By Scott Costen
HAVING beaten them as a class action lawyer, Dimitri Lascaris is eager to take on corporations and billionaires as leader of the Green Party of Canada (GPC).
“My clients were overwhelmingly ordinary Canadians who had been hurt by corporate wrongdoing,” he told Redaction Politics in a recent interview. “I also represented union pension funds that had taken a hit on their assets due to corporate fraud.”
Lascaris is one of nine candidates looking to win the GPC’s top job in October.
A self-described eco-socialist, he hopes to fight the next federal election on “the boldest progressive platform that Canadians have seen in their lifetimes.”
That platform would include addressing the climate crisis, socializing the economy, expanding workers’ rights, overhauling Canada’s foreign policy, and instituting justice and police reform.
In other words, it would move the GPC sharply to the left.
“I think that we should be unapologetic about being a left-wing party,” he said. “I think our core values are the core values of the left, they’re the core values of socialism and I’m not remotely hesitant to say so.”
Lascaris retired as a paid lawyer in 2015 but has continued doing pro bono work on human rights issues. He also volunteers as an independent journalist and environmental and political activist.
He was the Green candidate in the Ontario riding of London West in 2015, finishing a distant fourth with 2.8 per cent of the vote.
He also served in the party’s shadow cabinet but was later removed after criticizing a provincial Green Party leader’s opposition to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The day before speaking with Redaction Politics, Lascaris received the endorsement of former Ontario Federation of Labour president and past NDP candidate Sid Ryan.
“A Dimitri Lascaris victory in the Green Party leadership contest would change the face of Canadian politics,” Ryan wrote on Facebook. “His workers’ rights agenda is by far the most progressive on the political front in the country.”
Engaging more robustly with workers and the labour movement is both a moral imperative and a strategic opportunity, Lascaris said.
“I think that, as a matter of principle, we should be defending the rights of Canadian workers, whether they’re unionized or non-unionized,” he said.
“How can we as a party claim seriously to be champions of social justice without being champions of the rights of workers?”
The NDP has “become complacent” about its relationship with organized labour, he said, giving the Greens a “glorious opportunity” to make inroads.
On the climate crisis, Lascaris said the “resistance of the corporate sector and the billionaire class” is preventing meaningful action.
The crisis is “ultimately the result of our capitalist economic system” and can only be resolved as part of a broad-based societal transformation, he said.
On foreign policy, Lascaris is calling for disarmament, peace, and the “principle of universality.”
“Human rights and international law apply to all states, not only to the official enemies of the United States,” he said.
“So we will stop treating countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel and Egypt and Bahrain and Kuwait and Honduras and Haiti – all of these countries whose governments are deeply repressive – we’re going to stop treating them as though there’s a different standard, a lower standard, that applies to them, and we’re going to apply to them the same standard we apply to every other state.”
With a minority government in place and a throne speech and confidence vote scheduled next month, a federal election could come at any time.
Lascaris said the GPC needs to learn from its disappointing performance in 2019, which he attributed to an uninspiring, centrist platform embodied by the slogan: “Not Left. Not Right. Forward Together.”
“We had the most favourable electoral circumstances in the last election,” he said. “Trudeau was scandalized, Andrew Scheer was a buffoon, the NDP was in disarray. The public consciousness about the climate crisis, our signature issue, was at historic highs.”
And yet, when the ballots were counted, the GPC had experienced the smallest possible growth, going from two seats to three with 6.55 per cent of the popular vote.
Party members need to take a “hard, honest look” at those results and the middle-of-the-road approach that produced them, he said. “The numbers can’t be denied. The strategy is a failure.”
Featured Image: Lascaris campaign
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