GPC council crisis

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GPC Council Crisis

This page records the ongoing history of difficulties encountered within the Green Party of Canada as it grew and attained a new level of sucess between 2003 and 2006. It makes references to numerous individuals who are all requested to help collaborate in developing this history. It is organized as a timeline.

Please read and understand the importance of a neutral point of view in any Wiki. Be fair and be honest, and please refrain from making personal attacks and offering unsubstantiated information as fact. Make note of any disputed facts.

For more background on the earlier general history of the GPC, see Green Party of Canada.

2002 - 2003

The only firsthand account of events during the 2003 Council is by Gretchen Schwarz, former GPC Council Chair. After resigning as Chair, Gretchen Schwarz joined the NDP and ran as an NDP candidate in the 2004 federal election. In 2005 she let her NDP membership lapse. She now belongs to the Peace and Ecology Party. Her original account is called: How Jim Harris Stole the Green Party, 2002-2003.

New sucess in Ontario in October 2003

In October of 2003, the Green Party of Ontario achieved a new level of success, running in 102 of 103 ridings in the 2003 provincial election. The Ontario Election team (including Jim Harris, Frank DeJong, Peter Elgie, Gabriel Draven, Mike Pilling), ((Matt Takach, Rob Newman, Ed Wong, and Melanie Ransom), energized by the prospect of the new federal funding law, provided the core team in the run-up to the federal 2004 election. Jim toured the country in the fall of 2003 to make contacts and build alliances with Greens in other provinces.

Following resignations from Julian West, Gretchen Schwarz and others who had been critical of him, Harris and his allies had a firm majority of votes on the GPC Council. His plan to field a full slate of 308 candidates was well recieved, and the party began preparations for the 2004 election.

Harris gets to Fundraising, and the GPC gets staff

Fundrasing, conducted mainly by Jim Harris from wealthier donors in late 2003, provided close to $100,000 in the campaign war chest. This enabled the hiring of the first campaign staff. Matt Takach (Ottawa area organizer and part time office administrator) was boosted to full time office manager in Ottawa, and Michael Pilling (who coordinated the Ontario 2003 platform, and worked for Harris' Strategic Advantage in 2003) was hired part-time in Toronto to begin work on the platform, based on a participatory concept that became known as the Living Platform.

The 2004 election represented an important opportunity for the Green Party of Canada, because it was to be the first election held under the new Bill C-24, under which all parties which get more than 2% of the popular vote will earn a $1.75 annual taxpayer subsidy for every vote recieved.

GPC plans to run 308 candidates

Although Harris had strong support from Ontario team members in the effort to put the full slate together, he was gradually losing personal support due to the methods he employed to achieve it. The GPC full slate plan was designed to maximize the GPC's popular vote accordingly maximize the chances of receiving federal funding after the election.

Harris approached BC businessman Wayne Crookes to arrange loans to the party. Initially the terms discussed were to have a high rate of interest and a contingency for recycling the loan as a series of annual donations if the GPC didn't make the 2% threshold. As the campaign ramped up and the probability of sucess looked better, Crookes increased the sums to be loaned and improved the terms. GPC Council, by Feb 2004, approved approximately $250,000 in loans from Crookes.


Having, for the first time in its history, a small but not insignificant war chest to run a campaign with, Harris coordinated a plan to ensure the GPC breaks the 2% threshold. The party functions in a loosely organized / decentralized fashion, with four main units (leadership, platform, admin and organizing) operating largely independent of each other. Harris barnstormed the country as much as possible, drumming up enthusiasm, not least by promising ridings and provinces across the country a share of the forthcoming federal funds (though technically, Harris had no authority to make such an offer, as the membership had not yet had the opportunity to decide upon it). Takach, along with Alberta's Kevin Colton, built a national network of organizers, combing the membership lists and their contacts for candidates. Pilling worked with volunteers to draw together a platform document, and John Anderson, the Chief Agent, struggled to keep the administrative wheels on the rag-tag troupe. Strong volunteer support emerged from across the country, and large numbers of people contributed untold hours because everyone saw a breakthrough was possible. Closer to the election a Campaign Committee was formed, consisting of Harris, Anderson, Crookes, Pilling, Shadrach, Takach, Colton, Elgie, and DeJong. This committee was the nucleus from which the ERCT formed. As the Campaign began, the committee decided to consolidate decisionmaking power in one Campaign Chief, who was given spending power for the duration and immediate aftermath of the campaign. The person chosen was Wayne Crookes, the party's major creditor.

Post election

After the election Harris recruited a former PC national director to assessed the organization who produced a report called Green and Growing by David Scrymgeour. This plan was presented to the GPC council in October 2004.

