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committee

A committee is a smaller subgroup that commits for a larger group, that is, its decision making bind?s that larger group. The larger group cannot reject the decision of the committee except in special situations. Therefore, many committees are struck with restricted mandate?s, say to explore issue/position/arguments and come back with a list of options for the larger body, which reserves the final decision to itself. If such a committee is given very extensive terms of reference and substantial time and budget leeway it is called a commission?.

See Royal Commission? and Parliamentary Committee? for two specific examples of how mandates are created and what obligations the Government of Canada typically grants to such bodies. The Canadian House of Commons probably could not operate at all without such entities.

Committee and Commission members put in substantial time to research an issue in the good faith that their work will be respected and the options they recommend taken so seriously that options they did not recommend are simply not followed. Because no system dependent on committees and commissions can possibly work if people believe their work can be arbitrary discarded or ignored:

A rejection of a committee's or commission's work is very different from the rejection of the advice of a casual body, an informal ad hoc working group? or advisory group? or an outside lobby group? or trolls. The people on a committee or commission are those to whom the larger group defers - thus rejecting their advice is more like trying to ignore your advisory board? or the citizens trying to ignore a legislature. It indicates a problem with deference: the people on the committee weren't really trusted.

There is substantial debate on the ideal structure of any committee, role of the committee chair?, what rules of order apply, and so on. The following was written by some known trolls in reference to GPC Council and its committee structure. To archive his contributions for CC-by purposes, Bill Hulet wrote what follows:

Types of Committees

When council needs to make a substantial decision it needs to strike a committee to research the subject and provide a list of alternative options, with the pros and cons of each laid out for Federal Council to consider.

In addition, when the Executive Director needs to delegate tasks, solicit alternative options, or, co-ordinate complex tasks that require a variety of expertise, he too will need to create a committee.


Policy Research Committees


Committees that report to the Federal Council are known as Policy Research Committees. These groups never make recommendations or in any other way usurp the power of the Federal Council. Instead, they are tasked to research specific issues, amass information, and give Council a list of different alternative options, plus spell out the specific advantages and disadvantages that each offers.


Implementation Committees


A second type of committee, Implementation Committees, are created by the Executive Director to plan and execute specific tasks for the Party. These committees are totally controlled by the Executive Director who appoints (and removes) their members totally on his authority as Executive Director. These committees never report directly to the Federal Council, but only through the Executive Director.


Pitfalls for Committees


The Green Party has created many different problems for itself by deviating from best practise in committee structure. These are as follows:


Asking Committees for Recommendations


Committees should never be tasked with the job of offering recommendations to Federal Council. By doing so, Council is setting itself up for "no-win" situations. If it simply accepts the recommendations of the committee, it runs the risk of becoming little more than a rubber-stamp for a process that it was not a part of. If, on the other hand, it decides to ignore the recommendation of the committee, the members of the committee will feel that they have wasted their efforts. A good example of such a committee is the Revenue Sharing Committee.

If, in contrast, Council only asks for a set of alternative options, the people on the Committee are freed from having to make a decision amongst themselves (which will avoid conflict), will work to ensure that the Council receives all relevant information, and, not have an investment in any particular decision.


Setting Up Committees Whos Authority Usurps Federal Council


Committees should never be set up that can usurp the authority of the Federal Council. By doing so, the Party accelerates angry conflict by allowing disaffected individuals an opportunity to "go to Mom if Dad says 'no'". This drags out fractious arguments and undermines the need of Party members to "agree to disagree" and then move on. The Ombuds Committee is an example of a committee that has conflicting authority with the Federal Council.


Creating Boards within Boards


The ultimate authority of the Party between General Meetings is the Federal Council. If a small number of Council members are placed on a committee and given substantial authority they are, in effect, existing as a Council within a Council. This creates a situation where some Council members are better than others and weakens the authority of the Council as a whole. An example of such a committee was the Election Readiness Committee Team (ERCT). Because it had several Councillors on it, and it was acting as a defacto Executive Director, it dramatically weakened the authority of other members of the Federal Council.


