Dairy Time.

Living in the Fredericton University Campus is a perfect setting for the Green Party Convention. We are here to either update and amend existing or create new policy . This requires rigorous thinking.

This requires getting out of bed. One must grab a cover-up of some sort and the keys, cross the hall to the communal washroom, shower, dress, then head to the food building to free-pour chocolate milk, ice-cold from the stainless steel help your-selfer. I am in heaven! How did this little chocolate piece of it end up here on earth, I wonder.

Good thing it’s Resolution Workshop day! And there is a workshop on milk! I am off to a session to consider the Party’s position on the dairy business. In particular, whether to support the quota system now in place.

By the way, this whole policy process is pure democracy in action. How it works: an interested person creates a policy recommendation and then some other people choose to put their names on it in support. It is then presented to a workshop group who discuss the pros and cons and the best language to use. There is a vote: red card, you do not support it – green card,  you do.

Reint-Jan Dykstra, Vice President of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, is at the workshop. He believes this new recommendation would put him out of business. Essentially, supply management is a protection that keeps foreign competition out and protects farmers from fluctuations in the market. It also mostly supports large operations. My gut says he’s sunk. Small business is at the helm of the party platform.

Reint’s case is last. We’ve heard recommendations that amend taxation policy, guarantee income for the severely disabled, and many other  policies under the “economy” banner. Everything so far has been green-lighted.  I am nervous for Reint. He was part of our excellent dinner discussion last night. He’s practically family to me now! He stands up to make his case…

Suddenly, Elizabeth  May bursts into the classroom! She confesses she has had a text from her daughter, who is with us, that “it’s dairy time!” Her daughter covers her face with her hands. Reint has frozen unsure what to do, all of us brace for her pronouncement.

She begins by apologizing to the author. What? She wants the recommendation defeated! She says it will end the industry. She is holding a red card to add colour to her emphatic gestures. Soon others are standing to speak. The room has been energized! There is reference made to dairy farms in Vermont that disappeared after tariffs  were lifted.

The moderator calls the resolution to a vote. The room flashes red, for the first time that day, all red – save one green card, held by the young am who proposed it. True to the conciliatory nature of this process, Reint and the young man have lunch together. They have an winning conversation even though the policy has been defeated.

Tomorrow morning, all of the many  workshops will have produced new documents which, if they pass through the workshop stage successfully, will be shared with the whole  group. More discussion will  ensue, more voting and then the recommendations will be sent to the shadow cabinet.

There is something extraordinarily special about this mind-hive process. It is fuelled by collective passion. It is created with a deep respect for rules of procedure. And at the end of the day, feels like a foundation for growth. It’s very exciting and, I must say, almost as delicious as chocolate milk!

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