Knowing that a minority government could fall at any time, the staff and volunteers set back to work. A lot of administrative loose ends left dangling during the campaign needed to be tied up. The national office (now known as the Hub) organized itself into an ad hoc committee affectionately known as the FOC (Federal Operations Committee), consisting of senior paid staff, and reporting through Takach to Council. New election time hires Pierre Denis (IT), Dermod Travis (Media), and Matt Clarke (Admin), joined Pilling (Platform) and Takach (acting exec) on this committee, which set about rebuilding for a 2005 campaign.

While better than before, the Council's new financial reality was still insufficient to keeping the hub going at current staffing levels. A few staff were let go. Matthew Pollesel, who had been informed earlier that he was staying on, found in August that he was to be let go. This co-incided with his raising concerns about Jim Harris' 2004 leadership campaign expenses. Apparently, friction had developed between himself and Colton and Takach on this and other issues.

The 2004 leadership campaign and Harris under duress.

The election campaign followed immediately by the leadership campaign took its toll on Harris, who had alienated his closest former allies in the Toronto Area. Rob Newman, who was Jim's executive assistant, resigned in mid-campaign, and supported Tom Manley's leadership bid after the election. Campaign Chair Peter Elgie resigned the Campaign committee in mid election for personal reasons, but also cited concerns about Harris. Pilling and Gabriel Draven, both of whom played key roles in the 2004 campaign, and who had both worked with Harris professionally and in the GPO, declined to support his leadership efforts this time around.

(In July 2003, Harris had walked into a meeting of the Ontario Provincial Council and demanded support from the Ontario Councillors, threatening to "take his rolodex and go home" if he got no loyalty from senior Ontario greens. He was reported to have made similar threats to the 2003 GPC council). with this, the rift between Harris and his hometown Toronto Greens became a divide. )

The 2004 Convention

The 2004 convention in Bragg Creek, Alberta was both a celebratory occasion and a cauldron of discontent. The discontents which emerged during or immediately after the election were basically three issues:

  • rightward tilt of the 2004 Platform
  • Revenue Sharing
  • constitutional reform
(ed: please fill in the results of what was decided and link to the minutes.)

October 2004

Letter of complaint to Elections Canada

In a letter to Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer, dated Oct 4, former GPC staffer Matthew Pollesel listed a number of financial irregularities involving

- unreported in-kind contributions to the 2004 election including campaign merchandise and volunteer labour
- unreported expenses for Jim Harris's leadership campaign in 2004
- misleading reports to the Chief Electoral Officer

among other things.

This letter was the subject of a Dec 19, 2005 article by Dennis Bueckert of the Canadian Press, which appeard in a number of publications including the Globe and Mail.

Creation of the ERCT

Also in October, at a Council retreat in Toronto, the Election Readiness and Campaign Team (ERCT) was created. It basically recreated the 2004 campaign committee, with most of its members intact, but notably elevating Dermod Travis to the level of Council and effectively demoting Michael Pilling and Pierre Denis. The mandate and role of the committee were not made public, and it was given total control of hiring and firing of staff (although staff members sat on it), and all distribution of funds within the party (although a major creditor chaired it).


January 2005

Falsification of a Federal Committee report

Council had struck a committee in October 2004 and directed it to report back with recommendations on incorporating the Chief Agent as a Green Party Fund. With no report forthcoming and with motions regarding incorporation coming forward from the Chief Agent in December, International Secretary Elio Di Iorio asked both the Chief Agent and The Party Chair for a report from the committee including minutes of meetings it had had. The committee never met, however, an official report, with no minutes or evidence of discussion or consensus, was submitted to Council by John Anderson (member of the ERCT), despite the protestations of Fundraising Chair Kathryn Holloway who was a member of this committee. This chain of events ultimately led to Holloway's suspension from council.

Removal of Fundraising Chair from Council

During a tele-conference Council meeting on January 16, 2005, Green Party of Canada leader Jim Harris called for an in camera session over what he described as a "staff" issue. He then moved a motion to remove Kathryn Holloway from the GPC council. resulting in Holloway's suspension. No reason was provided to her, and she was refused a copy of the meeting minutes, although she requested that they published to the membership. <ref name=Ombuds>http://zooid.org/~katescoolmusic/ombuds.htm %22Green Party Ombuds Committee Report and Recommendations%22 Party Ombuds on Procedure of Suspension, Mar 5, [[2005]]</ref> She subsequently published Council minutes related to her work on the party's incorporation of its finances, publishing them on a website. <ref>http://zooid.org/katescoolmusic/index.html %22Incorporation Committee Timeline</ref> The GPC Ombuds Committee later condemned the procedure by which Holloway was suspended, requiring the party to apologize to her and to provide a reason. The Council provided a reason three months later, that Holloway had "behaved in an unparliamentary manner", but Holloway maintains that this reason was wholly absent from the Council proceedings. No reason has since been provided, and there is no evidence from Council listserves, that Council ever re-visited the suspension.

