Green Party leader defeats challengers who say he's too conservative
Sun Aug 29, 5:40 PM ET
CALGARY (CP) - National Green party chief Jim Harris survived a leadership vote Sunday despite a strong challenge from candidates who feel the Greens have strayed too far from their left-leaning roots.
Harris, who led the party during the June federal election, won 54.8 per cent of votes cast by party members across the country.
Results were presented as the party concluded its national convention.
His nearest competitor was Ontario farmer Tom Manley, with 36.8 per cent of the vote, while substitute teacher John Grogan trailed with seven per cent.
The Greens captured 4.3 per cent of the national vote in the June federal election, up from less than one per cent in the 2000 election.
In an interview after the results were announced, Harris said he remains committed to the Green party's core values, despite some members' concerns that he may be too conservative.
"I was member of the Progressive Conservative party - 17 years ago," Harris said by phone from the convention at resort retreat outside Calgary.
He defended his election campaign policy of income tax cuts, explaining he favoured shifting taxes onto polluters, as well as implementing an extra gasoline tax.
"We're the only party that's talking about the issues from an environmental perspective," he said.
After losing his challenge to Harris, Manley told the convention he would remain a member of the party although he regretted being unable to take it in the direction he wanted.
Manley had been critical of Harris during the runup to the vote for abandoning core party values in order to win support in the federal election.
Grogan, meanwhile, was critical of Harris's campaign pledge to cut corporate taxes.
The leadership review was required by the party's constitution, which requires one every two years.
Trevor Farley, a convention delegate from Winnipeg, said he felt much of the animosity toward Harris was based more on his past rather than his policies back in June.
"I think it was more over the fact Jim was a Conservative and was a business management consultant," Farley said.
Announcement of the leadership results followed a speech by environmentalist David Suzuki, who questioned the need for left-or right-wing labels for politicians.
Suzuki told the 200 delegates that the root word of "conservative" is "conserve."
Party members also discussed campaign strategies at the convention, anticipating that the current Liberal minority government would fall within a year.
"We have to be ready with our 308 candidates for the next election," Harris said.