By Scott Costen
DAVID Merner wants Canada’s Greens to shift their focus from protest to power.
“That’s the key to me,” the Green Party of Canada (GPC) leadership candidate told Redaction Politics. “How do we move from these fantastic activist roots of our party into a much more organized, much more politically effective force in Canadian politics?”
His vision for a more electorally successful GPC depends on staying true to Green values, establishing a better “ground game,” and employing clearer, more consistent messaging.
“I think Green Party members are looking for more unity, more discipline, and basically a better capacity to just win seats,” he said.
A Liberal activist for 30 years, Merner switched to the Greens after the Trudeau government’s 2018 decision to purchase the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
He wants to apply the lessons he learned as part of the “Big Red Machine” to help the GPC improve on its three seats in the House of Commons.
“We don’t have the infrastructure that the old-line parties have,” he said. “We don’t have the volunteer base, the membership base, the fundraising and donor base, that is so essential to having a properly functioning political party.”
“No one else in the leadership race actually has a deep understanding of how to organize a party,” he said. “It may not be very sexy, but it’s essential to success.”
Professionally, Merner has worked as a lawyer, university instructor, dispute resolution specialist and government advisor.
Politically, he has run twice in the federal B.C. riding of Esquimalt – Saanich – Sooke. He finished second in 2015 as a Liberal and second in 2019 as a Green.
“I’m the only candidate who ran in 2019 who can actually win the seat that I ran in,” he said. “If we choose a leader who can’t win a seat, we’re creating a problem for ourselves.”
Although relatively new to the GPC, Merner has already held two critic portfolios in the party’s shadow cabinet.
He has also volunteered to help Green candidates across the country in federal, provincial, and municipal campaigns.
“I’m the only candidate who actually campaigned from Pacific to Atlantic in the Green Party, who really understands the Green Party in his bones,” he said.
Central to Merner’s campaign is the theme of “unity in diversity.”
He said “internal strains and stresses” have created “negativity” within the GPC, hurting both its public image and electoral viability.
“There’s a real penalty in Canadian politics for parties that don’t pull together,” he said.
He intends to unify the party by using his dispute resolution experience and by renewing participatory democracy in the GPC.
“We are supposed to be a party driven by the grassroots, where the grassroots set policy, and we really empower our grassroots organizers and people on the front lines,” he said. “To me, it doesn’t look like we’ve really lived by those values.”
Merner said his decision not to release a full policy platform reflects a sincere deference to those grassroots members.
“I’m a real believer that the leader doesn’t set policy in the Green Party and that we really need to respect the membership,” he said. “The leadership of the Green Party should be about who’s in the best place to build the party.”
As leader, Merner would push for Canada to regain its status as a “moral leader” in the world.
“Getting back to that is going to be very difficult because I think we’ve lost so much credibility internationally under Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau,” he said.
He criticized Harper for being in “lockstep alignment” with American policy, especially in the Middle East. And he chided Trudeau for what he described as a “massive gap between the rhetoric and the action.”
First and foremost, Merner would like to see Canada assert itself as a leader in the fight against climate change.
“A really good place for us to start re-establishing our credentials as a moral leader in the world is around the shift off fossil fuels onto renewables, without leaving anyone behind,” he said.
Merner’s campaign got an unexpected boost Aug. 30 when Judy Green endorsed him while announcing she was withdrawing from the leadership race.
“I believe that David is the unifier that we need at this critical time,” she said on social media. “Canada needs us to bring the best policies forward and we need to work together for that to happen.”
Featured Image: David Merner Campaign
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