The day didn’t start off unusually: I got up, had a shower, made breakfast, made lunch for Olivia, had a cup of coffee.
I was about to head out the door when I got a text from Darcie Lanthier, Green candidate for Charlottetown:
“Can I call you?”, she asked.
“I’ll call you in five!”, I replied.
I called back. Darcie wanted to know if I could drive Green Party leader Annamie Paul around the Island today in my electric car, supporting a visit that came together only in the previous 24 hours.
I told her I’d call her back in 15.
I quickly rescheduled my dentist appointment, and checked in with a friend who had an electric car with considerably more range than mine to see about borrowing it; he agreed without hesitation. I texted work colleagues to let them know I’d be out for the day.
I was in!
I called Darcie back.
“Meet Annamie at Charlottetown Airport at noon,” she instructed.
Which is how I came to be driving Annamie Paul from Charlottetown to Victoria to Albany to Freetown and back today. It was a delightful and unexpected opportunity to contribute to the Green campaign, and a chance to sit inside the eye of the national campaign hurricane for the day.
Beyond that, it was a chance to get to know Annamie, to watch her campaign up close, to hear her give interviews from the back seat of the car, to see how she relates to people, to understand her grasp of the issues and their nuances, and witness her prodigious communication skills and equally prodigious intelligence.
The last few months have not been, I imagine, an easy time to be the leader of the Green Party of Canada: the party appeared to be eating itself alive, with a federal council—the secular arm of the party, so to speak—seemingly at war with the leader, for reasons unknown and opaque even to we members.
And so it hasn’t been an easy time to be a member either: who wants to be a member of an apparently deeply-dysfunctional party, incapable of even governing its own affairs. I felt my own enthusiasm waning over the summer, and wasn’t certain I’d participate in the next campaign, or even vote Green.
But yet here I am, doing both.
First, as I’ve written before, I strongly believe that Darcie, my local Green candidate, is the candidate most qualified for the job.
Second, I read the Green Platform, and found myself saying an emphatic yes to the plans it lays out—canceling oil pipelines, ending fossil fuel extraction, getting to net zero ASAP, investing in coop housing, introducing a guaranteed livable income, concrete action on reconciliation—seeing my priorities reflected in them; a systematic, bold, integrated approach to tackling the issues of the day.
Third, I realized that the party’s internal struggles don’t, for all immediate electoral intents and purposes, matter: we’re in the business of getting capable private members elected, in support of a strong platform backed by a bedrock of solid values, not running a railroad, nor, for the time-being at least, forming a government. Participatory democracy is a Green core value, and participatory democracy is, by times, messy and chaotic and fractious and capable of pulling people away from their better natures. This messy chaotic fractious internal season shall pass, I am convinced; the essential nature of the party remains true, and it will endure, renewed. And perhaps falter and renew again in the future. It’s a feature, not a bug.
And finally, today, seeing Annamie in action, and realizing that the collaborative style of politics she espouses, the intelligence she brings to bear, the humility and awareness of her own limitations she demonstrates, they are the kind of leadership we need for these polarized times.
Toward the end of our day on the road, Annamie was having trouble getting the window in the back of the car to stay up: every time she’d press the button to make the window go up, it would, indeed, go up. And then go right back down again. I tried from the front seat: same thing. She tried again: same thing. Finally, I pulled the car over, we all took a breath, and she tried it one more time: the window went up and stayed up.
No better a metaphor, I would like to think, for Annamie Paul’s political life, and for the fortunes of the party she leads.