By Sally Barnes
If I lived in the riding of Toronto Centre I would vote for Annamie Paul, who survived a coup to oust her as leader of the Green Party and bears the scars from her foray into politics and the democratic process.
I’m no fan of her federal party–especially since it revealed itself to include a nest of anti-Semites–but I believe we need her and women like her in Parliament.
She is one candidate in this unwanted and unneeded federal election who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and uses her intelligence and life experiences to make her case. She is passionate about her causes and pulls no punches.
Mind you, she is fortunate to be that rare political bird who isn’t encumbered with the baggage of party discipline and policies and financial contributors and lobbyists seeking favours. Her party has been decimated by internal strife that got down and dirty.
Up there on the national stage with four other party leaders, the public and the media regard her as a harmless eccentric with strong principles and zealous commitment. There is grudging respect for someone who survives an attempted coup by insiders of her own party and soldiers on with poise and determination despite odds that would choke a horse.
Working in an environment rife with hubris and inflated egos, she is so obviously comfortable in her own skin–and in her inelegant shoes made from recycled plastic harvested from our polluted oceans.
She has openly admitted that it’s not just the lack of resources and her focus on winning her own Toronto seat that has kept her from visiting other ridings in this national campaign. She told reporters this week that she knows the schism in the Green Party has left her about as welcome as a skunk at a garden party in some places.
Annamie Paul should enjoy this state of grace while she can and before getting elected and captured by a system that reduces so many members of the House of Commons to readers of partisan talking points and defenders of the indefensible.
To her credit, she speaks with great admiration for other women in politics who have paid a huge price for being outspoken or feeling out of place and unwilling to play the game of politics according to old rules and practices in the political backrooms and on Parliament Hill.
It wasn’t surprising that in the recent English language leaders’ debate that she cited Jody Wilson-Raybould, Jane Philpott and Celina Caesar-Chavannes as Liberal Party women MPs who were making a major contribution but ran afoul of Ottawa’s political culture, resigned, and have walked away from politics.
She says these women and other trailblazers have made it easier for her and others to get where they need to be. Hopefully that is not just wishful thinking.
Annamie Paul’s riding of Toronto Centre is upscale and has been a Liberal bastion since 1993. Anyone wanting to bet on her winning it in the upcoming election would be taking a real leap of faith.
Pity. Following their usual pattern, voters will return the usual numbers of candidates who will go to Ottawa and be place holders, enjoy the perks of office, and represent Ottawa in their home ridings–rather than represent their ridings with a strong voice in Ottawa.
As I prepare my popcorn and get ready for a very long night of what I forecast to be chaotic election returns, I will be keeping an eye on Toronto Centre and hoping the voters there do us all a favour by giving this very talented young woman an opportunity to shake up Ottawa.
God knows, it needs it!
Sally Barnes has enjoyed a distinguished career as a writer, journalist and author. Her work has been recognized in a number of ways, including receiving a Southam Fellowship in Journalism at Massey College at the University of Toronto. A self-confessed political junkie, she has worked in the back-rooms for several Ontario premiers. In addition to a number of other community contributions, Sally Barnes served a term as president of the Ontario Council on the Status of Women. She is a former business colleague of Doppler’s publisher, Hugh Mackenzie, and lives in Kingston, Ontario. You can find her online at sallybarnesauthor.com
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!