How to strengthen Canada’s democracy (in just 2 hours)

By Crista Renner

In my family, our brand of politics was established before we could even speak. My parents were Liberals, as were my grandparents before them, so when I turned 18 that’s naturally how I voted too. 

But as the years went on, that reasoning stopped sitting well with me. It just seemed kind of, well, weak. So I started to explore why I was so committed to a single party, and what–if anything–would prompt me to change my mind.

But then the Liberals took care of that issue for me.

Forty-seven percent of consumers say they won’t engage with a brand after a disappointment–and after the 2015 election campaign, that’s precisely what happened to me. I was a huge proponent of Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise of electoral reform. Following his win, I even led some electoral reform town halls where people shared their views on how to create proportional representation.

I passionately believed that increased polarization and minority points of view were jading our voters and harming our system. So when Trudeau ultimately announced that he would be shelving his electoral reform plans, I was deeply disappointed. That disappointment, however, gave me the push I needed to explore politics beyond the Liberal party–and I was immediately drawn to the Green party’s value of “Participatory Democracy”.

Crista Renner (third from right) and the rest of the Guelph Greens Executive Committee at the 2019 AGM.

This value states that all citizens have the right to express their views and directly participate in environmental, economic, social and political decisions–and it’s not simply lip service. You can see it in the Young Greens of Ontario–a wing of the party that offers a voice to a traditionally under-represented cohort of voters. And you’ll definitely experience it if you attend our Guelph Green AGM on December 2–when you’ll actually have an opportunity to voice your opinions, vote for your Executive Board, learn more about volunteering opportunities and shape the way our party moves forward.

This hands-on approach gave me a sense of agency–but it also gave me hope. Hope for the environment. For justice. For our democracy.

Participatory democracy is my reason for “going Green”. If it’s important to you too, I encourage you to spend a couple hours with us on Wednesday, December 2, to exercise your democratic muscle and connect with fellow Greens. It’s the easiest thing you can do to help strengthen the presence of the Green Party  in Guelph and make sure our democracy is alive and well. (P.S. You can register here: https://vote.greenparty.ca/rsvp/eve_9b3c923d1)

Crista Renner is the President of the Guelph Greens Provincial Constituency Association. You can reach her at president@guelphgreens.ca.

Executive spotlight: Dianne Dance

On December 2, 2020 the Guelph Greens will be electing our Executive Board volunteers who coordinate with the provincial and federal Green parties, run events and help promote Green values. In this series, we tell the stories of some of our returning board members and explore what they’ve been up to throughout their 12-month term.

Prior to volunteering for the Green Party, Dianne Dance could best be described as an environmentally-conscious Conservative.

As a private business owner, she firmly believed that a healthy society began with a government commitment to financial responsibility and competent deficit management. In her view, money used to pay off debts could be better spent on social programs—and, while she didn’t mind paying taxes, she wanted her government to be respectful of her hard-earned dollars.

These values aligned with the Progressive Conservative platform. What didn’t quite fit were her growing concerns for the environment. So, as the years went on, she started supporting the Green Party financially, while continuing to vote Conservative.

“I just didn’t think I could vote Green because, in my mind, Green wasn’t pro-business,” she says. “I just didn’t think a Green government could serve my needs.”

That all changed in 2018 when her daughter called her up to say she was voting Green—and that she volunteered Dianne for a Green lawn sign. From there, Dianne was placed on the Green email list and eventually answered the call for volunteers.

Over the last 12 months, as a Member-at-Large on the Guelph Green Executive, Dianne has been responsible for mobilizing volunteers—and ensuring the Guelph Greens have a strong presence in the community. She organized and executed our Care Call campaign, where Green volunteers checked in on members of the community during COVID, and was a driving force behind Annamie Paul’s Toronto Centre by-election run. In 2021, she’ll be assuming the role of Events Coordinator on the CA (provincial) side where she’ll be finding new and exciting ways to bring our Green community together.

So what changed her mind? And what inspired her to not only vote Green—but devote her limited spare time to encourage others to do the same?

