On Sunday, at the Green Party of Canada’s National Convention in Ottawa, party membership adopted a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution into the official Green platform. Now leader Elizabeth May, currently the party’s only elected Member of Parliament, is taking a week off to decide if she still wants to head the federal greens.
Entitled Palestinian Self-Determination and the Movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, the resolution builds on existing Green Party opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements and demolition of Palestinian homes with “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).” The Greens will continue to support BDS “until such time as Israel implements a permanent ban on further settlement construction in the OPT, and enters into good faith negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian people for the purpose of establishing a viable, contiguous and truly sovereign Palestinian state.”
The resolution also “opposes all efforts to prohibit, punish or otherwise deter expressions of support for BDS.” Efforts like the recent toothless, though inflammatory resolution in the House of Commons condemning BDS proposed by the Conservatives but supported by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government.
May opposed the Green BDS resolution, but said she welcomed the discussion and would support the members’ decision. Now, she is singing a somewhat different tune, calling BDS “polarizing” and musing in public if stepping down as leader but remaining the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands in BC might be the best course of action for her.
Most likely May is really weighing whether or not she can effectively defend her party’s position on the issue in a debate a few years from now with Trudeau and whomever the Conservatives and NDP decide to anoint as leader. You know someone’s going to bring it up. Probably Trudeau.
She’s also probably doing some math. Figuring out just how many lefties this will bring over from the NDP and comparing it to how many Green voters she may lose and factoring in how many Canadian voters actually care about this issue enough to switch their vote over it.
This is, regardless of how it plays out, a change in Canadian politics, and not just because the Green Party has staked ground in stark opposition to our current Government and Official Opposition. The very fact that May is mulling her options right now is incredibly significant.
In theory, if a party’s membership and leader are on different sides of a particular issue, the leader must decide between getting behind what the membership wants or resigning. That’s what’s happening here.
Now compare that with the NDP a little over a year ago. The leader, Thomas Mulcair, was at odds with party membership over his unbalanced support of Israel. In a contrast to what we are seeing now with the Green Party, NDP membership had to decide if they could get behind what the leader wants or leave the party. Many opted to try and push Mulcair’s position a little bit closer to theirs and some even occupied offices to do just that, only to see Mulcair back to his old tricks in the General Election.
With the Green Party, it’s the leader who has to follow what the party wants or leave. And that is a big change in Canadian politics.
* Featured image by Canada 2020 via Flickr Creative Commons