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August 22, 2010 15:31 +0200  |  Democracy Green Party Why I'm Here 0

What originally started as an interesting addendum to my Toronto trip has turned into quite the experience for me. While the original reasoning for my trip back to Toronto was to attend Sheena's wedding, I decided to extend it by one week so that I might be able to attend the Green Party's Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

I know what you're thinking, and for the most part, it's totally true: these things are boring. There was no shortage of people asking to speak to amendments, amend amendments, or just completely go off on irrelevant tangents, but that's all sort of the point. This is democracy at work: an informed group of people coming together to talk about what we, as a party, want to do in the future.

My voting cards

The process (at least for the Greens, I can't speak for other parties) is twofold: policy and constitutional motions, or in other words, what we stand for, how we will govern ourselves. For my part, I spent my workshop time (the portion of the day in which we break into smaller groups to discuss one of the two aforementioned tracks) in the policy conversations because that's where hang my hat: in the heart of the process, rather than the method.

We talked about and changed party policy on everything from the authority and ownership of the Bank of Canada, to the decriminalisation of polyamory. Some of these motions passed, while others were met with rather strong opposition, but everyone was candid and civil, and in the end we learnt to speak with one voice.

On the issue of polyamoury, one of the most controversial motions, I personally spoke to the plenary session (where everyone, from all groups gather to approve/reject the findings of the workshops), a rather intimidating act I must say. I stood in support of the motion, calling for "moral courage" to stand on what's right, though politically inconvenient and was joined by a number of others who felt much the same.

In the end however, the majority voted it down, in large part due to a lack of understanding of what was being moved (the workshop worked very hard to adjust the motion but it still needs work), as well as a lack of knowledge about the very real fact that conjugal relationships in excess of two people are illegal in this country. Here's the law, in case you were curious:

  1. Every one who
    1. practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into
      1. any form of polygamy, or
      2. any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,
      whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or
    2. celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),
    is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Translation: if you're in a conjugal poly relationship, or even attend a wedding-ish party in support of a poly relationship, you're a criminal, and could potentially be thrown in jail for up to five years.

I stood for this because it's the Right thing to do, and even though it didn't pass this time around, I'm confident that with a little work on the education front, we'll see it through in the near future.

So that's it for me right now. Short synopsis: democracy exciting, you should try it :-) My next post, if I can cobble the time together, will be from New York, and/or Washington DC.

August 18, 2010 05:26 +0200  |  Friends Toronto Who Am I Why I'm Here 2

After more than two years, I've finally found my way back to what I've come to call my "spiritual home". Toronto hasn't changed much, the weather is still sticky, the politics is still chaotic, and the garbage is still left on the sidewalk to bake in the sun. Toronto is hot, crowded, and still just as amazing as I remember.

I've made a special effort to get out to see as many people as possible, as well as re-sample the various tasty food joints scattered around town. I've also been playing Gowalla like a madman. More than 1500 check-ins in only a few days, acquiring all but one of the items. Big thanks to Stephanie who emailed me the locations of a few she found with Gowallatools, that was really cool of her.

Outside of the fluffy Gowallaness, I've taken a lot of time to reacquaint myself with the city. I've been thinking about moving back here ever since I left, and I want to take this opportunity to try to re-imagine my life had I never left, or if I were to return some day soon. It's not something I can really have covered in the few short days I've been here, but I hope to have something worked out before I leave.

A lot of it has to do with my social network. In Vancouver, I feel as though my friends there see me as the person I was back in 2001 when I ran away from that place. Here, I see the person I want to be in the eyes of my Toronto friends.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be renting a bike and Stephen & I will go for a ride across town. I hope to visit High Park, and maybe even Robin (HEY ROBIN, TXT ME BACK ALREADY!) Then I'm hoping to see Tanya in the evening as well. Coming up this weekend is the Green Party National Convention, which so far doesn't look all that exciting but I'm hoping that looks are deceiving on this one. After that, I'm headed to NYC, then DC, then back here for Sheena's Wedding and then back to my other home in Vancouver. Keep your eyes on Twitter feed for more up-to-the-present detail and pictures, and I'll try to post again here soon.

