Friday, June 08, 2007

Elizabeth May: debt before dishonour

May opposed restraint, threatened to quit leadership if removed from Green Party budget committee

Party received $3 M in public funds since 2004, yet has $255 K in debt

What’s really interesting about the Vancouver Sun story about Elizabeth May’s threat to quit as Green Party leader – in addition to her whinging – is the window it provides into the financial situation of the Green Party of Canada, which everyone assumed would be rolling in rolling papers, store-bought roach clips and other goodies after public financing of political parties came into effect in 2004.

Indeed, since the fourth quarter of 2004 the party has received a total of $3,086,075.39 in public funds (see figures below). In addition, it collected $351,030.66 in contributions in 2004, and $409,357.09 in 2005. It received reimbursements of $455,489.54 for the 2006 election and $298,907.63 for the 2004 election.

Yet the Greens have strayed into the red zone (in more ways than one), with big-party-style debt problems, before they have elected one MP. The Sun reports that the party is $255,000 in debt, which it attributes to preparing for a spring election that didn’t happen:

[May] said she is personally “broke” because of her $50,000 salary and called her job “grueling.”

May’s declaration was in response to a proposal from former interim executive-director David Scrymgeour, who was urging the party to slash spending and eliminate its debt.

Scrymgeour, who refused to comment when contacted, also said that May should step down from the party’s budget review committee.

May responded that the spending cuts would kill the party’s chances of winning seats in the next election.

“I should also add that if council decided to remove me from the budget committee, I would have a hard time staying on as leader,” May wrote in the e-mail obtained by the Vancouver Sun.

“Do I have a lot of unilateral power? No I don’t. Am I earning a tonne of money? No I’m not. Am I tired and discouraged and bone-weary and in chronic pain because I’m waiting for a hip replacement? Do I have down moments? You bet.

“If you catch me in a down moment and slap me in the face, do I really want to stay? I don’t know. I mean, I’m human.”

Wow. If only the election were tomorrow, so the citizens of Central Nova could boot that laggard Peter MacKay, and replace him with this dynamo.

By the way, according to the 2001 census, average individual income in Central Nova is $23,769, average household income is $46,201, and the average family income is $52,911 (I couldn’t find the figures from the 2006 census; I don’t believe they are publicly available yet. But if someone has a link, I’d appreciate it).

I have to feel for David Scrymgeour, also a former aide to PC leader Joe Clark (when the PC party was paying Clark considerably more than May’s $50,000). Ironically, May’s whining sounds eerily similar to Clark’s, during Clark’s valiant struggle to fill the role as leader of the fifth party on less than $300,000 per annum. During the two years between his election as leader and winning a seat in Parliament, this included a supplement of more than $150,000 from the party, which was then approximately $10 M in debt. (And, as I am always obliged to disclose, voting for Clark in the 1998 leadership is the only vote I wish I could take back.)

Scrymgeour was a casualty of the 2003 MacKay-Orchard Pact – which included a provision that Scrymgeour be removed as the party’s national director – so his search for Greener pastures is in a sense understandable. But surely he’s had enough of these granola-munchers by now (in particular, May’s détente cordiale with Stéphane Dion), and is ready to come back to a professional political party.

Allowances Paid to the Green Party of Canada
2007 Q1: $310,866.83
2006 Q4: $310,867.00
2006 Q3: $310,867.00
2006 Q2: $310,867.00
2006 Q1: $266,686.28
2005 Q4: $266,686.28
2005 Q3: $261,847.00
2005 Q2: $261,847.00
2005 Q1: $261,847.00
2004 Q4: $261,847.00
2004 Q3: $261,847.00
TOTAL: $3,086,075.39


Lemon said...

Debt before Dihonour... I love it, Joan.
She keeps looking flakier and flakier

I'm gonna link to this with another angle.

Anonymous said...

Tell me which national leader does not have at least some say over the party finances? This is a pretty shallow compaint, would you run a party or a company without some say on how the money is used?

1/4 million is not really that much only about $22 bucks a member or less than 1 quarters allowance.

In the last year they have doubled membership and nearly doubled polling numbers, so they can expect greater income to cover the bills, I don't see this a real problem for them.

Now the Libs, that's a real debt.

I take it you've never suffered cronic pain, the amount of travel any leader deals with is grueling, but with a shot hip, that just makes me cringe.

Only $50,000 income however does explain the thrift shop wardrobe, but if you want to compare her income to her riding, you'd better be ready to do the same for MacKay.

This article is a good exercise writing for you but not a good strong argument about anything.

Brian C. said...

"Tell me which national leader does not have at least some say over the party finances? "

People outside the Green Party, or who don't care about the party, really don't care much one way or the other about this story. Why would May pretend that she wasn't issuing a threat to the council? Stating that you won't be able to continue as leader simply because you can't be on a committee is strong-handed manipulation, clear and simple.

Inside the party, she has not been effective. There have been nomination contraversies in Edmonton where people were voting for candidates that weren't in their EDA. The Kevin Potvin 9/11 indicent was bungled when she stated that she "hadn't run across his file yet". Oopsie. The party has been forced to downsize it's budgeting. She has alienated some Greens simply by choosing a unite-the-left agenda using a party that was not intended to be a left-wing party (or so they say)

Is Elizabeth May burnt out already? How would May be able to handle increased pressures? She really has few responsibilities at this point relative to an MP, cabinet minister, or PM.

Elizabeth May has been very strong about demanding that people and the country make the personal sacrifices necessary to improve our environment. It is disappointing that not even Elizabeth May is unconditionally willing to make those sacrifices. This is an incredibly strong message she is sending by stating that she wouldn't stay as party head.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember MacKay complaining about how paultry his earnings are.

Anonymous said...

You're quite right, Joan - the similarities between Elizabeth May's woe-is-me routine and some of the whining we heard from Joe Clark's palace guard (i.e. Maureen and Catherine) are quite striking. Both of them sound like they are doing the country a favour by serving, instead of being proud and honoured to serve.

And, like you, my vote for Joe in '98 is the one vote in my life that makes me cringe in hindsight.