Monday, December 19, 2005

Green With Envy

The Green Party finds itself in an unusual position for a political party in Canada; it doesn't attract enough support to win seats, yet it has won enough votes to elevate itself above fringe party status.

Much of the credit can go to its leader, Jim Harris. A little too much credit, according to some disgruntled former party members, who are accusing Harris of enriching himself at the party's expense:

Elections Canada is in talks with the federal Green Party over possible violations of federal election law by its leader, Jim Harris, The Canadian Press has learned.

The discussions are based on a letter of complaint filed by Matthew Pollesel, the party's former assistant national organizer.

Pollesel alleges that the former grassroots party has been hijacked to gain access to federal election subsidies provided under the new elections-financing law.

The law was introduced by former prime minister Jean Chretien to reduce the dependence of politicians on donations from corporations and unions, and gives parties a subsidy of $1.75 per year for each vote won in the last election.

The formerly impoverished Green Party is now collecting $1.1 million annually in federal subsidies.

Asked on Thursday about how the money is being used, Harris deferred to his staff: "I am the leader of the party," he said. "I don't manage the party."


Since Harris took over, at least six board members and headquarters staff have either resigned or been fired. Several have gone public with allegations of financial wrongdoing.

Pollesel accused Harris of underestimating his 2003 leadership campaign expenses, reported to Elections Canada as $2,651.12. Canadian election law requires parties to disclose leadership campaign expenses to ensure they comply with federal limits.

Pollesel said he believes Harris's campaign must have cost much more.

Many of the original Green Party supporters were probably quite comfortable with their little club of ideologically pure and committed environmentalists, alone holding fast to the true gospel like 21st century Donatists.

Many of them also were probably devout socialists, unlike Harris and company, whose fiscal conservatism comes right from their PC and Alliance background.

They don't like the relative success that Harris' leadership has brought them because it's destroyed the old atmosphere of the party. But parties can't stand still, whether established or fringe.

They should be grateful to Jim Harris for all that he's done instead of sniping at him at every turn.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

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