June 25, 2010 22:12 +0200  |  Career Green Party My Future Politics Self Reflection Travel Why I'm Here Work [at] Play 9

I had a rather enlightening conversation with an Old Friend over lunch yesterday. John, a former co-worker at Work [at] Play and I meet for lunch every few months, mostly to catch up on each other's lives and talk about how things are going at my present employer. He's since moved on to be the COO at VirtualDoubloon but we got along so well, that I figured the friendship was worth the maintenance.

This time around, we didn't talk about my current employer so much as how my life was moving in general. I was on the verge of my 31st birthday and coming out of both a romantic relationship and a (thankfully unrelated) business co-founding partnership and "what's next" was the primary topic of discussion.

He asked about my political career, specifically whether I'd run in the next election, and I explained that I'd love to if the riding association in North Vancouver-Seymour is unable to find a candidate, but outside of that, every topic we hit on didn't produce any enthusiasm from me. The truth is, I haven't been motivated by much since I moved here. I've been unable to get excited about the activist scene, and frankly my job stopped being interesting over a year ago.

This line of thinking gets worse when I consider that about six months ago I was in the very same position I am now. I was re-evaluating my whole reasoning for being in Vancouver and was so desperate for something to hold me here that I jumped at the chance to start a company with a stranger -- which for the record is not a good idea :-)

Since our conversation though, I've come to realise that too many of my decisions in this life so far have been ones governed by how those actions might affect others. This isn't to say that I've been a terribly selfless person, rather that I've let my own happiness be hindered by whether or not decision x was a Right decision, or whether it would make people I love unhappy.

I'm not going to do that anymore.

This can mean a variety of things. I might take dance classes, or join a choir, or even take this job. I might move to Stockholm, Amsterdam, Berlin, or Seoul too... I'm not sure yet. I'm just done with letting my happiness be governed by externalities.

31years in... I guess it's better late than never.

May 13, 2009 09:13 +0200  |  Democracy Green Party Politics Provincial Campaign 2009 Why I'm Here 13

So it's over, and sadly, the results are much as I expected them to be. Though I'd hoped for a smaller proportion of seats for the Liberals, the punishment dealt to the NDP for their deplorable environmental platform is sufficient in my book.

From what I've seen of the results so far, my campaign went fairly well considering the amount of time/money I had to contribute and my relative inexperience from the start. A Liberal win in my riding was a near inevitability under our voting system so I'm actually quite happy with my showing.

For my part, it's really been a great experience. I've learnt a great deal about how a campaign is run, and dramatically improved on my public speaking skills. I've gained a renewed sense of confidence in my ability to represent myself in formal gatherings and I've met some really interesting people.

The people, though, that's what's been most interesting for me. Just the experience of meeting complete strangers with a unique understanding of their field, or their portion of the ecosystem was very rewarding: seniors with a serious passion about doing the Right thing by their grand-kids, and young people with that kind of passionate faith and dedication to a shared goal. This is what politics is about and I love it. If there's one lesson I am to take away from this experience, it must be no one can know everything and that there is real expertise (as well as willingness to contribute) in a variety of fields out there -- you just have to go looking for it.

Sadly, though, with the overall percentage that the Greens acquired in this race, once again we took a grand total of zero seats. And now, with STV having been defeated for its third and final time, BC will have another generation of unrepresentative politics in the Legislature.

[rant]

Joseph de Maistre said: "Every country has the government it deserves" and he was absolutely right. British Columbians have proven for the third and final time that they have no interest in better representation -- or perhaps more accurately put -- have no interest in learning about how they might be better represented.

The vast majority of anti-STV comments I've heard over the past month (with the exception of Stephen's) were largely uninformed or worse, based entirely on a combined ignorance of the subject and a disinterest in learning anything about it. BC will have exactly the government it deserves, one that operates best when the progressive majority is routinely ignored.

And for people like Stephen, who continually muddied the debate by claiming that STV wasn't as good as other options, and that the referendum needed to be more inclusive of other alternatives like MMP, thank you so much for screwing this up for the rest of us. Proportional representation is now off the table in BC for decades. Your claims that another voting system might be better might have had some merit if proposed to a minority government elected under STV, but your commitment to fear, uncertainty and doubt has ensured that this will not happen for a very, very long time.

[/rant]

The aforementioned bitterness aside, my experience has been on the whole very positive and I intend to run again if I'm still living in BC in 2013. Politics seems to suit me quite well actually -- it has, after all been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. This whole process has been an honour and a privilege and I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to run.