“I finally learned what it means to be a Green supporter,” she says, frankly. “It’s about believing in sustainability. Not just environmental sustainability, but financial sustainability as well. It’s about using the tax system to lift up our community—and disincentivize things we don’t want, like pollution. It’s about creating a healthy and advanced society within a financially-sustainable framework.”

Thank you, Dianne, for all you do! If you would like to join Dianne and the rest of the Guelph Greens Executive on our quest to promote Green values in Guelph, you can apply here. Right now, we’re looking to fill the following positions on the Federal side (which will require a 5-10 hour monthly commitment as we prepare for an imminent Federal election): 

Volunteer Coordinator EDA
Communications Director EDA
Events Coordinator EDA
Fundraising Director EDA

Contact us at  info@guelphgreens.ca if you’d like to learn more. We hope you’ll join us!

Doughnut Economics 101

If the recent COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our current way of life just isn’t working. To be fair, we already knew things like our social programs, food systems and business practices could use some work. But COVID has shed a really harsh light on these shortcomings—making it impossible to look away. On the bright side, however, it’s also given us the fresh start we need to do something about it.

Now is the time to set our sights on the light at the end of the tunnel—and establish a plan for a smart societal rebuild. A lot of individuals, groups and government parties (including the Greens) share this opinion—and there are plenty of ideas circulating around what needs to happen to make the most of this moment in history. But how to execute such an immense shift? Well that seems substantially more daunting. And this is where the concept of Doughnut Economics could prove invaluable.

The Doughnut: Explained

What is Doughnut Economics? To answer that question, we need to back up a bit. In a nutshell, Kate Raworth—the economist behind the theory, and the author of the corresponding book—believes the economic theories taught in universities are incredibly outdated and not fit for the 21st century. And yet, our governments, business leaders and even the media continue to perpetuate them—which inevitably leads to social and economic policies built around them. This, she argues, is what’s led us to kill our planet and neglect our people. We’re fixated on the wrong things—most specifically, continual GDP growth—when we should actually be looking at our economy in a more holistic sense. And we can do this by envisioning it as a doughnut.

To understand what she means here, picture a delicious doughnut. It doesn’t matter the flavour—let’s say, to keep things simple, it’s your traditional chocolate glaze. The inner edge of the doughnut represents our social foundation. Right now, anyone who lacks decent housing, water, food, political voice, gender equity, community, etc. falls into the doughnut hole. The outer edge of the doughnut represents our earth’s ecological ceiling—and every human activity that causes excess carbon output, waste, ecological destruction etc. lands beyond that outer edge. A Doughnut economy’s goal is to create the necessary policies (and encourage the necessary behaviours) to get everyone onto the delicious chocolate glaze—aka the “sweet spot”—while making sure our activities don’t surpass the outer edge.

What would it take to get Guelph in the Doughnut?

The theory is cool in and of itself (and I’m really doing it a disservice here—the book delves into so much more detail). But what’s extra special is that Raworth and her gang have actually launched a Doughnut Economics Action Lab which allows people to share resources and tools to help others apply the Doughnut philosophy to different areas of life. The site includes everything from teachers’ guides to business case studies, but what really intrigued me was the City Portraits Methodology.

This methodology teaches you how to scale the Doughnut concept to the city level—offering a step-by-step guide to help cities integrate these ideas into their rebuilding efforts. The framework was adapted from work Raworth did with groups in Philadelphia, Portland and Amsterdam. So far, Amsterdam is the first city to take it to the next level—in late 2019, it formed a Doughnut Coalition comprised of academics, businesses, policymakers and individuals. This Coalition ultimately convinced Amsterdam City Council to adopt the framework—and this summer council committed to using the Doughnut Methodology and the Amsterdam City Portrait to help guide the city’s post-COVID rebuild. 

Explore the possibilities

Amsterdam’s progress, combined with the clear-cut nature of Raworth’s theory, offers a sense of hope. Perhaps it is possible to shift the human race’s trajectory if we break the process down into bite-sized pieces—and have a semblance of a roadmap to guide the way. 

