Wendy Priesnitz - writer, editor, changemaker
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Acceptance Speech – Green Party of Canada Leadership – 1996

Being chosen leader of the Green Party of Canada is a humbling responsibility. But it is an exciting one, and I thank you for putting your confidence and trust in me.

I find the task ahead somewhat daunting. An election looms within the year, so there is a lot of organizing work to be done now. But I welcome the challenge. And I believe that Green politics can provide real solutions for the environmental, economic, and social problems our country is facing.

I think that you have chosen me as your leader because I bring to the position a mix of business experience, organizing ability, and 20 years of activism in many of the Green policy areas. I look forward to putting this experience to work. Many people probably also voted for me because of my commitment to collective, decentralized decision making. As someone once said, if you are looking for leadership, check out the reflection in the mirror. In other words, self-government is about all of us working together to solve problems.

So, while I accept your vote of confidence as the leader of the Green Party of Canada, I want to remind you that we are all in this together. I believe that Green leadership is not about heroes, nor is it about sitting back and deferring responsibility. It is about inspiring, inciting, motivating, and organizing others to keep focused on goals that we have jointly defined.

That is what I have been doing with my life for over 20 years, and I see this as another route to the same destination. In 1976, my husband Rolf and I started Natural Life Magazine in order to find information for ourselves, and provide access to it for other people, about ways to make changes in our daily lives in order to change the world.

Back in those days, I realized that the personal is political with a small “p.” Every choice I make in my everyday life is political, whether it is to walk to the farmers market rather than drive to the supermarket, to help my children learn at home instead of sending them to school, or to buy local organic produce instead of chemically sprayed stuff imported from California.

But about capital “P” politics, I wavered between apathy and disdain for many years. I assumed that running a country was something done by aging white men, something other people did in some other place. My role was as an outsider protesting, arguing, writing letters and articles, and trying to change them. I still do not believe that politicians create change. At least not politicians as we know them.

One of two things that attracted me to the Green Party was that people can work together to find small-scale, personal and local solutions to massive problems. The idea of empowering individuals and communities to become self-reliant has driven my own actions as an editor, a writer, a promoter of microbusiness and community economic development, and as an education activist.

The second attraction for me is the notion that everything is connected. While each of us has our own pet issues and areas of concern or expertise, Greens have a unique understanding that economics, social justice issues, and the environment are interrelated, and solutions to problems in any of these areas must be holistic. Without each one of us taking responsibility for our own lives and for our own home places, we will not have a healthy and sustainable community, country, or world.

Greens share the vision of saving the world by saving the watersheds, one local ecosystem at a time. And of being a Canada-wide, indeed worldwide, confederation of people working together in the political arena with the same goals. For me, this translates into an understanding that the Green Party can only succeed by getting members one person at a time. And raising money one dollar at a time.

Green politics is grassroots politics. For me, to be Green means working, through grassroots organizing, to reverse the state-orientation of politics and create a climate in which citizens are active participants, rather than passive subjects of those in power.

With this vision, I believe that we can effect large-scale change. Ours is a powerfully different way of looking at politics, one that removes cynicism and replaces it with hope. And one that should speak well to voters across the country who are looking for a new way of governing and being governed.

But change does not come easily. There are many barriers to electoral success for Greens. Words are not enough to surmount the barriers. I see my role as helping to refocus the vision, to inspire action and create the infrastructure that will enhance that action. I cannot change the country alone, nor can I make the Green Party work all by myself.

Here are my personal goals for my first year as leader:

1. To have a Green Party of Canada Strategic Plan in place within a few months, including financial statements, a budget, an election strategy, a plan for attracting new members and for communicating with current members.

2. To organize 50 active, self-reliant riding associations by early 1997. Notice I did not say that I would identify 50 candidates. Nor did I say I would put a national fundraising plan in place. The Green way to participate in the electoral process is to empower individuals at the local riding level to work together to communicate the Green message in their communities – both during election campaigns and between them. If they do this well enough, with our help, credible candidates will emerge, as will the finances to allow these candidates to conduct their campaigns. Local organizing is never an easy task, but it is one into which I will put most of my energy. The Green Party I lead will operate from the bottom up, rather than the top down.

3. To build solidarity with those working for social justice and human rights issues, with community economic development leaders, with peace activists, and of course, with environmentalists across Canada.

4. To increase the visibility and credibility of the Green Party of Canada across the country, in order to attract new members and the ear of the media.

Virtually all of us arrived here today because we gave up on established political parties whose primary interest is always in extending their own power. I find hope in the creativity of people working at the grassroots level to create positive change. My efforts within the Green Party of Canada will not be to replace this work at the community level, but to enhance it. The day can come when we are in Parliament, working in partnership with the established political parties. Until then, we will be the anti-party party political experiment that is unwilling to compromise its fundamental values.

The G in Green stands for Grassroots. The R stands for Responsibility. The twin Es stand for Ecology and Earth. The N must stand for Now. For it is now that we must begin to work together on the most important task of all: To provide a political home for those who believe in the power of small groups of people to overturn the forces of corporate greed and individual short-sightedness that will destroy our Earth. The fate of the Earth hangs in the balance. So, let’s get to work now. I look forward to working with all of you.

Thank you.

Wendy Priesnitz

Note: In 1997, I resigned from the leadership of the Green Party of Canada. Here is my resignation letter.

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