Elizabeth May has an admittedly "radical" idea: "Why don't we get rid of political parties altogether?"
In an interview by #FAQMP that recently resurfaced on Reddit, the Green Party leader and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands expressed her dissatisfaction with a change to the Canada Elections Act over forty years ago.
"When they decided to put the names of the party next to the name of the person on the ballot, that's when Election Canada's laws were changed and they required the leader of every political party sign the nomination papers for their candidates," May said. "That created the situation we are now in where the leader of a party actually has a big stick with which to threaten the people in their caucus."
According to Canadian law, a candidate can also run as an independent or have no designation on the ballot. Due to another change in 2001, candidates' political affiliations can be listed on the ballot even if they don't belong to a registered party, as long as the organization nominates at least 12 candidates.
"I am going to be putting forward a private members bill to get rid of that power for federal party leaders to sign the nomination papers for their candidates," May continued in the interview, saying the existence of political parties in Canada is "an add-on."
Citizens actually vote for individuals rather than particular parties, although "most serious candidates belong to political parties, and generally only representatives of the dominant parties are elected," according to a paper on the Canadian electoral system published on Parliament's website.
May also noted Canada's political party process also decides who will serve as prime minister.
"The only people we elect as citizens in Canada is our own member of Parliament. We do not elect a prime minister. So Stephen Harper was not 'elected' prime minister," she said.
Do you think Canada should scrap political parties or at least remove their names from ballots? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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I was raised by parents who believed that each citizen had a duty to speak up for justice and a better world. My grandmother had a saying ‘Thought without constructive action is demoralizing.’ And my mother raised us on the same principle. This slide shows two eras of protest. The first is the British Aldermaston march in 1960 opposing nuclear weaponry in the Cold War era. People came from over one hundred nations. My mother walked the whole six days from Aldermaston, UK (where the nuclear weapons research took place), to Trafalgar Square. The rest of us, my dad, my younger brother and I, stayed with my paternal grandparents in my father’s hometown of Barnet. On the last day I was allowed to walk with my mother to Trafalgar Square, where she – representing the North American movement – spoke to a crowd of 100,000. The tradition of family involvement continues as this photo of Thanksgiving weekend in 2010 shows. We held a 10-10-10 event (see 350.org for details) to take climate action by planting trees on my step-daughter Jo’s front lawn in Haliburton, Ontario, where my extended family had gathered for Thanksgiving. Pictured with me and local Green candidate Susanne Lauten are my daughter, Victoria Cate and her two older sisters, Nadya and Jo, plus several grandchildren and local supporters.”
My mother was a co-plaintiff with 17 Nobel Prize winners in a law suit against the governments of the UK, the US and the USSR for carrying out nuclear weapons testing, distributing cancer-causing radionuclides (Strontium 90) globally in the atmosphere. The press conference was in Washington, DC. I am seated next to my mom, far left. In the centre of the table, speaking, is Dr. Linus Pauling. Chatting with my mother, another co-plaintiff, Bertrand Russell (photo taken at his home in Wales). Atmospheric nuclear weapons testing ended with the signing of the Test Ban Treaty in 1963.
We moved into this house in Bloomfield, Connecticut when I was one year old. My father had started work with Aetna Life and Casualty in Hartford. We had seven acres and, as I got older, had an increasingly large menagerie.
My god-father is actor Cliff Robertson, here pictured with his former wife, Dina Merrill, and my younger brother Geoff. The other picture is of my mum and Paul Newman at a fundraising event for Eugene McCarthy in 1968. Paul Newman was enormously generous with his time and my mum worked closely with him. They were both delegates for McCarthy to the 1968 Democratic convention, which I attended with her at age 14.
A trip around the Cabot Trail in 1972 changed our lives and by 1973 we had moved, lock stock and barrel (with two ponies, an elderly wether, three dogs and two cats) to Cape Breton Island. My parents sunk their life savings (and then some) into a derelict tourism business at Margaree Harbour. We put in a sewage treatment plant, re-furbished a restaurant on board an old Bluenose fishing schooner (build in 1918 by the same Lunenburg firm that built the Bluenose), and renovated a log cabin gift shop to look like Dickens London. We hired a staff of 50. As you can see, my dad and brother grew beards and wore kilts, as well as learning Gaelic. We were a hit with customers, but lost our shirts — and our socks. I could not afford to go to university, so cooked and waitressed until 1982. The Schooner Village operated seasonally until 2002 when the NS government expropriated us to build a new bridge. The 1918 schooner, plus Farley Mowat’s “Boat who Wouldn’t Float” which he had given us to have on display, were demolished and hauled them to the dump. Heartbreaking.