Creating Direct Action Committees


A direct action committee is a committee that is empowered to take action on a specific task without being accountable to any co-ordinating authority, which usually is the Executive Director. Because such committees are empowered to take action, but do not answer to anyone, they run the risk of becoming "loose cannons". Even if they avoid this extreme, it is impossible to co-ordinate the activities of several different direct action committees specificallly because they are not being managed by the Executive Director. An example of a direct action committee was the Living Platform.



Complexities Specific to a Political Party



Creation of the Founding Document


The Founding Document of a political party, like the GPC, sets up a classic "chicken and egg" dilemma in that people will not purchase a membership in a new political organization without having some idea of what it stands for and how it is organized; but to be democratic the organization must develop its constitution based on the wishes of its members. This is different from any other type of corporation because such institutions, for example a dairy co-op, have an easily identified potential membership (i.e. dairy farmers) and a unifying purpose (i.e. marketting their milk.)

As a result, the constitution and bylaws of the GPC needs to go through a complex "bootstrapping process" whereby it develops a vague idea of what it stands for, attracts more members, lets them more clearly define its goals and regulations, attracts more members, more clearly defines itself, etc, etc.

The creation of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) is another stage in this bootstrapping process and as such needs to step outside of the present Federal Council / General Meeting process in order to transcend their limitations. As a result, the has been given an "Athenian Jury" system whereby 25 members have been chosen at random to provide the GPC membership with several different new constitutions, so they can choose one as the new GPC founding document.

The Athenian Jury has been chosen because the GPC is currently too large to allow all members to take part, and because we currently lack any delegate system that would allow for the democratic selection of individuals who could represent the membership at a General Meeting.


the Shadow Cabinet


The GPC also differs from a standard corporation in that it, (at least potentially), exists as two totally different, yet completely linked entities. That is, it is at the same time a political party and a government or parliamenty opposition. Even before it elects its first MP, the Party needs to create a shadow cabinet. Corporations do not face this dilemma, so we will have to make a decision instead of simply following a universally recognized best practise.

One option would be to allow the Party leader to assume the role of a "second Executive Director", but only with regard to political affairs. This would allow him the same latitude towards hiring, managing and firing the members of his shadow cabinet as the Executive Director does for his staff. This has the advantage of allowing him to build his own team which would minimize friction. The disadvantage is that it would eventually result in consolidating an enormous amount of power in one person's hands.

Another option would be to give the Federal Council the power to appoint the Shadow Cabinet members, but to allow the Leader some sort of limited control---such as a veto or the authority to nominate but not confirm. This has the advantage of weakening the authority of the Leader while giving Council more influence in the process. It has the disadvantage of making the selection process more complex and cumbersome.

Probably the best suggestion would be to have the Federal Council experiment a bit over the next few years in order to see if they can find an optimal system before we create an entrenched tradition.


Political Staff


Another complexity that is unique to a political party is the need to develop political staff who have different loyalties depending on their specific position in the Party. Some staff will have the responsibility of helping one leader in his duties, and how these duties are done will have an impact on both the internal career of the leader they serve and the internal decisions made by the Party. Other staff members will have to play a more non-partisan role and specifically avoid getting involved in the internal politics of the Party. For example, the personal assistants to the Leader may find that a great deal of their work may involve explaining and justifying his votes on Federal Council to the rank-and-file membership. In contrast, other staff members may spend all of their time explaining the policy of the GPC to Canadians who are not members of the Party.

As well some tasks that staff perform will closely link these two elements. For example, the staff of the Executive Director may find themselves charged with the non-partisan task of recording, organizing and publishing Policy that the membership has created (or at least ratified) at General Meetings. On the other hand, the Shadow Cabinet and its staff will have the internal partisan task of deciding upon which particular elements of Policy the Party will choose to emphasize during elections as the Platform. Finally, the communications staff will have the non-partisan task creating consistent message and materials that will present the Platform to the general public.

The only system that I can conceive of that would make sense of this complex nest of responsibilities would be to make a distinction between staff that are responsible to the Party, and those that are responsible to an individual Party Official. Under this system, staff members would either be accountable to the Executive Director (non-partisan) or their Party Leader (i.e. the Leader, Deputy Leader, member of Federal Council, Shadow Cabinet Member, etc) (partisan).



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