Friday, October 10, 2008

Know Your Fringe Parties XIII -- The Animal Alliance Environment Voters' Party of Canada

Yes, Canada has an Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party. Who Knew? Well, I did. I've actually written about the Fightin' AAEVP a few times before, particularly their brave fight against the Legions of Bob Rae Liberals in Toronto Centre during this year's St. Patrick's Day Massacre Bi-Election. You may revisit those posts here, here, here, here, and here. Okay, so these posts were a tad satirical. Time to be serious now.

For those who insist on a negative, principle-challenged, ABC-strategic-voting strategy, might I suggest that you give a nod to the Fightin' AAEVP.

There are two stories here. The most obvious is that the AAEVP stands as a political outlet for those who are true believers in the campaign to elevate animal rights and aggressive environmental protection in the mainstream political discourse. The second, and least obvious, is that the AAEVP manifests an overt reaction to the Elections Canada 'gag rule' that prevents 'third party' political advocacy (particularly from NGOs and charities) during election campaigns. As politics makes strange bedfellows, their political activities may be viewed in the context of the campaign for election-time free speech, of the sort championed by the National Citizens' Coalition.

As the former Vice-President of the NCC, Gerry Nicholls, has made abundantly clear in recent articles and blog posts, the National Citizens' Coalition has vigorously opposed the elections gag rule for a number of years, dating back to when Stephen Harper was the organization's president. The AAEVP allied itself to the NCC's court challenge. And in this vein, the founding of the AAEVP as a political party in 2005 addresses this election-time free speech issue squarely. The AAEVP was formed as a coalition, comprising members of two advocacy organizations -- the Animal Alliance of Canada and the Environment Voters. While both of these groups had been active in previous elections dating back to 1999, new elections rules passed by the previous Liberal government, severely circumscribed the activities of so-called 'third party' advocacy groups during elections. Or, as the party's internest site puts it:

Founding the party became necessary when the federal Liberal government passed laws that were intended to so restrict the election activities of groups like AAC and EV -- so-called 'third parties' (visit the Elections Canada website for detailed information) -- that their election activities would have no appreciable effect on election
outcomes. See Globe and Mail 10 December 2005 editorial "The gag law's injury."

These rules propelled these two advocacy groups to combine as a registered political party, in order to bypass the new rules. Liz White remains disappointed that Stephen Harper has not yet used the power of his office to repeal the "gag laws."

Under the leadership of Liz White, the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party seeks to raise issues of animal rights and environmentalism in politics by running candidates in select ridings. While other parties post environmental policies, none combines environmental protection with a commitment of end animal cruelty. The AAEVP sees these two issues as being symbiotic. According to the Party's blog,

Politicians keep saying animals must be protected from cruelty, but so far, it's a whole lot of talk and no action. We must take action!

And so the Party urges its supporters and like-minded individuals to

press the importance of honouring a principle of just and equitable human progress -- progress that respects, protects, and enhances the environment and the lives of the animals with whom we share the world.

While the current ability of the Party to post a large field of candidates is limited, the AAEVP nevertheless hopes that voters will take their lead and make the confluence of animal rights and environmental protection a campaign issue that mainstream candidates will have to address.

In the 2008 campaign, the AAEVP is running candidates in four Ontario ridings -- three in Toronto and one in Guelph.

  • Liz White (Party Leader) in Toronto Centre will be giving Liberal incumbent Bob Rae a run for his money;
  • Simon Luisi, a wildlife activist and former Green party member, is taking on Liberal incumbent Mario Silva in the west Toronto riding of Davenport;
  • Marie Crawford, a staunch opponent of factory farming, is dogging NDP leader (and soon to be Leader of the Opposition?) Jack Layton in Toronto-Danforth; and
  • Karen Levensen, a board member of the Animal Alliance of Canada and the motive force behind a proposed anti-trapping by-law, is challenging in the hotly-contested riding of Guelph.

So, let's put them up on the big board -- the Fightin' AAEVP. We'll be keeping an eye out for you on the 14th. My cat (and blogging partner) Tawny approved this message.

Update: Mark Medley of the National Post had the opportunity to 'go walk-about' with AAEVP leader Liz White.

Last Sunday, I tagged along with White as she canvassed in St. Jamestown, the apartment towers that rise above neighbouring Cabbagetown. This is one her strongholds, she jokes, where she received many of the 100 signatures necessary to run. She shows up with a backpack full of flyers, and recounts how the day before, while canvassing, she found an injured baby squirrel. She picked it
up--it bit her four times --and put it in her backpack and biked down to the Humane Society to drop it off. This was after she had unsuccessfully chased after another hurt squirrel. --> h/t Joan Tintor

Leaving aside for a moment the obvious recall of Heather Mills McCartney posing with a baby seal on an iceflow and trying to pet it, only to have the seal turn around and try to bite her, this incident with Liz White is nevertheless kind of charming. Whether or not you share her passion, what is clear is that she lives her passion. That may not make her an authentic politician. But it goes a long way to making her an authentic human being.

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