In 1980 I discovered that Dalhousie Law School had a programme for mature students, opening the possibility to go to law school without an undergrad degree. From 1975-1979, I had been a key organizer with many others of a grassroots effort to prevent the aerial spraying of Cape Breton Island with toxic (now banned) chemical pesticides. The fight to stop spraying was seasonal, and fortunately was the opposite season from my work in the restaurant. In the fall of 1985, as soon as we closed for the winter, the pulp company demanded the government approve the spraying. The infestation of spruce budworm could only be sprayed in the early larval stages, so the government decision was demanded by spring. By spring 1986, the government agreed with the citizens and turned down the application. Every year, until the budworm epidemic collapsed of natural causes in 1979, the pattern was repeated. Every year, we succeeded in persuading the NS government not to spray. I worked in the background for the first few years, but by 1978 the media noticed I was running a major conference we organized in Halifax and from then on I was doing media interviews. Dalhousie took into account my volunteer environmental work and my desire to be an environmental lawyer. That, plus doing well in LSATs, got me back on track for what I had always wanted to do. In my second year at law school, my first book chronically our successful campaign to prevent spraying was published. (Budworm Battles, Four East books, 1982). While in law school, I still worked summers in the kitchen in the Schooner Restaurant. That made it difficult to stop an approved spray programme with Agent Orange in June 1982. Spraying was demanded not to kill insects, but for killing hardwood trees – “competing” with the coniferous trees favoured for pulp. Agent Orange was already banned in the US and in Sweden where the pulp company was based, but legal in Canada. At first, the NS government appeared to have yielded to the public outcry and cancelled the permits. It turned out to be trickery, as they silently re-approved spraying with Agent Orange from the ground. With less than ten days until the spraying was planned, we, local residents, myself included, raced to court for emergency help. Residents from areas near all the spray blocks in eastern NS and Cape Breton Island sought an interim injunction to stop the Agent Orange spray programme, with no concept that it would eat up two years of our lives, force us into brutal financial sacrifices, and pit us against forest industry giants and the pesticide industry. I worked as volunteer lawyer, hired the real lawyers, raised the money to pay them, and was a co-plaintiff. In the course of the court case, my family lost 80-acres of land overlooking the Bras d’Or Lakes. We managed to gain an interim injunction, preventing spraying for the 1982 and 1983 seasons. Once the NS court ruled Agent Orange and dioxin were “safe,” it turned out that it was no longer possible to spray it. The US government had reached a “voluntary” agreement with the manufacturer Dow Chemical, preventing Dow from selling any of its old stock to places where it was still allowed — like Canada. So, even though we lost the court case, they never did spray eastern Nova Scotia with Agent Orange. I missed my graduation from law school because I was cross-examining an expert witness.” I practiced law in Halifax with the firm of Kitz, Matheson, Green and MacIsaac, first articling and then as an associate from 1983-1985. An offer to serve as Associate General Counsel to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, moved me to Ottawa.
In June 1986, as the World Commission on Environment and Development (The Brundtland Commission) held hearings around the world, Canadian NGOS from environment, development and peace orientations held a major conference in Ottawa — The Fate of the Earth. Over one thousand people participated, including Guujaw, Nobel Laureate George Wald, poet Dorothy Livesay, Margot Kidder, and singer Pete Seeger. I was co-chair of the FOTE conference. These photos were taken by noted photographer, Robert del Tredici.
By summer of 1986, the federal Minister of Environment, Tom McMillan had persuaded me to join his staff as Senior Policy Advisor. Photo of the Hon Tom McMillan, Dr. Gro Harlem Bruntdland, Prime Minister of Norway, and me, taken at the landmark June, 1988 climate change conference in Toronto, “Our Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security”. Second photo of South Moresby Signing Ceremony in Victoria, July 12, 1987.
Photo of celebrations of the negotiation of the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer in September 1987.
Celebration after saving South Moresby. That same week as the 1988 climate change conference in Toronto, I resigned with great sadness from the Minister’s staff, due to the approval of two dams in Saskatchewan without environmental assessment. Once I was suddenly out of work (resignation on principle is like that), I was offered contract work with Canada’s leading academic honorific academy, the Royal Society of Canada. In that period Tara Cullis phoned to say her husband David Suzuki had just phoned her in tears from the Amazon. She said we needed to raise money for a brave indigenous leader, Paiakan of the Kyapo people, who was attempting to stop a major dam on the Xingu River. He would be making a tour of Canada in October 1988 and we needed to drop everything to organize a fundraising tour. I threw myself into it, as did many others. We raised $80,000 with concerts in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. We raised the money without any organizational structure, although many groups (like WWF and Nature Canada) helped. The primary reason for our success was that the concerts featured Gordon Lightfoot. These photos were taken in February 1989 with Gordon Lightfoot in the indigenous village. We met Sting in that village, although the photo with Sting was taken later in Toronto. With Sting is my friend Peter Dalglish, founder of Street Kids International, currently working for the UN in Afghanistan.
Pictured, my step-step daughter, Clare (now Executive Director of Women In Need Community Outreach, Victoria), my mother and father, brother his wife Rebecca Lynn, their son Andrew, and Victoria Cate’s dad, Ian. August, 1991.
I was on the board of Friends of the Earth Canada and Paul McCartney was promoting FOE in his world tour. As delightful as I could have imagined, he was very taken with Victoria Cate, then three months old. The next day, strangely enough, Victoria Cate and I spent with a business leaders forum on sustainability, hosted by HRH Prince Charles, at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club with a reception after on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
December, 1991 in Miami. The event was a strong precursor to the June, 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, which I also attended. Pictured here, the driving force of the event, former Congresswoman Bella Abzug and Vandana Shiva. We were all on the organizing committee along with, German Green Party founder Petra Kelly, Kenyan Green (later named Nobel Peace Prize Winner) Wangari Matthai, and other leading women activists.
My mother and my daughter on board our schooner restaurant, the Marion Elizabeth.
May, 1993. I first met former President William Jefferson Clinton in July, 1971. I was in high school, and he was a student at Yale Law School assisting the development of the campaign to nominate George McGovern as the Democratic nominee. We have remained friends.