February 2005

Project Fig Leaf

With the possibility of a spring snap election looming, platform development became a priority for all. In the 2004 election, the GPC had pioneered the Living Platform, a wiki-based community platform development project. Volunteers from across the country, led by the Shadow Cabinet, would produce a collaborative platform, which would be approved by the party at its next in-person meeting. This project, co-ordinated by Michael Pilling, was beginning to bear fruit by February.

Director of Communications Dermod Travis had other ideas. He proposed a plan called Project Fig Leaf, under which a staff member would write a platform that could be used in case of a snap election. This idea was rejected by the Shadow Cabinet.

Crookes' memo

A memo from Wayne Crookes 2005-02-08, defined "leadership" as a centralized, autocratic and somewhat chilling thing, not what many Greens had in mind when joining the party.

Crookes' memo is important insofar as it seems to motivate a chain of events where all dissent within the Party was suppressed within days.

Living Platform taken down

The Green Party of Canada Living Platform was taken down on Feb. 8th, 2005 and put back up - after extreme protest - only two days later. The project never fully recovered from the interruption. Volunteers were kept out of the loop, and were frustrated when they tried to access their work and were met with an error message. As no explanations for the interruptions were forthcoming, many volunteers became disillusioned and left the project.

One of the key features of the Living Platform, the short Green URIs which make pages names memorable and thus easy to find. These were broken when the wiki came back up, and most pages needed extensive work to rehabilitate.

Shortly before the wiki was taken down, a copy was made, and restored the following day at living platform.ca, which has become openpolitics.ca.

The ostensible reason for taking it down was because of unspecified content which was offensive to Party, although Head of Platform Michael Pilling had complied with all requests to remove objectionable content, and the Platform Committee and Shadow Cabinet had heard no reports of this. When the Living Platform was restored, many pages had been removed without a trace. However, the "offensiveness" of these pages, such as Project Fig Leaf and Green and Growing by David Scrymgeour, was not apparent to many members. See this page was removed for a partial list of some of the supposedly-offensive content removed.

Head of Platform and Research fired

The GPC Head of Platform and Research Michael Pilling was the only person to ever hold this position. Pilling was the editor of the GPC Platform 2004 and manager of the Platform 2005 Project.

Pilling was fired by the ERCT on February 9th, the day after the Living Platform was taken down. This was in spite of a timely GPC Council resolution, initiated by the platform team to shield him as a whistleblower. The motion was ruled out of order by Bruce Abel, one day before the actual firing.

You can read Wikipedia's account of the ongoing saga of the GPC Living Platform. Some addition details:

Reasons for taking down the Living Platform and firing its founder and chief facilitator were never clear. The problematic pages and their histories were wiped from the Living Platform, and Federal Council and the ERCT (who, having authority over hiring and firing, took responsibility for Pilling's firing) evaded questions about their motivations.

Post-Living Platform

On February 18, the GPC Shadow Cabinet, frustrated and outraged by recent events, made an explicit call to disband the ERCT in mid-February. This appeared at a subsequent GPC Council meeting 2005-02-20. The ERCT was disbanded on March 6.

March 2005

The Women's Caucus Objects

In its letter to GPC Council, the Women's Caucus voices its objection to recent choices that Council and the party management had made. In particular, they object to what appears to be the removal of dissenters from positions of power, and the strategy of perpetually remaining in election mode, to the detrement of party integrity.

April 2005

A period of uneasy tension ensued in which opponents of the ERCT clique remained officially on GPC Council but unable to do more than protest.

Shadow Cabinet Retreat 2005-04-09

Upon their arrival in Ottawa, Jim Harris made attempts to exclude elected Federal Councillors Fundraising Chair Kathryn Holloway and International Secretary Elio Di Iorio from participating, although they were invited by Shadow Cabinet Co-Chair Sharon Labchuk as observers. Gathering with Shadow Cabinet critics in the hallway, Harris is overheard describing Holloway as a "party saboteur", stating specifically that Holloway has convinced 15 EDA candidates to run in the next federal election, then pull them at the last minute. Seen as a possible smear campaign, the litany fails to convince Shadow Cabinet members, who instead urge Holloway and Di Iorio to remain at the event. No evidence for the truth of this statement by Harris has ever appeared.