May 05, 2009 21:04 +0200  |  British Columbia Green Party Politics Provincial Campaign 2009 Why I'm Here 7

Margaret found this North Shore News article covering me and one of the other North Shore Greens, Ryan Windsor and I thought that I'd share it here. If you see any other coverage, (good or bad) do let me know eh?

May 05, 2009 20:06 +0200  |  British Columbia Green Party Politics Provincial Campaign 2009 Why I'm Here 1

I participated in my first political debate last night -- as a candidate anyway. It was scary, humbling, nerve-racking, enlightening and altogether exciting. Overall, I would call it a positive experience.

Held in a United church, I took a seat at the table at the front of the sanctuary with the three other candidates Jane Thornthwaite (Liberal), Mo Norton (NDP), and Gary Hee (Conservative) and we fielded questions one at a time on a variety of topics. I didn't really like the format, as it didn't allow candidates to respond to claims by their competitors unless they were next in line, but for the most part the tone was civil and respectful (though the audience did get rather belligerent toward the Liberal candidate a few times.

For my part, I suppose that I performed as expected. As first-time candidates often do, I lacked polish, used some terminology that shall we say, "didn't resonate well with some people" and most importantly choked on the first two questions as they were in areas on which I wasn't all that well versed yet.

After those first two though, I got my act together and did very well. I was clear, concise and did a very good job and positioning the Greens as a viable alternative to the Liberals & NDP.

When it was all over, I had a number of people take a moment to come up to me and congratulate me on a good debate and let me know that I'd flipped their vote away from one of the other candidates. I can't tell you how good that felt. Though I clearly could have done better, I am quite proud of myself :-)

I'd also like to take a moment here to thank my brother, Melanie, Margaret and Quinn for coming out to support me last night. As intimidating as the whole process was, having them in the audience really did make it so much easier on me. Thank you so much guys.

My next (and last?) debate is this Thursday at 7pm. As Quinn & Melanie took notes for me from this last debate, I shall endeavour to remedy my previous shortcomings and give the other candidates another run for their money then.

April 30, 2009 23:01 +0200  |  Green Party Politics Provincial Campaign 2009 Why I'm Here 6

And so, with just over 2weeks left in the campaign, (election & referendum on the 12th people! Do your research!), I've started the process of booking into debates for my riding of North Vancouver-Seymour. If you live in the riding, or just feel like coming out to see me debate the other three candidates, here are the times & locations:

A general debate

Date: Monday May 4, 2009
Time: 7-9pm
Location: Mount Seymour United Church, 1200 Parkgate Avenue, North Vancouver

Hosted by the Teachers Association

Date: Thursday, May 7, 2009
Time: 7-9 pm
Location: Windsor Secondary (Multipurpose Room), 931 Broadview Dr, North Vancouver

To my friends and family in the area, I'd really appreciate the moral support if you can show up to one or either of these. It's my first time with such responsibility, and it's always good to have people you care about around for this kind of thing.

April 27, 2009 03:24 +0200  |  CBC Green Party Politics Provincial Campaign 2009 Why I'm Here 2

I received the most wonderful email from a voter in my riding yesterday and I just had to share it so here it is, published with permission:

Hello Mr. Quinn

I basically just wanted to say thanks for running in the provincial election so I can vote for somebody I actually want to vote for, rather than just choosing the lesser of two evils.

Love the CBC T-shirt. Classic, classic, classic.

She is of course, referring to my pic on my bio page on the Green Party website. I responded with a resounding thankyou, a request to re-post her message and a link to CBC Shop where she could buy one of her own :-)

Sometimes, politics can be really quite personal, and fun.

April 23, 2009 01:50 +0200  |  Democracy Green Party Politics Provincial Campaign 2009 Why I'm Here 11

I'm probably going to be blogging about this sort of thing for the duration of the election, but bear with me here.

I got an email today... four of the same email... so far -- from concerned citizens opposed to sport hunting of Grizzly Bears in the Great Bear rain forest. As part of their efforts to ban the practise, their supporters are sending a form letter email to all the candidates in this election looking for their support.

It's ironic really... humbling too. I've been on the other side of campaigns like this one dozens of times and in every case I know what to expect as far as effectiveness goes. Legislation needs the support of powerful people in government and in a majority, it needs support of a ruling party that may or may not be interested in what these people have to say.

