Empowering New Leaders in the Green Party of Canada

Ramping-up the Shadow Cabinet

Thanks to Elizabeth, and the incredible work of our EDAs, the next leader of the Green Party of Canada will inherit a national podium that is broad enough, and strong enough, to bear the weight of many leaders. As Green Party leader I will want to share that podium as much as possible with other leaders within our Party.

As the Green Party of Canada, we have tremendous bench strength and a team that is ready to govern. The more people in Canada get to know the whole team, the more confident they will be in taking that final step and voting for us.

As leader, I would seek to showcase all the outstanding talent we have within our party as often as possible. One of the best ways for a leader to do that, is by empowering the Green Party of Canada Shadow Cabinet.

What is the Shadow Cabinet?

The Shadow Cabinet (SC) of the Green Party of Canada (GPC) is an alternative cabinet to the government, which shadows/mirrors government cabinet portfolios.

Who are the members of the Shadow Cabinet?

They are usually either members of the GPC Caucus, or GPC candidates. Each SC member is given a specific policy portfolio, for which they are the “Critic”. Critics must be members of the GPC.

What does Shadow Cabinet do?

It provides critical opposition on policy matters to the government’s position. As a group, Shadow Cabinet is also primarily responsible for creating the GPC’s election platform. The SC engages in group discussion in order to develop policy positions that are well researched and grounded in Green values and member-approved policy. Group discussion is key to ensuring that each new policy initiative is reviewed thoroughly, and so that each SC member is able to bring forward any ramifications that the new policy may have on their portfolio. The SC operates on consensus wherever possible.

Who selects members of the Shadow Cabinet?

Under the GPC Constitution, members of the SC are appointed by, and serve at, the discretion of the Leader of the Green Party of Canada.

What are the criteria for selection as a Critic?

Critics must be members of the GPC. They are normally selected for their expertise in their individual subject area/portfolio of responsible. Ideally, a Critic will have an extensive educational, professional and experiential track record in the thematic area of responsibility. They may also have public recognition as a leader within their area of expertise. Regional distribution, diversity of perspectives and representation of equity-seeking groups will also be considerations. It is important that a Critic have the confidence of, and a strong working relationship with, the Leader of the GPC, as the Leader needs to depend heavily on the advice of Critics on matters that touch upon their portfolio.

What are the responsibilities of SC Critics?

Critics are responsible for monitoring current events and government activity relevant to their portfolio; alerting the GPC of issues that may arise which present an opportunity for the GPC to make a statement or develop new policy; and participating in the GPC policy development process for each General Meeting, which may include reviewing policy proposals, drafting new proposals, and suggesting improvements to the policy development process.

How can we improve the functioning of Shadow Cabinet and Critics?

The world of policy is fast moving. The Shadow Cabinet and Critics are called upon to make quick decisions on what the Green Party of Canada should or should not comment upon, and then what should be said if we do. This is in addition to the ongoing work of Critic with respect to GPC policy development, reviewing policy proposals, drafting new proposals, and suggesting improvements to the policy development process.

To fulfil these roles, Shadow Cabinet Critics need access to the best and most up-to-date information and advice in a timely way. To achieve this, we propose the creation of the following resources for each Critic:

Green Party Member Knowledge Clusters

The Green Party membership is a font of knowledge, skills and experience that should be more consistently tapped for the benefit of the Shadow Cabinet and individual Critic’s work. While the GPC holds bi-annual policy conventions, the objective should be to develop as many ongoing opportunities as possible for GPC members to contribute to policy development in areas of interest and expertise, and to the work of Critics, in a dynamic way.

The Green Party Member Knowledge Clusters would provide a permanent mechanism for GPC members to contribute to the work of Critics and the Cabinet.

How would KCs meet and work?

KCs would serve as an independent space for reflection, brainstorming and idea formulation on advancing the policy in the thematic area(s) of the Critic’s portfolio. KCs ensure the systematic exchange of key concepts, lessons learned and know-how between the membership, the Critic and the Shadow Cabinet, and reinforce the grassroots nature of the Green Party policy-development model.