Attempts at restorative Justice

At this same event, Donna Dillman makes an offer to Harris, Holloway and Di Iorio to host a "restorative justice" event or "healing circle". Di Iorio refuses outright on the grounds that this will delegitimize Ombuds. Holloway agrees to attend on a personal basis.

Some claim this offer effectively reduced the "rift" affecting Council to a failure of communication between Harris, Holloway and Di Iorio.

Ultimately, a healing circle was created with a number of Greens close to the situation. Initially, they expressed hope that things would work out and that Harris would begin to understand what was going on outside the narrow circle of his advisors. However, after the event (which was oddly reminiscent of The Breakfast Club), attendees reported frustration and declared the meeting to be - with a single exception - a failure.

The exception was that Harris, under great pressure from the attendees, agreed not to block the nomination of Kate Holloway (who had been suspended many months before in a process widely described as a witchunt) in her Toronto Centre riding. As leader, Harris has the obligation to sign nomination papers, and had been known to withhold that from candidates who challenged him, women candidates in particular. (See also articles from Sooke News Mirror: Booted Green candidate sees red and ousted Green candidate calls for police investigation)

May-June 2005

According to GPO Leader Frank De Jong and others, Harris' behaviour and cooperation with others more qualified in specific areas does not at all improve. GPC Council meetings, held by teleconference, consist mostly of Harris bullying and contradicting those who try to hold him to prior promises or strategies.

The GPC Revenue Sharing Committee, for instance, became increasingly unwilling to wait for its official and binding recommendations to be implemented. These were apparently being resisted by Wayne Crookes and Debbie Hartley, and the "gang of Crookes" which had controlled the party under the names "ERCT" and "GPC Management Committee".

In early June, over the protests of GPC Deputy Leader Tom Manley, who objected that the job description and hiring timeline had not been approved, Hartley issues a description for the job of GPC Executive Director.

mid-June 2005

In June 2005, Holloway was nominated by unanimous vote as the candidate for the Green Party of Canada for the riding of Toronto Centre. However, after becoming convinced that her nomination would be blocked by party organizers, Holloway subsequently resigned Kate Holloway resigns GPC Council, Committees and nomination, 2005-06-08 from the Green Party Council and from her Toronto Centre nomination, stating frustration. Within the next week several other prominent national executive members and candidates followed suit, citing Harris' breaking of their deal, and further direct interference by cronies of Harris in every activity of Toronto GPC EDAs. This has targetted not just her but colleagues Elio Di Iorio and Dan King.

GPC Treasurer Lise Racicot resigns GPC Council, 2005-06-10 officially in protest over Holloway's treatment and the lack of direction in the Party. She also reported that she had been unable to access any audited financial statements of the party.

Revenue Sharing Committee expresses non-confidence in Federal Council

On June 15, a GPC Committee calls for 2005 AGM, stating that "The Revenue Sharing Committee has concluded that the Federal Council of the Green Party of Canada, through inaction or by design, is in breech sic of the Constitution of the Green Party of Canada and has seriously damaged the unity of the party," and that "the Federal Council of the Green Party of Canada has acted unconstitutionally and in bad faith in regards to that resolution and the ratification of a Revenue Sharing Agreement " emphasis added.

Also on that day, Andy Shadrack resigns GPC Committee, 2005-06-15.

GPC Council implodes

Shortly afterwards, GPC International Secretary Elio Di Iorio resigns GPC Council, 2005-06-19, citing many failures of internal performance:
  • The party's invisibility in the media despite $250,000 spent on leader promotion.
  • The party's inability to retain talent, especially young and female talent
  • The party's extreme, paranoid, inward-looking focus including the Code of Conduct for GPC Council, which violates every norm of a democracy
  • the GPC Council having the ability to remove its own members by simple majority vote, in contrast to any known rules of order
  • the GPC Council being able to defy GPC Ombuds

He also makes note of the non-representativeness of the Council, notably the many months in which there was no representation from Quebec, a situation totally unacceptable for a federal party. The next day greenparty.ca publishes a list of vacancies on GPC Federal Council as of June 20, 2005, published by Abel only after Di Iorio's strongly worded resignation, indicates the following positions are open:

Di Iorio's letter also emphasizes policy failures, such as the party's inability to influence the Canadian federal budget, 2004 or make reasonable requests of the Finance Minister before the fact, something Di Iorio found possible to do without party support, as well as the party's lack of any position or visibility on the New Deal for Cities.

