Politics

Greens pitch an unconventional leadership race featuring video games and an open mic night

The Green Party of Canada prides itself on doing politics differently, and its upcoming leadership race might not disappoint. 

The suggestions, one potential candidate worries, could devolve into 'political theatre'

A supporter holds a sign for the Green Party of Canada in Toronto, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

The Green Party of Canada prides itself on doing politics differently, and its upcoming leadership race appears poised to live up to that approach.

While the party isn't abandoning traditional events like debates, Canadians could also see candidates going head-to-head playing popular online party games like Quiplash and Trivia Murder Party during the upcoming campaign.

From games night to an open mic session, party members are pitching out-of-the-box ways to put their candidates to the test while learning more about who will become the Green's new leader.

During a brainstorming session on Sunday, leadership contest organizers heard suggestions on ways the party could hold the "best events" during the race when campaigning officially opens on Aug. 31. 

One speaker suggested organizing a games night for candidates on the online platform Jackbox Games that could show how quickly leadership contestants can think on their feet. 

"How they respond to the challenge could illustrate how they might react in unexpected situations, and it might show members about their personalities," said Jan Slakov, one of Sunday's presenters.

Video games and North American politics are not unheard of among politicians who have taken to Twitch's online gaming site to campaign. Moreover, the Greens are often known for their unorthodox political style — such as allowing freedom on parliamentary votes, experimenting in direct democracy, and campaigning on trains and electric cars versus chartered planes. 

The party also takes principled stances on public policy. Greens have championed issues that, for some, have come to define Canada's place in the world— marriage equality, cannabis legalization and carbon pricing — before other federal parties would. 

Concerns of creating 'political theatre'

It remains to be seen whether the party's leadership organizing committee considers these unorthodox campaign ideas, which also include opportunities for candidates to do a policy presentation, a specific debate on Indigenous issues and doing an Indigenous reconciliation project in a community.

"In our view reconciliation is a must," said presenter and former Ontario federal council party representative Adrian Currie. "It's not some pie in the sky idea."

But at least one potential candidate who submitted his application said some suggestions— like hosting informal social events— don't send the right message.

"We're a federal political party; things like an open mic night to showcase your talents... it's like one degree removed from a swim wear competition," said Najib Jutt who spoke about the idea that was mentioned as a possible future fundraiser. 

"Aren't we also the ones saying, 'there's too much political theatre happening,' and we're literally creating political theatre."

During a brainstorming session on Sunday, leadership contest organizers heard suggestions on ways the party could hold the "best events" during the race when campaigning officially opens on Aug. 31. (Zoom)

Anna Keenan, a prospective candidate, isn't opposed to playing video games as long as the campaign also includes more traditional events.

"I'm an elder millennial, so you know, I'm down for anything," Keenan told CBC. 

"It could be innovative. It could push people outside their comfort zone. You know, I don't see any harm in trying it."

'Canada's most equitable leadership contest'

The Greens opened their Sunday brainstorming session to party members and journalists. Natalie Odd, the leadership committee co-chair and the party's Alberta federal council representative, acknowledged that the party was taking a risk.

"We are being brave showing you what we are doing," Odd said. "We do expect there will be mistakes. There will be ideas that fly and ideas that drop like a thud, and that's OK." 

Odd said members and Canadians could look forward to a leadership campaign featuring openness, inclusivity and innovation.

"This is intended to be Canada's most equitable leadership contest, our most open leadership contest and our most technologically advanced leadership contest," she said.

Odd said the Greens are extending the application period to potential candidates belonging to equity-seeking groups — people who encounter barriers based on race, economic status, gender, sexual orientation or otherwise — to Aug. 14, 2022.

The party hasn't said how many people have applied to the leadership race so far or how many of those applicants represent equity-seeking groups.

At least four Greens have confirmed to CBC News they intend to run. They include Sarah Gabrielle Baron, Najib Jutt, Anna Keenan, Jonathan Pedneault and Chad Walcott.

Walcott and Keenan confirm they will run together on a slate proposing a co-leadership model.

According to sources who were not authorized to speak publicly, Pedneault and former leader Elizabeth May intend to do the same. Pedneault and May have not confirmed to CBC News any plans regarding the race.

Corrections

  • This story has been updated from a previous version which incorrectly stated that Adrian Currie is the Green Party’s Ontario federal council representative. In fact, Currie no longer sits on the federal council.
    Aug 10, 2022 2:44 PM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Thurton

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Correspondent

David Thurton is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He covers daily politics in the nation’s capital and specializes in environment and energy policy. Born in Canada but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, he’s moved around more times than he can count. He’s worked for CBC in several provinces and territories, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

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