Longest-serving Green leader in Canada to step down
by Mike Feinstein, International Committee of the Green Party of the United States
After 16 years as Party Leader of the Green Party of Ontario (GPO), Frank de Jong will be stepping down to clear a path for new leadership. De Jong presided over a period where the Greens grew from an electorally marginal presence of 0.4 percent in the 1995 provincial elections to gathering more than 8 percent in 2007, and rising from media obscurity to a credible voice in the public debate.
“Serving as GPO leader for the past sixteen years and four general elections has been profoundly challenging and rewarding” said de Jong at his farewell Annual General Meeting keynote speech May 23rd. “A tremendously warm thank you to all those who served as candidates, campaigners, party functionaries, donors and volunteers, I love you all. I wish the absolute best to the new leadership team and I will help out in any and every way to ensure we elect Green MPPs (members of provincial parliament) in 2011.”
“Frank [de Jong] has been the embodiment of Green values and lifestyle before, and throughout his leadership tenure” remarked Judy Smith-Torrie GPO Dep≠uty Leader. “It’s difficult to see Frank leave,” added Shane Jolley GPO Deputy Leader, who received 33 percent and finished second in his riding (district) in 2007, the GPO’s best finish. “I look forward to the new ideas and fresh perspective a leadership contest will bring.”
“The Green Party of Ontario has been fortunate to have such a dedicated and professional leader for the past 16 years,” said Bill Hewitt incoming GPO President. “Frank de Jong has led the GPO for the past generation and taken this party from the margins to the mainstream in Ontario politics. The Green Party is poised for an electoral breakthrough in the next provincial election because of the work that Frank had been doing.” Adds former Green Party of Canada Leader Jim Harris (2003-2006), who is also a GPO member, de Jong has already helped alter the provinces political equation. “Through his 16 years Frank has continually built the GPO to the point where the governing Liberals are having to adopt green policies because the rapid rise of the Green Party is forcing them to.”
“Ontario is at a crucial juncture in need of a strong Green Party,” de Jong told Green Pages for this article. “The Liberals are picking low hanging green political fruit, but on important files they give us more greenwash then substance. Although they have banned most cosmetic pesticides, passed the Green Energy Act, put in the Greenbelt (1.8 million acres of protected rural and green areas adjacent to Ottawa, also meant to restrict sprawl), and expand≠ed the GO system (Ontario’s interregional public transit system), they are still planning to build new nuclear power plants, still building massive new freeways, farming is more industrial process than sustainable, and sprawl is leap≠frogging the Greenbelt. Genuine green policies are in desperately short supply.”
ìFrank de Jong has led the GPO†for the past generation and taken this party from the margins to the mainstream in Ontario politics.î
~ Bill Hewitt
The GPO’s newly elected Provin≠cial Executive is establishing a Lead≠ership Convention Committee, which is expected to open the formal nomination process in June.
GPO members hope that the Lead≠er≠ship contest will generate interest and growth in the party in the same way that the Fed≠eral Leadership contest in the summer of 2006 did for the Green Party of Canada. That contest culminated with the election of former Sierra Club Canada Executive Director Elizabeth May before a national Canadian audience on CPAC (the C-SPAN of Canada), broadcast live from the Con≠ven≠tion Center in Ottawa, the nation’s capital.
De Jong, who lives in Toronto, has been an elementary schoolteacher for 25 years. In the 1980s, he was active in campaigns to ban nuclear weapons, to support women’s right to choose, to save Ontario’s old growth forests, and to promote human rights in Central America. He joined the then-fledgling GPO in 1987, attracted by what he felt was its holistic approach to the issues. De Jong has indicated that he is considering running for Federal Leader after the next Federal Election in 2011.
For more information: www.gpo.ca