Sunday, August 23, 2020

Dramatic Green Landscape: A Biopolitical Diary Entry

I'm famously Green. 

Like if a friend had 30 seconds to brief a mutual about me, the Green Party would probably come up. It is with utmost fury and disappointment, I write to sever this description. 

My partisanship has always been critical, always been strategic. For the first time in my adult life, I am not supporting a Green Party provincially. The Green Party of New Brunswick is only occasionally, and not categorically, better than the Liberals and New Democrats of the province. There are absolutely great candidates running for the Greens, but I no longer offer a blanket wish of success to the party. 

I have a public axe to grind with David Coon and a personal axe to grind with the party executive. Allow me to tell the dramatic Green landscape that led to my exit.

Devyn on Earth original illustration

I'm not impressed with David Coon's leadership. I'm not a member anymore; I can say it. The world has evolved more quickly than he has since being elected. Credit where due, respect for the path he led, but in 2020, the party would have been better served with Megan Mitton or Kevin Arseneau leading them into this election. Both are better public speakers and more demographically relevant.

David doesn't have the political courage and imagination I demand from a Green Leader. I'm supporting Dimitri Lascaris for federal party leader; I do not value the tactic of appealing centrists. Above all, I value impact and making change in the lived experience of struggling New Brunswickers, not abstract incrementalism.

Snap election platforms do not have to be costed. It doesn't make sense to waste this moment in political history - a moment of reflection ad realignment - to hold back a vision for a dramatically different province. It's not a time for small dreams. 

David Coon sold out progressives by refusing to consider cooperating with the NB NDP.

David Coon sold out progressives by running on a basic income pilot, instead of a basic income guarantee.

David Coon sold out progressives when he proposed a band-aid transit stop-gap: redirect the carbon tax dollars to the cities for transit. We need a bold new province-wide fee-free transit network.

David Coon is putting New Brunswickers at risk encouraging his candidates to campaign door-to-door.

David Coon bragged about the party's slate of diverse candidates after presiding over the improper denial of my application for nomination for "lack of campaign infrastructure". I was among a few candidates in the province running to be our first nonbinary MLA, and I was denied the right to stand before a nomination meeting for disbelief.

Transition to the personal axe I have to grind:

Since the beginning of August I started putting together a plan. A plan of how to campaign during covid and a plan of how to fix the problems in Sussex relevant to the jurisdiction and capacity of an opposition MLA. My 27-point plan: The Next Great Chapter for Sussex-FSM and arts-based outreach strategy never got to be presented to the members of the RDA because the Green Party of New Brunswick provincial council preferred another candidate.

Devyn on Earth original illustration

Provincial council members Dave Wagner, Stephanie Coburn, and Marco Morency colluded in a draconian effort to shield Tim Thompson from my nomination challenge. My proof:

Tuesday, August 4: intent to run expressed to Dave Wagner in context of needing to resign as Saint John Harbor's OR to seek nomination. Official Representative for Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins GPNB Riding Association, Official Representative for GPNB.

Sunday, August 16: I resign as OR of Saint John Harbour RDA.

Monday, August 17:

12:53 am application for nomination filed with Marco Morency, Stephanie Coburn,RDA President CC'd.

5:40 pm receipt of application received 

Tuesday, August 18:

I receive 3 calls from an unknown Calgary number that later identifies at Tim Thompson who communicates that he is also seeking the nomination and would prefer I apply to run in his hometown of Quispamsis or Albert. I respectfully decline.

7:00: Tim's campaign manager communicates the same request. I decline.

 7:42 I receive email to schedule vetting interview via zoom for 

Wednesday, August 19: vetted at 4pm - proceeds cordially. Worth noting - it was asked if would campaign door-to-door, and I said no and explained my choice of arts-based campaigning, which is out of step with the GPNB leadership's position.

Thursday, August 20th: 

~9 AM: I am contacted by phone by Stephanie Coburn to say my candidacy has been blocked by a perceived lack of "Infrastructure". I indicate I will be appealing the message she is communicating on behalf of the vetting committee. I request that the message be sent to me in writing. She complies. 

