Monthly Archives: November 2006


Winnipeg has a green party, consisting of a small but committed group of people who are determined to exercise an influence on the city’s future. This may actually be possible. Public awareness of environmental issues appears to be growing, while disenchantment with business as usual in city hall is always there to be tapped. But it will be very difficult.
One of the problems the party must face is the long-standing bias against political parties in local government. As I point out elsewhere, parties are seen by many as counter-productively disputatious representatives of special interests, insufficiently concerned with common-sense governance in the interests of the city as a whole. The Green Party of Winnipeg has an opportunity to overcome that bias, but to do so it must move beyond purely environmental concerns, such as opposition to sprawl and pesticides, and consider how an environmental perspective can be at the heart of a platform that addresses the needs of the city as a whole.
Following are a few of the many questions party members may wish to consider if they hope to build their movement into a truly effective political instrument.

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In Canadian city politics, a fully-fledged party system, with a ruling party and a well-organized opposition, is a rarity. In the eyes of much of the public, parties are viewed with suspicion. Party discipline is seen as replacing common-sense problem-solving with knee-jerk disputatiousness while restricting the ability of politicians to stand up for the interests of their constituents.
From this point of view, non-partisan municipal politics is marked by the exercise of individual good judgement, intelligent compromise and responsiveness of politicians to the wishes of constituents, while partisan politics is blighted by shrill argumentation and mindless submission to party dictates. Often parties are also seen as representing special interests, while non-partisan politicians are thought to be more likely to be tuned in to the interests of the city as a whole.
And yet, politicians keep organizing themselves. In Toronto, it is normal to think of city council as comprising a left wing and a right wing. Montreal and Vancouver have for decades had ruling parties, whether or not there is a functioning opposition. In Winnipeg, formal and informal business parties and opposition parties periodically appear on the scene, only to disappear again. In a bow to public opinion, organized groups of councillors often insist that they are just good people working together, not political parties, but organize themselves they do again and again.

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