Hello Calgary

Hello Provencher Friends,

I’m in Calgary this weekend for the Green Party SGM (Special General Meeting). To make a long story short, this meeting came up as a result of the BGM this summer in Ottawa. A policy motion was passed on the topic of BDS – boycott, divest, sanction – movement. This movement has its roots in Palestine but has many Israeli supports and is about numerous issues surrounding Palestinian / Israeli relations. I don’t want to go into too much details on the specifics here as that isn’t the intent of my post. Suffice to say that the original policy created some considerable debate in the party and there has been some determined effort to create a compromise agreement that will satisfy both the original sponsors and the concerns of many of those opposed.

What I do want to do is talk about this weekend in broader strokes. This is my first time at a political party conference and I thought some other people in our riding might like some insight into the inner workings of our party.

I read the SGM program document on the way out here tonight (yes, sadly, on a plane – but I took public transit to the hotel for what it is worth). While most of the document discusses the proposals that are being discussed this weekend, the introduction focuses on how the meeting is run. This gives some great insight into the principles of the Party.

Unlike many organizations, the GPC doesn’t use Robert’s Rules (or, at least, usually doesn’t; it has experimented with them). You all know Robert’s Rules as the “motion, second, all in favour, passed” process. It is fast and efficient but it isn’t particularly good at achieving consensus. Approving something when 49% of the room is opposed to it isn’t a good way to build effective teams.

Instead the GPC uses consensus building tools. Attendees are issued three cards; green, yellow, and red. Green means “yes”, Yellow “Pass”, and Red “Opposed”. Yellow votes have a bit of context depending on when they are used. It may indicate that you want more information or clarity. It can also mean you are standing aside; that you may not agree but do not wish to get in the way of a motion passing.

Edited on Dec 3 as the real world showed me I wasn’t quite accurate. A proposal must achieve full consensus to pass initially. If it doesn’t the plenary (the people) have to decide what to do with the proposal: Table it (save it for later), send it to workshops for more work, or carry out a vote which must achieve a 2/3 majority to pass.(For a motion to pass 66% approval is required to approve a motion. Motions not passed may go to a workshop, which anyone can participate in, to develop a better motion or, if it is decided that consensus can’t be reached, it may be abandoned.)

It will be very interesting to see how this all works in the real world over the next two days. For the most part, as a newbie, I’ll be simply observing what is going on and placing my own votes.

Things start early tomorrow morning so it is time to get some sleep. There are lots of interesting and constructive motions on the table and I’ll post a few comments on how things are going as time goes by.

Blair Mahaffy

Note: Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect GPC party policy or the policy of our EDA.


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