Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coffee with Christopher Porter, leader of the Canadian Action Party

Beyond the five big parties in Canada, there are 15 or so more federal political parties in Canada. They get little or no coverage during the election, but I find them fascinating. Recently I had a chance to have a coffee with Christopher Porter of the Canadian Action Party.

Christopher Porter is the latest leader of the Canadian Action Party, the fourth since Connie Fogal stepped down in November of 2008. It seems CAP has gone through an era of major infighting which left the party at less than 250 members and close to deregistration when he took over as leader in September. He has since managed to return a stability to the party and seen the membership rise to 700 in the last six months.

The Canadian Action Party was founded by former Trudeau era cabinet minister Paul Hellyer as a centrist sovereigntist political party concerned about banking and globalization in 1997. The party peaked in the 2000 election with 70 candidates and 27,103 votes. The party was then lead by Connie Fogal for three elections and consistently declining.

In 2008 the party seemed to be the home to a lot of way out there fringy people, the sort that see conspiracies behind everything. In my view, the party was the second most crazy party in the 2008 election, only the CPC-ML was crazier.  A lot of 9/11 truthers were involved

Through three leaders and infighting, the remains of the party ended up under the leadership of Christopher Porter. He has used the last six months to bring order to their chaos and get the party members to focus on building riding associations.

He will be running in Esquimalt Juan de Fuca, though lives in Saanich Gulf Islands. There is no real hope that he will come better than fifth in the election, but he has some interesting ideas on how to campaign. He is looking at having Citizen Insight Councils – the idea being derived from the idea of Wisdom councils. The idea is to randomly select 12 people from the riding and use them to get a sense of the people. It sounds like he has my friend George Sranko on board to help with the Citizen Insight Council.

Christopher Porter is a very passionate and energetic person. He feels that there is a huge problem with the disenfranchisement of the public from the political process. He does not see the major political parties being willing to address the idea of how to engage the public and how to express the public will. In this he has more in common with most Canadians than the leaders and organizers of the major parties do.

He does strongly believe in the five pillars of CAP and sees them as issues that should be debated nationally. I happened to disagree with the core message of CAP so I will not go into dissecting their policies, go to their website and read for yourself.

The party looks like it will run between 21 and 100 candidates, which would be an increase on the Fogal era and could possibly lead to their best election to date. He has a vision that the party will have 308 candidates in the next election and will be prepared to run strong campaigns in by-elections before then.

One interesting thing he is doing is trying to organize a debate of the leaders of the small parties to be held in person or virtually at the same time as the national leaders debate. If he pulls it off, I am going to tune into that instead of the big five debate because I suspect the minor party leader debate will be much more entertaining.

Christopher Porter is worth meeting if you get the chance, though voting for, that is a completely different question.   I personally think he would be an interesting person to get elected to a local council.
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