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.