11:51 am I file an appeal for a nomination meeting citing a perceived lack of infrastructure to be inadequate grounds to violate a member's right to stand for nomination as per the party bylaws.

Friday, August 21:

I hear no response, but the Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins Green RDA Facebook page posts that Tim Thompson has been selected as candidate. I respond that I have appealed and this post isn't the case.

I send an additional email to Marco Morency stating that my appeal has gone unheard. I CC Dave Wagner this time. 

Friday night I am told to suspend campaigning and wait my turn by a coupe of cis white guys. I decline. 

I slept on it. And Saturday, I was either going to file a complaint with Elections NB or leave the party and go pubic. You're reading how I decided to deal with it.

What snapped? I had to put the paper trail together whether I was going to Elections NB or going pubic. Doing so, I got so angry that the prize for all of this - the fight just to be heard and then to get elected -  meant I'd be winning with and for the very assholes who asked me to compromise my values for their convenience. The Green Party of New Brunswick does not offer change I can believe in.

I do not support the Green nominee in Sussex-FSM. The dude is an opportunist. He ran in Fundy Royal after losing the Fredericton nomination to Jenica Atwin and saw Bruce Northrup's retirement as a sweet deal. A good politician who respected the core Green principle of participatory democracy would have welcomed the critical exchange of ideas on how to best campaign and govern and insisted on a nomination meeting. 

Further, I am assuming the Thompson campaign is choosing door-to-door outreach. I cannot recommend against the choice to campaign door-to-door enough.

After much consideration, I will not be seeking an independent nomination. The strategy I had to win -- that I never got to present -- depended on the riding association for sign distribution. I'm not sure in what capacity, but I am passionate about the potential of arts-based campaigning; don't be surprised to see some in the future. 

So who am I supporting?

As impossible as it is, I implore voters to tune out the provincial narrative and drill down on what their MLA candidates will insist on in a legislative capacity. Ask questions; get commitments. I know it's impossible in a tiny province with a minority government, but it will be worth it. Vote for people who share your policy agenda and have the personal capacity to enact that reality. 

Saint John Harbour is a battleground riding that nominated a Green I was never a fan of. In a fairness, Brent Harris did not get a kind welcome to Twitter, and he has a lot of good ideas and passion for results. He and I just aren't building the world at the same speed or on the same channel.

The Liberal and NDP candidates are really great. I'm probably more ideologically aligned with the NDP's Courtney Pyrke, but I'm putting my vote behind Alice McKim based on an evaluation of who has the best chance of winning, writing progressive bills, and getting them passed. I think that's Alice. She's going to get an endorsement post separate from this entry - trust me, she deserves it.

So for the second time in my life and the first time provincially, I'm voting Liberal and volunteering for a Liberal campaign. I did also join the party out of spite because it was free and online and procedurally terminated my relationship with the NB Greens, but let's be honest, that's not gonna last lol...

I am not yet endorsing a candidate in Sussex-FSM, but I will be. I'd like to learn more about the NDP and Liberal candidates. I am not supporting the PANB, PCNB, or Green candidates.

Locally, I'm splitting my support across 3 parties, supporting Green Joanna Killen in Saint John-Lancaster and NDP Cait Grogan running against Blaine Higgs in Quispamsis. I don't feel compelled to speak to other candidacies yet. When that changes, you'll know. 


Devyn on Earth original illustration

Sunday, July 5, 2020

New Crime Laws Won't Prevent Racism

Canadians have an expectation of intellectual labour from city councils, but in Saint John, this expectation eroded over a generation of poor civic engagement. Councilors got elected on egos and platitudes, and the municipal legislative agenda devolved to whining at other governments rather than improving Saint John’s own governance.

The rest of the country incrementally raised their expectations of municipal politicians over the past decade, but Saint John excluded itself from this evolution. Pandemic and heartbreaking racist police brutality forced us to our present inflection point. We’re barreling towards the conclusion of a layered power struggle made raw by a years of westward brain drain and substantial waves of student, worker, and refugee immigration.

We’re living a demographic collision between zoomers who speak in outrage and denouncement and boomers who don’t adequately conceive their responsibility to build a radically better world. On all sides, negative politics is a problem in Saint John. Given the culture of governance by complaint, engagement by complaint is the natural evolution of public discourse. See Saint John Twitter.

That’s why Wayne Long and Don Darling feel bullied. All of a sudden, they’re being held to a higher standard by people who don’t support them. After the first Twitter decade went silent in Saint John, the expectation of Saint John City Council evolved in a matter of months what other communities wrangled over years.

But what these white dudes are feeling isn’t bullying. They’re feeling a redistribution of social capital away from privilege they’re accustomed to.

Wayne and Don perceive themselves as good at their jobs, because privilege. They aren’t.

The two politicians grasp precisely half of their jobs. They’re good community representatives and useless legislators. The bar for Saint John politicians is so low that governance by complaint looks legitimate. It is privilege that allows these men to take responsibility for their intentions instead of their impacts.

The SJ Twitter mob needs to understand their own privilege in public discourse too; anger is not impact and conflating the two detracts from progress. For officials and observers, the challenge of public policy making is to create solutions to be passionate about.

Don Darling has responded to calls for municipal action on racism with an ill-conceived motion for council to offer gestures of support for the writing of new federal crime laws against acts of racial discrimination. This proposal is a distraction.

He’s intentionally derailing the conversation of defunding the police. Instead of taking action on any of the 27 policy proposals BLMTO published democratically and in consultation with experts, Mayor Darling cherry-picked a policy he could swallow: ask someone else to fix racism.

Even if criminal law was a municipal jurisdiction, it’s an awful idea. Let's obliterate the logic behind making acts of racism a crime.
  • BLM is an abolitionist movement acknowledging the use of criminal laws to create social justice is impossible.
  • All new laws bear administrative costs and are ultimately enforced with bias from police and judiciary alike.
  • New citations and incarcerations proliferate poverty and the prison-industrial-complex.
  • The proposal completely lacks specifics about punishment relative to harm or thresholds of proof.
  • Why only make discrimination by race a crime?
At best, carceral anti-racism is lofty retribution. At worst, the proposal is a pretext for censorship, fascism, and alt-right White identity politics.

It’s all smoke and no fire, though. Advocating this motion did not require Don Darling or Wayne Long to evolve their personal understanding of their own institutional and personal stake in White supremacy.

I object to the consideration of the Mayor’s motion as a rebuke for derailing the conversation away from defunding the Saint John Police Force. If we’re going to ask another government for a lofty solution, we ought to ask for hope. Only one person at the BLM Saint John rally spoke in favour of carceral anti-racism, but there were lots of signs demanding a universal basic income and police abolition...

I implore the city to seek policy guidance from the 27 BLMTO demands. Further, the city ought to affirm that while dubiously enforced, discrimination is already illegal; the recourse is civil, not criminal. These administrative tribunals are famously user non-friendly, but the City can actually do something about that. There's nothing stopping SJPF officers from immediately assuming disarmed administrative duties assisting discrimination victims through administrative tribunals.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Remembrance Day 2.0

I have no connection to the military whatsoever, but Remembrance Day has always stood out as my favourite holiday. 

My enthusiasm is born of the commitment and catharsis Remembrance Day represents. It’s only the day when the country says in one voice: “never again”, and grinds to a halt for a moment of solace. It’s the only day when you can publicly cry about the madness and unfairness of the world and be understood by a stranger. 

The temporal context of Remembrance Day is changing; the last of the World War II veterans will find peace on the other side of the poppies soon. As this unavoidable reality approaches, what will it mean for Canadian culture to have the human memory of the Great Wars go extinct?

It means, like all things classic, Remembrance Day will undergo a millennial reboot. 

Remembrance Day is typically approached as an account of history - the telling of a cautionary tale and unimaginable loss. We spend the day looking back, for now. 

The millennial rewrite will challenge the retrospective character of Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day 2.0 will be an activist uptake of “never again”. We will look as deeply into our future as we do our past with the lens of remembrance. 

Remembrance Day 2.0 will be a fusion of reminder and remembrance, where the love and consideration we look back with now become behaviours we carry with us everyday. It will be our holiday to remember great loss, but more importantly our holiday to meaningfully commit to peace and all the sacrifices and complexities that peace requires. 

Lest we forget. Lest we desist. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Power of a Good MP: An Endorsement

If you're a friend or follower, you know my life has brought me to beautiful coastal Saint John. My blessed return to New Brunswick was foregrounded by a formative decade+ in our nation's capital. After graduating from high school in 2005, I left Sussex Corner to attend Carleton University and was immediately enamoured with the architecture, natural environment, and civic engagement the National Capital Region boasts.

I did something bold when I got to Ottawa. I joined the Green Party. It was 2006, and Stephen Harper had just won his first minority government. This election was my first; displeased, I decided not to remain silent. I joined the Green Party in time to vote in and volunteer at the Ottawa leadership convention that elected Elizabeth May leader.

L to R: Jim Fannon, David Chernushenko, Elizabeth May. Ottawa, 2006.

Green values are my values, and Green policies appeal to me as principled and pragmatic. Ecological wisdom, non-violence, participatory democracy, respect for diversity, social justice, and sustainability guide Green policy - I signed up for an orderly revolution.

Green politics are different than those of traditional parties. Foremost, the party is unyielding in its efforts to work across difference for the common good. Whipped votes are forbidden by the party's constitution; each Green MP votes their conscience and assumes accountability to their constituents foremost.

Scant representation in the House of Commons has affirmed that beyond an ethos, this willingness has been a necessity for Elizabeth May to be the exemplary parliamentarian she is. Because of Elizabeth May, no Canadian can legitimately doubt the power of a good MP.

Talented progressives are stepping up as Green candidates across the country. Look no further than astrophysicist Amita Kuttner, PhD (Burnaby North), former broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts (Halifax), and indigenous leader Racelle Kooy (Victoria).

In a perfect world, every Green candidate is as extraordinary as these. We don't live in that world; parties of all stripes nominate flagbearer candidates in non-competitive ridings. These candidates expose the d├ętente of Canada's First-past-the-post elections: strategic voting.

Consider that every vote is strategic; the decision to vote is strategic. The quandary for Greens is intense this election. We're polling higher than ever and we're projected to win in multiple ridings. FTFP forces voters to insidiously conceive their votes as both national and local, both symbolic and procedural.

Subsidies for political parties complicate strategic voting further. If a candidate receives over 10% of the vote in any riding, 50% of their campaign expenses are reimbursed. The meager threshold stokes an incentive to campaign halfheartedly in perceived non-competitive ridings.

Meanwhile, Liberal rhetorical commitment to climate policy has gone unmatched by actions. They promised us a red eye and handed us an Americano. A good barista would apologize and remake the drink, but the planet is not a coffee coffee shop. There's no remaking the Earth. The best case scenario for our strained people and stained planet is a Liberal minority government tipped left by Green and NDP caucuses.

Catherine McKenna executed a Liberal bait-and-switch on climate policy. Her impudence is second only to Maryam Monsef's tactless excision of electoral reform. McKenna must be defeated in Ottawa-Centre.

Emilie Taman is the right woman for the job.

Emilie is the kind of person who knows the purpose and power of an Opposition MP; she's a human rights champion who understands the existential threat of the climate crisis. Emilie is a civil liberties proponent. Even when the details are complex and the subject matter is caustic, her concept of justice is clear. More than any other candidate in Ottawa-Centre, I have the utmost confidence in Emilie to insist on legal gender pluralism and pursue justice for nonbinary, two spirit, and trans Canadians.

I begrudge noone a conscientious vote, but I implore consideration of the actual work an MP does. Our elections deliver a parliament of individuals who participate in legislative processes. That's the job. If an MP shows up, and they write down what they say they were going to write down, they "make" everyone read it, they speak to it persuasively, and they create consensus......*long inhale*
They. write. laws.

It would be fair to say I bleed Green. At the time of my fateful move East, I was the Communications Chair of the GPC's Ottawa-Centre riding association. I have since assumed campaign communications duties here in Saint-John Rothesay in support of Green candidate Ann McAllister - the only serious progressive on the ballot - a regional dynamic we're seeing across Atlantic Canada.

Progressives in Canada's coastal provinces are coalescing around Green candidates, but Ontario remains a different political animal. As I plea for Ottawan Greens to take a harder look at Emilie Taman, I equally urge Atlantic New Democrats to consider their allegiances.

The blood feud between Greens and New Democrats has gotten out of hand. I've lost much respect for those partisans who choose to spread lies about the Green party being either anti-choice or "secretly" conservative. I personally conceive the grief between Greens and New Democrats as a tactical disagreement, albeit one with legitimate and immediate consequences. I've written on behalf of merger, and when the wounds of the Fall election heal, it's a conversation we need to revive.
Until then, I'm proud to reach across partisan lines and offer my sincerest endorsement to Emilie Taman for Ottawa-Centre's next MP.

So go ahead, and ruin Thanksgiving dinner by talking politics. The planet is counting on you!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Spaces I Love: Robinson Village

After 31 trips around the sun, I have a whole apartment to myself. In April, I signed for the last 4 months of a tiny bachelor apartment at the foot of Sandy Hill in Ottawa. The building will be demolished in the Fall as part of forthcoming redevelopment of Robinson Village. Beyond the joy of my first apartment, I have a deep appreciation for pre-gentrified Robinson Village. This essay is about both.

My first solo apartment is an anomaly in many ways. I took over a lease from a graduating business administration student for the four Summer months. A fateful Kijiji alert found me the best value apartment I've ever heard of in Ottawa. While less than 300 square feet isn't much, I'm paying $650 a month including utilities. For a bachelor in Ottawa? Unheard of! That's not a price break for the takeover, either. The previous tenant was paying the same.

Height zoning for Robinson Village development.

Logistical-financial reality dissuades me from investing in a space where I could host a few people socially. The space is set up such that two people could barely survive, but I'm quite happy there alone. I have a space that, when in proper order, I can sleep, cook, watch TV, do art, work, and work out in. It juuuust hits minimum requirements of what I need and not a shred more.

I have a small omni-room, a decently sized closet, and a desk-nook. The unit opens to the bathroom on the right and a hallway that ends in the omni-room. The designer in me knows I could work with the space. A Murphy or loft bed would be a game changer, but my tenancy is short, so I resolved not to spend money or muscle on items to move at the end of August.

In any configuration, the unit is so small that there could only be two functional areas other than the kitchen, and one of them has to be my double mattress. If a twin bed was an option, there'd be a possibility for a meaningful partition. A double mattress fits in one corner with two perpendicular options. One opens up space immediately in front of the large south-facing front window, and the other the nook on the other side of the closet that a single bed would easily slide into.

Three of my five pieces of furniture are in the desk-nook. The 1.5 x 2 meter rectangle is home to a red folding director's chair & TV tray from Giant Tiger, and an almost-but-not-quite, matching folding stool from Dollarama. A an over-toilet white wire shelf fits over the heater and gives the nook storage.

The previous tenant opted for the other orientation, placing a loveseat against the main window, where I just have an end table with plants on it. That layout would make hosting a guest more comfortable, but sacrificed a workspace. Not gonna lie, though. I do think if I magically had a cute bistro set up three flights of stairs, it might change my mind.

There's an obvious slant to the floors. The East wall is the lower side of the unit. My bed accordingly subtly dipped down at the head before I used a few boards to level it out. The window is the perfect dimensions to host my rarely flown New Brunswick flag as a curtain. It's trimmed with a set of lights, and propped open with an inverted mason jar.

My bathroom is one of the quirkiest I've ever been in. The shower is a tiled triangular afterthought, but it's actually quite large. Two people fit into it with no struggles. (Wink!) The toilet is between the shower and the wall on the other side of the hallway. Above the toilet, there's a plain white shelf with a 2x3 foot mirror that I leaned against the wall. That's it.

There's no sink in the bathroom - the first of two glaring impracticalities of the apartment. The other drawback is somewhat unforgiveable to me; there's no onsite laundry, and lest the appreciative tone of this essay be tarnished, I shan't dwell on how laundry trips irk me.

The unit's only sink is on the kitchen wall of the omni-room. Plain white cabinets flank another basic shelf holding up a mirror. I'm satisfied with the counter and storage space, despite losing much to a two-burner cooktop and toaster oven.

I've made good use of the counter overhang, which was clearly left for the possibility of a dishwasher. It's now home to storage boxes and my TV. Between good antenna reception and Google Chromecast, the TV provides a soundtrack and background noise to my home time.

The last and best detail about my apartment is my beautiful cannabis mural. I went on a two-week trip a week after I moved in, so I offered my place to an artist-friend who is underhoused. I told him he could go nuts if he wanted to, but there was absolutely no expectation. I couldn't be happier with the result.

The neighbourhood is diverse in terms of race and language with roughly equal populations from working and middle classes. We're adjacent to the Rideau River and Robinson Park. My backyard is a soccer field and a riverfront park.

There are five Muskoka chairs on the Rideau River banks at Robinson Park. They just showed up in June, and not all at once. I've twice seen them used and thrice used them myself. I actually texted my friend James about them: "maybe we can have nice things?"

Five chairs by the river. 

The riverfront is so quiet at night that I forget I'm in the middle of the city. 

 Robinson Field. 

It takes 30 minutes to walk to the Rideau Centre through Sandy Hill,  I can shave off 5 minutes walking down King Edward Ave. If I go in the complete opposite direction, St. Laurent is also ~30 minutes walk away. For groceries, it's 15 Minutes to the Walmart at Trainyards,

Trainyards is my closest Starbucks - a welcome and unexpected homo hub. Kettleman's Bagels has a location all the way at the end Trainyards retail park, but I live on carbs, it's got wifi and coffee, and it's open 24 hours.

To get to Carleton I take a picturesque 15 minute walk along and across the Rideau River to Hurdman Station and catch a 104.

Bussing from Lees/Chapel is closer than Hurdman, but it's complicated; Robinson Village, like the Lees towers, got stiffed by transit construction. Only one direction of the temporary transitway replacement routes way serves the stop. Traveling East is great. Coming back or going West, I walk or transfer to Templeton/KEA.

417, Lees Station, and Lees apartment towers.

There are are three distinct introductions to Robinson Village. Via the Rideau River Pathway, Robinson Village feels like just another chunk of Sandy Hill. By bus, you're treated to a notably steep and poorly maintained path connecting Robinson Village to Lees Ave at Chapel. And if you drive to Robinson Village, it becomes obvious that RV is on the other side of the 417's sound walls. From Lees, you take Robinson beside and against highway 417 traffic.

The Rideau River Pathway entrance sandwiched between two blocks of townhouses. 

Pathway connection to Robinson Village. 


How you drive to Robinson Village: the sexy Lees overpass. 

Entrance to pathway to Lees/Chapel.

Poorly maintained path to Lees/Chapel bus stop. 

Bitter cold Ottawa Winter would have been a struggle in Robinson Village, particularly without a car during LRT construction. The Rideau River Pathway wouldn't be cleared, and the steep path to Lees/Chapel would be treacherous when icy. My perspective on the neighbourhood is admittedly rosier only spending a Summer.

Low rise apartments:

Small houses:


Unoccupied buildings:

There are no stores in Robinson Village. There's an industrial kitchen equipment dealer and a City of Ottawa garage. The closest convenience stores are the Quickie on Mann or a few options in the ground levels of the Lees towers. As the neighbourhood develops, a grocery store in one of new buildings would be a welcome addition.

The kitchen equipment dealer.

City yard pics.

TBH, writing this essay was a bit of a coming-of-age reflection. I was an undergraduate student during the narrative shift that rebranded Hintonburg from a place of visible struggle to Ottawa's premiere creative and culinary neighbourhood. I heard the grumblings, but the neighbourhood's changes didn't affect me, and gentrification as a process was just gaining prevalence in public dialogue.

Much of the appreciation I have for this Robinson Village is knowing it's only temporary, so I should enjoy it for what it is. The experience I'm having here won't be offered to another Ottawan. Robinson Village's last Summer as underdog will be remembered fondly as a time and space I love(d).