The Guelph Greens Executive Committee is so intrigued by the deliciousness of the Doughnut that we’ve collectively set out on a quest to explore the idea further—and we’re hoping others will be inspired to come along for the ride.

The first step in our journey begins on December 2 from 8-9pm at the Guelph Greens Annual General Meeting, where we’ll be asking a small but diverse panel of local experts to re-imagine Guelph through a Doughnut lens. If you or someone you know (Green or not!) might be interested in exploring this concept with us further, we’d love for you to join us. You can register here.

 

 

What the heck is the Guelph Green executive board? (And other questions I should have asked before joining)

It was about this time last year that I submitted my name to join the Guelph Greens Executive Board—without having any idea of what I was getting into.

I’d never volunteered with the Greens before—and I had very little understanding of what the executive board even did. I didn’t know a single person—or the difference between a Constituency Association and an Electoral District Association. I wasn’t even 100% clear on the role I was applying for—communications director.

There was, however, a little voice inside of me pushing me to venture out of my comfort zone and submit my name when that AGM email came around. If I really think about it, I believe that voice stemmed from four specific needs:

  • I wanted to do something positive for the planet and the people of Guelph. I was just coming out of the haze of raising two little kids and was sick of sitting on the sidelines worrying about their future. I wanted to take action.
  • I wanted to support the Green Party. Although I never got involved in a volunteer capacity, I was what you call a “strong” Green—the kind of person who puts up Green lawn signs without consulting the other voter in her household.
  • I wanted to develop my communications skills. As a b2b copywriter, my job technically falls into the communications space, but I wanted to explore the strategy side of it.
  • I wanted to meet new people. Working from home, I don’t get out much. The idea of hanging out with people who also shared my interests and beliefs for the world around us (which I later discovered are known as “Green Values”) really appealed to me.

No regrets
Almost a year in, I can confidently say that joining the executive was one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m often surprised at how well the experience turned out for me, to be honest. Not only do I get to exchange ideas with an amazing group of people once a month, but I sleep a lot better at night knowing I’m doing something for the Green Party, the planet and its people.

I’ve also had a chance to develop my skills in new and exciting ways—I’ve worked with smaller subcommittees to create communications strategies designed to best engage our members (and attract new ones!), design a new logo, and plan the Doughnut Economics panel discussion at our AGM.

This group of people—and this higher sense of purpose in my life—gave me the strength I needed to battle through the darkest days of COVID. And while I haven’t had the full experience of meeting all our members in person or working through an election campaign, this last year wasn’t a bad way to ease my way in.

Should you join us?
If you’re teetering on the fence—wondering if this type of volunteer engagement is really worth your time—I’d like to share a few pearls of wisdom:

  • Firstly, in case you’re wondering, the purpose of the executive board is to promote the presence of the Green Party in Guelph by organizing events, raising funds and mobilizing volunteers inside and outside of election years.
  • Moving forward, our executive will be split into a provincial board (the Constituency Association, or CA), whose mandate is to re-elect our MPP Mike Schreiner; as well as a federal board (the Electoral District Association or EDA) whose mandate is to get Guelph to elect its first federal Green candidate.
  • Lastly, the quality of your executive experience will depend on what you put into it. To make it as rewarding as possible, I would recommend sitting down and thinking about the skills you bring to the table—or the activities you truly enjoy doing—and find a way to bring those skills and activities to your desired role.
  • Right now, while every Green member in good standing is welcome to submit their name for any position, the federal executive (or EDA) is looking to build its team by filling four vacant positions: President/ Chief Executive Officer, Communications Director, Fundraising Director, and Events Coordinator.

If you’d like more details on any of these roles, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at vanessachriscameron@gmail.com. And if you’re ready to take the plunge and submit your name, you can do so here.

Green Party of Ontario and Green Party of Canada members will be voting for executive board candidates at the Guelph Greens AGM on December 2 from 7-8pm. We hope to see you there—and maybe (hopefully?) on the executive team!

Vanessa Chris is the communications director for the Guelph Greens Constituency Association. You can reach her at vanessachriscameron@gmail.com.