Di Iorio also cites his personal embarassment at being associated with Harris, who is systematically excluding from the GPC literally all of the colleagues Di Iorio has worked with directly, and respects, whom he met through the GPC.

The same themes recur when Hayley Easto resigns GPC nomination, 2005-06-29, citing a complete lack of transparency or accountability, disregard for valuable members, and questionable financial practices.

July 2005

Online accounts of the situation including this page, and other mention on Wikipedia drew the ire of Wayne Crookes, who by July was demanding visible and public apologies from, and threatening with libel lawsuits, various GPC members (including but in no way limited to those whose resignation letters are linked above). Since he was reguarded by some at the time to be a public figure, managing a now-major Canadian federal political party, he generally received responses from some individuals that criticisms of his actions were fair comment on the GPC's political process, particularly his advocacy of a specific GPC structure contrary to the GPC constitution.

The use of party funds to file libel suits later became an issue in the GPC whistleblower crisis, 2006.


The Canadian federal election, 2006 was the logical terminus of this crisis as the assertions of those who had caused it, that the tactics would lead to success in that election, were put to the test.

status of Council

In the period leading up to the Canadian federal election, 2006, a number of prominent Greens resigned, including Councillor Dave Greenfield, Shadow Cabinet advocate Michael Oddy in October (he remained leader of the Green Party of Nova Scotia until January 2006), and Newfoundland Organizer Lori-Ann Martino in December.

A federal election was called on December 2, 2005, to take place on January 23, 2006. See Canadian federal election, 2006.

status of policy

The legitimacy of the GPC Council and platform and positions taken as of that writ drop was extremely tenous: There had been no General Meeting nor a Policy Conference since the GPC national convention, 2004 at Bragg Creek, Alberta, in which the party had made many specific commitments that had not been met at all, including a GPC policy convention, 2005 that never occurred.

Instead, the platform was on its "19th draft" according to a message to GPC members from Chris Bradshaw, 2005-12-19, who had recently re-organized the GPC campaign, 2006, a highly unusual move during an election. This attracted negative attention from the national press who remarked that the GPC was late with its platform. (In the end, however, the Green Party of Canada was the first party to release their full platform.) A CBC National story explained exactly why, covering this crisis in some depth. Holloway, Di Iorio, Manley, Schwarz and Dan King all appeared on camera to discuss the problems.

status of platform

The Living Platform project continued to attract interest from passers-by, but since its advocates were all pushed out of the party, the project has faltered. Contact information was never updated to reflect changes in personnel, no guidance or support was available, and was unclear what role (if any) the Living Platform played in the development of GPC platform, 2006.

Probably none, as the changes during the election were extremely few, only a couple per month, no attempt being made even to provide answers to questionnaires as had been done in 2004.

status of Council

GPC members had not known for months which provincial representative positions were vacant, as these positions were not been listed on the website since February 2005 and were not listed until the election of Bill Hulet as Communications Chair and Raphael Thierrin as International Secretary, to replace Ken Ashdown and Elio Di Iorio.

The positions of Fundraising Chair (vacated by Kate Holloway) and Treasurer (vacated by Lise Racicot) remained vacant, even though elections for those posts could easily have been held at the same time.

relations to local Green organizations

During the election there were several controversial statements by members and former members about the crisis, the figures involved, and especially behaviour of Jim Harris from 2003 to 2006. See GPC whistleblower crisis, 2006.

Relations to local Green organizations were strained when a "loyalty oath" authored by David Chernushenko and a message to members from the Green Party leadership, falsely presented as a unified entity though it was primarily from Western Green party leaders, explicitly supported both the "dedicated staff" and the campaign tactics of 2006.

post-2006 election

After the election it became clear that the GPC campaign, 2006 had failed to achieve any of its goals. The GPC whistleblower crisis, 2006 was partly resolved by the resignation of Travis and dropping the politically motivated suits, though David Chernushenko indicated he still supported such lawsuits in principle, and made false claims regarding truth of allegations posted at openpolitics.ca itself which were refuted immediately by its senior editors.

A GPC constitution crisis, 2006 had ensued with Bruce Abel claiming that he did not have to face re-election at the GPC AGM 2006.

Claude Genest announced he would run for leader and called for others to fill GPC Council positions. He cited the "bunker mentality" and the administrative hijacking of the party by unelected persons (such as Crookes and Travis). Others also in Quebec had called to "take back the GPC". The stage was set for a confrontation in August of 2006.

Documents of Interest

Other Sources

Circumstances of the resignation of Ken Ashdown, Dermod Travis, Martin Male, Jeffrey Champagne and others are presently being sought - see GPC resignation letter for a full list of all such letters regardless of crisis.

Also related: