Thank you to everyone who was able to make it to the meeting and take part in the democratic process of voting for your candidate nominee of choice.
The following is the transcript of Jeff’s acceptance speech; we will soon update this page to include a video as well.
Thank you very much. Thanks to Janine for faithfully representing the Green Party in this riding for the past six elections – Janine, you’ve built the foundation and set the tone, by your work, activism, and lifestyle, for a greener Provencher. I look forward to working with you again on the campaign.
Our challenge in this campaign is enormous. Most of the constituents of Provencher don’t actually know who we are or what we’re about; they think that we’re advocating marijuana, or some kind of all-or-nothing environmentalism that requires everyone to live in sod houses and drive hybrids. To reach the people, we need to overcome the popular misconceptions about what the Green Party is, and show them that we’re not just an idea or an ideal, but that we’re producing sound policy and a viable alternative to the other parties.
We’re aware that Provencher has been a Conservative stronghold for a long time, and that’s why our challenge in this campaign also involves overcoming the popular misconceptions about the Conservative party. I’ve had people argue passionately to me that Christians must vote Conservative, because they are a Christian party, or because they are the only party who will outlaw abortion and overturn gay marriage. This is a misconception: Stephen Harper has made it very clear that he will not bring up those issues, and that he will defeat any motions in the House to bring up those issues. He is unambiguous about the fact that the Conservative Party of Canada is not socially conservative. At the same time, his own Christianity is often emphasized, as was Vic Toews’ faith, and I’m sure as is Ted Falk’s. Meanwhile, most people have no idea that Elizabeth May was very nearly ordained as an Anglican minister, or that the NDP was founded by a Baptist minister from Winnipeg named Tommy Douglas. I aim to show the people of Provencher that the Conservative party does not have a monopoly on faith or Christianity, and that there is more than one colour of Christian in politics.
The Conservatives also have a reputation for being the financial experts who can handle the economy, while people think that the Green Party would damage the economy with idealistic policies. They don’t realize that the Green Party of Canada was actually founded on economic principles, and we’ll need to show them that our policies would not only lead to a more stable and resilient economy but would also do more to benefit Canadians outside of Alberta. In a clean energy economy, Provencher becomes a powerhouse – literally and financially.
But Conservative voters are not our biggest competitor. Our biggest challenge will be to inspire and engage the non-voters, the people who have been disillusioned and disenfranchised by a system and a government that discourages their participation in deciding their own future. I wish I could have a video camera follow me around, to capture the moment every time someone tells me that they haven’t voted in a long time because they’ve felt cynical about the whole process, but that there’s something about the Green Party that makes them want to vote again. People often think that the Green Party will only steal votes from the NDP or Liberals, but that’s another misconception: the people we will resonate with are those who haven’t been voting at all, or those who feel like the Harper Conservatives are the only conservative option.
I’m not naive; I know that this will be an uphill battle. Political parties are established over a very long time, and some of the other parties have over a hundred years of history in this riding; we started our riding association a year and a half ago. But I don’t think that the challenges we face are insurmountable. In the past year we’ve gone from a lone and faithful voice in the wilderness to the organization we have today, built by a handful of volunteers; but our viewpoint is growing much faster than that, as the world increasingly recognizes the risks of climate change and radically unregulated economies. Even if we didn’t lift a finger, we would continue to grow with every gas line explosion, spike in oil prices, and bizarre or unseasonal storm. When the last drops of oil have been pumped and the maritimes are under water, we’ll have a green government – but I don’t want to wait for that. We can change minds today. We can get votes in this election, and not just protest votes to send a message either. People will vote for us not just because of their ideals, but because of their good judgement, because we’re going to present them with a viable alternative to the other parties.
It took a handful of volunteers to build this Riding Association and put on this meeting, but it will take a lot more to present our best face to Provencher in the coming election. We need each of you to contribute. The simplest thing you can do is talk to your family, friends, and neighbours; word of mouth is still the best way to communicate. Talk to Janine about donations or helping fund-raise; she’s our Fundraising chair, and campaigns cost money. We’ve never spent more than a few thousand dollars, mostly out of our own pockets, but imagine what we could do with more! Talk to Eric about writing letters to the editor, or writing content for our blog – we’re looking for stories from you about why you’re Green, about how the Green Party made you want to vote again. Come talk to me about hosting a meeting in your home: we’ll come to your home and meet your friends and neighbours, and build a network of voters and volunteers throughout the riding one event at a time. Talk to Trish or Blair about getting a lawn sign during the campaign period; we re-use them from election to election. And talk to any of us about your ideas, your concerns, your recommendations; the people I’ve pointed to are the Executive or volunteers of the Riding Association, but we’re all members, and you have as much say in this campaign as any of us.
Thank you again for believing in the Green Party, and for believing in me. Let’s make 2015 the election when the Greens turned the tides in Provencher!