An Open Letter to Rabble.ca editor Meagan Perry and Blogger Michael Laxer

Dear Meagan,

I hope this email finds you well. I'm writing to correct a couple of falsehoods that Michael Laxer has published in his most recent blog post at Rabble, about a petition I helped start with others through a new group called The Real Vote. The petition asks LeadNow to stop including Liberals in their Vote Together campaign.

First, Laxer's piece frames our petition as the work of "New Democrat partisans." This is untrue. The petition was drafted by three individuals: myself, Jennifer Allen, and Peter Glen. I wrote the final draft. While Jennifer is a longtime NDP activist, Peter is not, and I have criticized the NDP on some of the very same terms that Laxer does (indeed, I've cited Laxer at length in doing so).

The Real Vote is a grassroots group dedicated to the repeal of Bill C-51. The petition emerged out of an ongoing discussion among Stop C-51 activists, LeadNow organizers and LeadNow supporters about a conflict between two LeadNow campaigns. In one of those campaigns, LeadNow has been presenting Liberals as an option for voting strategically to defeat Conservatives in key ridings. In the other, more recent campaign, LeadNow has criticized the Liberals for their support of Bill C-51.

While Laxer paints our petition as an "attack" on LeadNow by NDP partisans, it is actually a request by C-51 activists for LeadNow to get its own campaigns aligned in order to maintain a united front against the bill. There is a wide consensus among individuals and groups working on the Stop C-51 campaign that Liberals aren't an option in the coming election, because of that party's support for it. LeadNow is the only exception. Our petition thanks LeadNow for their work on the Stop C-51 campaign, but asks them to adopt the consensus.

The petition has been shared with the 10,000+ members of the Stop Bill C-51 Facebook page and has collected nearly 1,000 signatures. NDP and Green Party partisans can, of course, be found among them, but as the petition comments reveal, it has been signed and shared by Libertarians, socialists, former Liberal supporters, prominent Stop C-51 organizers across the country who have worked alongside and inside LeadNow, and even a founding member and core supporter of LeadNow, who said this about it:

I helped create the first board of directors for LeadNow and have been a member and contributor since the beginning. My support has been unwavering in every area but this… Lead Now is based on Open Democracy. That someone saw a need to create this petition, and since many supporters of LeadNow agree with it, this is a valid action. We have a right to bring such concerns.

June 4 at 12:43pm

If all of that doesn't put to rest the idea that the petition was the product of "NDP partisans," consider that I only met Jennifer Allen as a result of LeadNow campaigns director Jamie Biggar's mention of me to her, after she wrote to him with her concerns. Consider also that Jamie himself offered us advice on which tools to use for our petition, and thanked me for the "unpaid red team work." The idea that we have some misguided partisan strategy to undermine or attack LeadNow is therefore not only ludicrous, but deeply ironic. In any case, the claim should be retracted.

To give you some additional context, LeadNow has a very large base of more than 400,000 supporters and donors. Some of those are people who have voted Liberal in the past, but might vote differently to defeat Conservatives. According to LeadNow, it also has tens of thousands of people who have joined and donated because of the campaign against C-51, many of whom are justifiably upset that their election campaign still includes the Liberals. On one hand, LeadNow has received a lot of attention and donations from its (and our) opposition to C-51. On the other, LeadNow also gets a lot of financial and volunteer support from Liberal party supporters.

Activists inside and outside LeadNow have been debating the best way to address this conflict since March, and the question has been put to LeadNow's volunteers and wider community by the group in their recent internal polls (see, e.g., http://www.votetogether.ca/feedback).

Additionally, in his blog post Laxer writes:

In April, Paul Moist, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) also attacked Leadnow on the same grounds

This is also untrue. C-51 is the entire reason for our petition, but Moist didn't even mention it—so this "attack" can hardly be seen as coming from "the same grounds." It should also be retracted.

On Facebook, Laxer called his article an "'inside baseball' piece"—even though he's not on the inside of The Real Vote, the Stop C-51 campaign or, as far as I know, LeadNow or the NDP. He has apparently failed to even minimally investigate the context, source and origins of the petition, while ignoring: 1. its text; 2. the text on the website of the campaign that sponsored it; and 3. the glaring errors in fact which I and others have pointed out to Laxer about his piece after it was first published on his blog at The Left Chapter. This is, to put it kindly, irresponsible.

I may write a response to Laxer's column, with a view to some of the larger questions of strategy that it raises. If so, I hope Rabble will grant me the courtesy of publishing it. In the meantime, please let me know when the false claims will be retracted.

Thanks & best wishes,
Chris Wiseman
The Real Vote

 

Michael,

I've written to Meagan Perry about the distortions and mistruths in your blog posts about The Real Vote, and published my letter to her, here: https://www.therealvote.ca/rabble-letter.html

I will ask you, as I have asked Meagan, to please retract the two claims listed in the letter.

Additionally, I would like you to update the piece so that it's clear that we are not, as you put it, "suggesting Leadnow… should only endorse New Democrat and Green Party candidates." Nowhere have we made that suggestion. For the record, we're in favour of voting for any party or candidate that opposes C-51 and is committed to its repeal—be they Bloc, FED, Libertarian, Communist, independent, NDP, Green, or, like David MacLeod, a principled Liberal. This makes us considerably less "partisan" than even "non-partisan" LeadNow.

In the future, I hope you're more responsible with the assertions you make, and with the broad brush you seem so eager to tar people with when you disagree with their perspective on "strategy." Perhaps next time you'll reach out to the activists and movements you criticize, so that you can avoid this kind of situation. If you had done this with us, you would have been provided with countless examples of cross-party cooperation and non-partisan efforts to stop Bill C-51 that have either been undertaken or heavily promoted by those involved with this campaign in the last several months—including letter writing campaigns to Liberal and Conservative MPs and Senators, and promotion of a wide diversity of political perspectives on C-51 (not to mention scholarly and artistic perspectives). That also includes perspectives on non-violent direct action, along with encrypted tools for activists to discuss their own strategies, which have nothing to do with the NDP.

You should also make it clear that nowhere do we claim that Greens are "not progressive" and would therefore not be somehow alienated by our campaign. That assertion belonged to Paul Moist, not us. It's frankly absurd to put it on us. The Real Vote, the Stop C-51 coalition and the petition all support the Green position on Bill C-51, as even a passing familiarity with the facts would make clear.

Regards,
Chris Wiseman
The Real Vote