Last night I won the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Green Party of Canada nomination meeting. That means when the next federal election rolls 'round, my name will be on the ballot. This is the speech that I gave last night at the nomination meeting. And this is the audience that's already starting to make the world a better place:
Update: the video of the speech is available online too.
I want to give you a gift
Tonight I want to give you a gift. As part of my job I talk to a lot of people about technology. So many people are embarrassed or ashamed that they don’t know how technology works. In preparing for tonight I’ve talked to friends and family members and strangers about “politics.” Some of them are embarrassed or ashamed they don’t know more about politics. They are afraid to talk about “issues”, afraid of being wrong and looking stupid. Tonight I want to give you a gift. Tonight I am going to grant you permission to be excited about things that matter to you. I am going to show you how politics can be a natural part of life. As of tonight I am giving you permission to be positively excited about participation and your community.
Why is this gift so important? You are here because you are ready for change. I expect that each of you has a slightly different definition of what that means. I know some of you are Harper-haters, some of you are land stewards, some of you are farmers and small business owners and gardeners and vegans. But you’re all here because you want something different of the world. You’re here to plan the future. Welcome. I’m positively excited that you’re here.
Getting to the future in three simple steps
Step 1: Find a vision for the future.
Step 2: Identify and dissolve barriers that are preventing you from getting to the future.
Step 3: Make an action plan to get there.
Let’s take a look at what that means.
To make change happen you must first be able to dream vividly about what the future looks like. Dream. Vividly. In my future there are thriving small towns. Thriving small businesses. I can buy locally made clothing and the only coffee around is Fair Trade. People take delight in eating delicious food. Food production is meaningful, not menial. We talk to our food producers on a regular basis and take delight in the coming seasons. We trust our food sources because we trust our neighbours. The road sides are clean because disposable take-out containers don’t exist any more. Large buildings are all self-powered by solar panels. Even homes are less reliant on “the grid.” I can tell the difference between a drumlin, polypodium longchitis and a chanterelle. And better still--so can every one else. Value has been assigned to the natural surroundings because the citizens have taken the time to see what’s out there as being part of what’s in here. ........ And I am Canada’s first Green Member of Parliament.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
Identify and Dissolve Barriers
Our climate is changing. We are dumping crap into our water, our land, our air, our bodies. Our federal government has twisted the rules and made it impossible for the elected members to vote fairly on discrete issues. There are many invisible barriers to participation. The harder it feels the more resigned we become as citizens to accepting things we know are wrong. The barrier we must dissolve is inaction. Every day we make decisions about how we lead our lives. Should I buy gas here, should I buy my eggs there? We must teach one another that we can make decisions about how we lead our lives. And that by making informed decisions we can be the change we seek. We can change mainstream conceptions. We must empower our party to make participation fun, exciting and --dare I say-- natural. We must inspire our friends and neighbours to participate in ways that are natural to them.
In my day job I dissolve barriers to participation in technology. I use technology as a tool to communicate with thousands of people on a daily basis. The internet has given us a new set of tools to communicate naturally with people. I now Facebook my hair dresser to make an appointment. I regularly attend teleclasses from the comfort of my pyjamas. I use these tools to coordinate with others. To participate. We have not truly used these tools to our advantage in a campaign. And the time to learn these tools is now. We stumble along without strategy hoping to get members to come to monthly meetings. Not measuring our progress and simply hoping the message will get heard.
“When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”
Dakota tribal saying
Make an Action Plan to Get to the Future
So how do we get to the future? We need to do more of what works. We need to become solution oriented. To date our most successful Green campaign was Shane Jolley’s last provincial campaign. It was led by Anne Finlay-Stewart. I remember sitting in a room surrounded by old friends and some complete strangers. We were hopeful and excited and unsure of what would happen. Anne gave us a gift then too. She told us:
“There is no room for chicken littles in this campaign.”
We will win the next federal election. Because you believe that we will. And we will inspire everyone to work their tails off.
Elections Canada tells us that the countries who conduct door-to-door campaigning have a higher voter turnout. We will campaign door-to-door. But first we will find our neighbours online we will teach them how to participate physically. I plan to use craft days --did I mention there will be no campaign t-shirts when I’m the candidate? There will be DIY instructions and a screen printing station where people will be able to create their own t-shirts.-- There will be scrapbooking days. Clean-up-the-park days. Teaching people how to have thoughtful fun will create a bond that we will leverage to win the election.
We will use email, the Internet and the phone more efficiently. We will keep records of what works, and what doesn’t. We will practice our message and we will refine it. When the election is called we will be so used to taking action that everything we do will be a natural part of life. .. But amplified. From scrapbooking to door-knocking, participation will be fun and feel natural.
Remember: no chicken littles. I recognize that change takes work. I need your help. I need you to tell me the things that come naturally in your life. I need you to connect with your community. To reach out to them and teach me how to participate. In exchange I want to give you a second gift.
I carry an invisible knapsack. It is filled with the tools we’ll need to engage our community: Facebook, Twitter, Web sites, mailing lists, online marketing, offline participation days. My knapsack is bursting with possibilities. It’s not a heavy burden though, this knapsack. It’s sort of like having an helium balloon tied to my back. It makes bounding around easier. It makes everything a little bit more fun. I want to share this invisible knapsack with you because I know that you have one too. Did you know that you had an invisible knapsack? You have a unique set of skills and experiences that I need you to bring to this campaign.
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”
George Bernard Shaw
Now we’ve gotten all the way through this talk and I bet you think I haven’t told you anything about The Issues. But I have! I’ve given you the secret formula to solve anything you see in front of you which you think is a barrier. Remember when I told you to Find a vision for the future. Identify barriers and make an action plan? That’s the secret sauce right there to solving every single issue. You’re frowning. You want to know what my opinion is on The Issues. Ah. Ok. Well. In the last few months I’ve nearly lost my balloons about the Long Form Census. I’ve talked to five different ministries about the transport of the used steam generators through the Owen Sound harbour. I went to a meeting on wifi in the schools. I’ve emailed people about the importance of healthy food and small scale agriculture, the treatment of seniors. I’ve listened to radio programs about sequestering carbon. There are many topics that I am passionate about. Sometimes I have the right opinion and sometimes I need to do more research to understand the complexity of the problem.
My fuel though? I love rules and process and participation and figuring out how little bits go together. It’s what drew me to environmental science in the first place and then turned me over to the Internet. I love to plan and implement effective systems. Watching other people learn and engage that makes me excited--it’s your passion that fuels me.
To Win I Need Your Help
If I could spend the rest of my life helping other people realize their dreams I’d do it in a heart beat. I already do it in my small business and now I want to affect even greater and more important change. I want to reflect your passion for land, earth, air and community and I want to amplify it back to the world as your member of parliament.
“A thought, even a possibility, can shatter and transform us.”
You and I: we will make change happen. In the next federal election we will send Canada’s first Green Member of Parliament to Ottawa. This road to victory starts with a simple step. Tick the box next to my name and together we’ll step into the future.