KCs would meet regularly to discuss the work of the Critic whose work they are supporting. Online platforms such as Zoom would permit regular communication without the need for in-person meetings. Tools like Microsoft Teams can be explored as options for organising the workflow of KCs.

The Critic could also call upon one or more KC members on an ad hoc basis between regularly scheduled meetings for advice on evolving issues that require a rapid response.

How could I join a Knowledge Cluster?

GPC members would be actively invited to consider joining one or more Shadow Cabinet Knowledge Clusters. GPC member would indicate interest and submit applications to participate in one or more KCs. In selecting KC members, the Critic and Leader would consider the member’s policy expertise, practical experience, diversity of perspective, community stature and ability to access networks in the relevant policy area(s). Green Party of Canada Core Values and commitments to equity-seeking groups would be also be considered.

Portfolio Brain Trusts

Portfolio Brain Trusts (PBTs) would be a purpose-built community of external experts, stakeholders, and civil society organisations that possess expertise, information, and/or relevant experience in fields pertinent to a Critic’s portfolio. The main services of each PBT would be advisory in nature and geared toward a mix of strategy support and technical assistance. Members of the PBT would not necessarily be Green Party members, but rather an ongoing resource supporting the work of a Critic by allowing the Critic to access the best knowledge in their field.

A PBT would typically be called on to provide confidential on-call advice (e.g., technical briefings, policy planning, risk analysis, commentary on draft text or negotiating positions); customised writing (e.g., options memos, non-papers); lessons sharing at Shadow Cabinet-organised meetings; and Green Party of Canada policy development, grounded in member-approved policy, through the generation of research, and practice briefs on core issues. 

PBT allows Critics to access the best knowledge in their area of thematic responsibility. It permits the SC to collect specialised expertise that would otherwise be dispersed across many organisations and individuals, and to make such expertise available in real-time to Shadow Critics on a permanent and organised basis. PBTs would improve the work of individual Critics, and the entire SC by expanding the range of ideas and strategic options available to them, in a manner that would not be sufficiently accessible in the absence of the PBTs.

PBT membership would be by invitation-only. GPC members would be encouraged to submit names of external experts, stakeholders, and civil society organisations for consideration.

A Government-in-waiting: Ramping-up Green Party of Canada Leadership

A strong leader is one that identifies, recruits, nurtures, supports and highlights other leaders. The next leader of the Green Party of Canada can demonstrate how this is done by ramping-up the profile of the Shadow Cabinet as a whole, and the individual Critics in their roles, and empowering them in their work.

I am prouder than ever to be running to lead the Green Party of Canada. Our policies – Guaranteed Liveable Income, universal post-secondary education and pharmacare, Indigenous self-determination, the Green Economy, a Just Transition, and respect for diversity – are designed to meet the challenges of this moment. It is our job to give people in Canada every reason to vote for us. If the next leader consistently showcases the depth of talent and experience of other GPC leaders, I know we will gain the confidence of voters in our party’s ability to govern.

Regional Collaboration Amongst Greens

The Collaboration Regions Project is a great example of how Greens are working together to strengthen the democracy at the heart of our party.  The Green Party of Ontario is hosting this effort to link local associations with each other to provide peer mentorship, resiliency, and new capacity across the province.

It’s the kind of thing we can all be doing as Greens – reaching out to build a strong foundation, celebrate our diversity, and provide a home for the daring ideas that make our future bright.  Growing out of a successful collaborative spirit in Waterloo Region, the project is amplifying the voices of emerging leaders across the party.  If you want to be a part of it, contact [email protected], and learn more.


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  • Edwin Daniel
    A lot of possibilities, but little concrete for Green Party members to volunteer to do. I am a retired pharmacologist, Fellow of the Royal Society (Science). and Green Party member for several years. I would work to get a National Pharmacare plan in place. My expertise extends to questions of what to do about opioid overdose deaths, Medical Help in Dying, Drug Pricing, and Academic Freedom.
  • Edwin Daniel
    The organization sounds like a top down control system. I thought the Green Party was different.