Pick any subject: Cancer research, Net Neutrality, Transit, and yes, the Grizzlies of Northern BC and you'll find a battery of financial interests behind each of them pushing the controlling party away from the public good. Our antiquated First Past the Post system concentrates power in the hands of a single party (and realistically, a single party leader) who cannot possibly hold a mandate on all issues for the majority of voters. And as a result, the needs of the majority cannot ever be properly served.

This Grizzly campaign has my full support, but sadly under our current system, that support doesn't mean much in the Legislature unless it comes from one of two people who have already shown themselves to be more interested in obtaining power than doing anything constructive with it. This province needs a new form of representation that more accurately reflects the demographics our Legislature is supposed to represent and forces parties to work together to do the work of the people. What we've got right now isn't even close.

If you've read this far, I encourage you to take a look at STV and learn about how it can help our government better represent the diverse needs of the province. This upcoming election is also a referendum on whether or not we should adopt such a system so it's worth your time to figure this out. STV isn't perfect, but it's way better than what we've got.

April 19, 2009 22:12 +0200  |  Green Party Politics Provincial Campaign 2009 Why I'm Here 3

It's been something of a whirlwind so far. As I mentioned earlier, the usual vetting and "ease-in" for a candidate was more or less fast-tracked for me given my extensive previous experience in the party and the tight deadline for getting candidates on the ballot. Within the first few hours of my acceptance, I received about three phone calls from organisers within the party and by the next day, two of the three other Green candidates on the North shore had contacted me with offers to help me get the signatures I needed to get on the ballot.

For the uninitiated, here's how it works. Anyone can run for political office, but (s)he must first do the following:

  1. They must collect 75 valid signatures of nomination from voters in the riding.

    This is usually handled by setting up in a public place with a few volunteers, cheery faces, coffee and some clipboards. Everyone fans out and asks people to sign their name, address and signature to support a candidate's right to be on the ballot. The results are then collected and sent to Elections BC, who checks the addresses to assure that they are in fact in the riding. For this reason, smart candidates collect 100+ signatures, just in case some of the addresses are disqualified.

  2. If they intend to run under a party's banner, they must be vetted and approved by that party.

    This is entirely an internal concern for the party and each party handles it differently. Normally though it involves interviews and background checks etc. to make sure that the candidate selected is the best choice to represent the party.

  3. Lastly, they need $250 for the administration involved. If you're running with a big party, they usually help you with that, but since the greens can't really afford it, I've paid for this out of my own pocket.

As mentioned above, #2 wasn't an issue, but #1 was going to be a problem. After all, I'm what they call a parachute candidate (a candidate running on a ballot for a riding in which (s)he doesn't actually reside). I didn't have any friends who live in North Vancouver-Seymour, so it wasn't like I could just round up names from my social circle. No, the signatures had to come from complete strangers, people I was hoping to represent after the election in May.

The experience was rather humbling actually. When you start out on something like this, it's both scary and exciting, but when a little old lady shakes your hand with such faith and admiration, you stop for a second and take a mental step back: "I'm so glad you're runing here" she said, "the other parties don't understand, we need to do something about the environment and they just keep bickering".

I smile, thank her for her support and hand her my business card -- I'm sort of in a state of shock really: I knew well that this whole campaign was going to be scary and stressful, but the idea of taking on the responsibility of representing this woman and thousands of others like her in the Legislative Assembly... this is a lot bigger than I thought going in. But it's Good work, important work and no one else was doing it. ...and I really am honoured to be doing it.

As it turns out, the signature acquisition wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. The Green Party has a lot of support all over the province and having set up outside the local library and mall, we racked up 125 signatures in about three hours. I offer huge thanks to my brother Matthew and my neighbour Cat for coming out to help me at such an ungodly hour, and a special thanks goes to Michelle Corcos, Green candidate for North Vancouver-Lonsdale who showed up with a trunkfull of leaflets and signage as well as her nine-month-old to show us how it's done and help collect as well.

So far though, the whole process has been really, really exciting (though tiring). I've received such amazing support from Michelle Corcos and Ryan Windsor, two candidates on the North Shore in how to do... well everything. and the campaign is likely to get even more crazy now that they're talking about a collective fundraising effort. I'll continue to post here as things develop though :-)