothing in the GPC’s Constitution or Bylaws currently prevents members from making motions that are specific or that advocate for certain strategies or tactics. Despite this, the current GPC policy development process imposes limits on the specificity of policy motions.
The idea that members are limited to developing policies defined as “a principle-based statement which does not contain any specific strategy or tactical statement” is relatively recent and quite unique to a handful of Canadian Green Parties. The approach appears to have originated in the BC Greens and been carried over and adopted by other Canadian parties, including the GPC and the GPO, with limited debate by the general membership, despite its crucial impact on the basic Green principle that party policy is driven by the grassroots. It was argued that, if member-driven policies are too prescriptive, they may tie the hands of Green legislators in Parliament and force them to stand up for things that are controversial, impractical or unpopular.
The approach, however, departs from the generally accepted definition of policy that involves a proposed course of action to deal with a problem (a course of action may, of course, be a strategy or tactic).
To our knowledge, this approach is not something prevalent in Green Parties outside Canada. Policy processes are very heterogeneous, for example, the Green Party of New Zealand has a Policy Committee with policy networkers appointed by provincial bodies and responsible for connecting with the grassroots, these networkers being the voting members, in addition to the Committee appointing working groups from the membership to address specific areas. In France, the Greens have commissions thématiques formed by members “Il existe au sein du parti des lieux de réflexions et de débats que l’on appelle les commissions thématiques. Elles participent à l’élaboration des orientations du parti, formulent des propositions d’actions et apportent leur expertise aux élu-e-s qui le souhaitent.” There are other modalities, structures and processes, but we have not seen evidence of other parties outside Canada placing the same level of restriction on the ability of members to propose policies that are beyond principle and that entail course of action.
Not all Canadian Green Parties have adopted the GPC’s current approach to the policy process. An example of a party that may eventually diverge from this approach is the PEI Greens. They have been working on a process for some time and early drafts and pilot projects outline a different concept. If adopted, the proposed process would enable development of member-driven policy in a participatory manner. It would provide tools to members to develop solid motions, allow for a period where submitted policies can be negotiated with other members and amended prior to final submission. Policy development would be ongoing, with multiple points of entry to the formal motion submission process. Although guidance would contain advice against policies being overly specific (for example, against including specific budget allocations for something), it would encourage members to propose policy approaches (instruments), as these are often what differentiates a party for another. The PEI Committee made the case that sound, member-approved party policies that include a course of action do not tie the hands of legislators, on the contrary, policies provide guidance and direction, whether in government or in opposition, whether in majority or in minority. A party policy will help support negotiations in collaborative situations by providing a baseline for the party’s interests and positions from which to work towards compromise, fair outcomes, and/ or creative win-win solutions. If a party does not have a clear policy on something, it is much more difficult to explain to members what was given up, if anything, in a negotiation because there was no concrete departure point. It must be noted that the GPPEI has not yet adopted the proposal, which is still on draft and awaiting further input.
The single largest piece of evidence pointing to the need for the GPC to update its current process and explore other options is the amount of discord that it has generated since its implementation in 2018. If adopted, this proposed by-law change will enhance grassroots decision-making within the GPC.
Participatory Democracy, Social Justice, Respect for Diversity
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Add to current GPC policy.
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I think the problem words here are "specificity" and "partisan".
I think the larger problem is that much of the motion is not necessary. We do not need to amend the Constitution to allow members to introduce unvetted motions at meetings any more than we need to assert that oxygen be supplied at meetings.
The core problem here is one of administrative policy. The meeting can change the standing rules on proposal submission. (In fact it definitely should.) There is no admin policy that the meeting can not rescind or simply chose to ignore at any given meeting. Because no meeting can tie a knot which a later meeting cannot untie. Similarly, the membership can set aside previously agreed to rules of procedure it it so chooses - or suspend them for part of or the entire meeting.
If the meeting decides to consider all submitted motions in their original form - all 86, not some BS prioritized list of 15 - it already has that power. You do not hash these issues out in a Constitution. As a general rule, if the Constitution is not creating the problem, it is almost always a terrible place to solve it.
I am basing the above on the position that portions of the Constitution which appear to limit motions to three types do not exclude motions in general. Also, although the Constitution attempts to define "Directive' to mean a sort of suggestion for 'consideration', it does not actually use the term 'Directive' once defined (bizarre). So there exists no restriction in the Constitution on the members' ability to direct Federal Council.
If anything, work on 7.3.5. 'Consideration' does not mean 'approval'. It just means 'careful thought'. A directive remains an instruction to act.
Notwithstanding the above, I strongly oppose the idea that our grass-roots status can be reclaimed by recommitting ourselves to participatory democracy as our primary method of making decisions and getting work done. At 35,000+, that isn't a recipe for democracy. It is a recipe for factions, special interest groups, stacking of meetings, objecting to things you don't understand, approving of things you do not care about, and spending money and resources you don't have. Democracy can not be said to exist in chaos. We desperately need governance reform.
But this ain't it.
I would not be willing to consider this motion until the GPC has clearly defined process for policy creation, revision and retirement (currently does not exist). Adding lengthy and specific motions will make the situation even worse.
Conversation with Dianne Varga
I am in support of the following: "It shall be absolutely prohibited for the Leader, Shadow Cabinet, Federal Council or any committee thereof or any official, employee, representative or Unit of the Party to include any partisan commentary on any voting ballot submitted to the Members."
According to Art. 4 of the Constitution, the purpose of the party is to develop policy, positions and platforms that are consistent with its values and basis of unity, and not the opinions of a transitory group of people such as the Shadow Cabinet, a group that is, according to Art. 6, accountable to the party membership when in general meeting, and not to any higher authority.
Cabinet or caucus has no business appending commentary to any policy proposal.
If you wish the prevent this, all that is required is a simple motion to amend administrative procedure. This is _not_ the sort of thing you want to add to a Constitution already groaning under the weight accrued from years of tinkering.
The Constitution is almost never the place to prohibit activity. For that we have standing rules and procedures that can be changed by the membership at will. This doesn't belong in the Constitution anymore than a 'scent-free' policy does.
Members already have the right to be presented with unaltered motions. All of them. There is no Constitutional basis for preventing the members from seeing original text and refusing to consider partisan comments. And so it follows that there is no need to expressly affirm this right in the Constitution. Amend the procedure.
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