Wendy Priesnitz - writer, editor, changemaker
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Resignation Letter – Green Party of Canada Leadership – 1997

Note: The morning after a very difficult telephone conference call with the leadership group, I sent an earlier version of this letter via email to those who had been on the call, and shared this edited version with others. This was a decision that I had been considering for a few months and the details of what happened are not important.

Those of you who characterized what has been happening over the past month or so, culminating in our phone call last night, as a power struggle between two of us on National Council probably feel that I “won.” Maybe you even feel that we arrived at a “win/win” solution. Then why did I wake up this morning feeling so profoundly sad? Because nobody really won last night, except the forces of macho domination, which triumphed over Green politics once again. If, as I’m now hearing, some men on the conference call felt intimidated or angry by the process, is it any wonder that women are put off participating in the Greens?

When I accepted the nomination for and subsequent winning of the leadership of this party, it was with a large degree of trepidation but lofty (and I realize now, probably unrealistic) ideals. In the run-up to the 1996 leadership convention, I'd been warned that I’d be unhappy with the party’s old boy’s club, and that innovative thought was often a victim of political gamesmanship.

I was naive enough (or perhaps too overconfident in myself) to think I could, by the very fact of being a woman leader, help change the paradigm. I thought I could help reinvent the political organization, could help create a decentralized, unbureaucratic, problem-solving, empowering alternative to the conventional structure of Canadian political parties. I thought that I could attract other credible, experienced, active Green women (and men) to the party – some who’d left and some who’d never before been involved. I thought I could attract experienced activists and writers and thinkers from a variety of fields to help turn the Canadian Greens into a force to be reckoned with. I thought I could at the very least attain gender balance on Council and in committees.

However, I was wrong on all counts. I failed to understand how entrenched traditional partisan ways are within the party. I didn’t realize just how much some people (many of them male) enjoy the game of antagonistic sparring. I failed to account for the deep-seated tensions between regions and between individuals. I didn’t realize that so many people involved with the party see it as an activist organization rather than an eventual player in government – and that some actually don’t want it to be a political party at all. I underestimated the number of people who don’t even want a leader who leads, as opposed to a figurehead. I also forgot that when threatened by change, especially change instigated by a newcomer, people often react badly. So, I misgauged the problem; I also failed to consider the emotional and physical toll that trying to solve it would take on me, my writing career, and my family.

For the most part, I have found NGO doors to have remained closed. Oh, they opened for awhile to congratulate me on the job I've taken on, then the people and organizations got on with their business, uninterested in a so-called progressive party that is perennially unable to demonstrate that it can even govern itself in a democratic way, let alone a country.

There are a few people in this party who have been working hard in their own bioregions to create a working model of locally-based, participatory democracy. There are a few other people in this party who have been working hard and risking much trying to create an infrastructure that could allow for the development of a credible Green Party of Canada. Their vision has encouraged me over the past year.

However, we are a long way from having any kind of critical mass. There are too many people whose personal agendas interfere with the optimum use of their talents to work for change. I also think there are too many different agendas to even begin the discussion about reaching a unity of purpose.

I have realized during the past few weeks that I will not be able to effect the massive level of change required if this party is ever to move from the margins. I have also begun to doubt the wisdom of the very existence of a federal Green Party at this point in time. I know that real change begins at the grassroots level. So I have to wonder why we are trying to force a bottom-up result with a top-down process. Perhaps the idea that one can demonstrate decentralization, sustainable economics, and participatory democracy through a federal political party is more than just an oxymoron.

So, after both objective deliberation and subjective soul searching, I've decided to step aside. I’m confident you can appoint a suitable substitute as Interim Leader of the Green Party of Canada to take you through the next election. After that, I urge you to re-consider the nature of leadership within the party. Perhaps a gender-balanced team of spokespeople is more conducive to fostering an understanding of what co-operative effort really means. At any rate, I assure you that the work being done at the grassroots level will continue in spite of what goes on at the top; let it inspire and sustain you as it once did me.

I hereby tender my resignation as the Leader of the Green Party of Canada, effective immediately.

Wendy Priesnitz

Note: Here is my acceptance speech when I was elected leader of the Green Party of Canada in 1996.

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