POT PARTY SEEKS LOCAL GRASSROOTS
The Marijuana Party says it plans to put down roots in central Canada once it gets approval to organize a riding association in Windsor -- the party's first Electoral District Association (EDA) south of Nunavut.
Marijuana Party organizer Randall St. Jacques said the party aims to field at least one candidate locally in the next federal election.
It will be the first time a Marijuana Party candidate will be on the ballot in Windsor.
Under Elections Canada rules, having a registered EDA allows parties to accept contributions, transfer funds to candidates or the party and issue income tax receipts.
"We plan to have a social organization and be aggressive in the community," said St. Jacques, 57, a former member of the New Democratic Party before joining the Marijuana Party in 2001.
"We do plan to be more active than your average political part," he said. "We want to take it right to the people, right to the street, to the campus," he said. "There will be one (candidate). Windsor-West, Windsor-Tecumseh -- it will be one of those (ridings)."
St. Jacques said the party, which has an estimated 100 members in Windsor, is nearing approval from Elections Canada to have a registered EDA here.
The only registered EDA the party has is in Nunavut, said Blair Longley, leader of the federal Marijuana Party. The party also has applied to Elections Canada for three EDAs in lower mainland B.C., he said.
Longley said having an EDA in Windsor will help the party develop a blueprint for other riding associations.
"Candidates are the most important thing by far, then having an association to help the candidates between elections is (next important)," he said from the party's headquarters in Montreal.
Election rules were changed after a 2003 Supreme Court decision that struck down a law requiring parties to field at least 50 candidates before they could issue tax receipts for donations.
Longley and other fringe party leaders are fighting for a rule change that would let more allowance money to flow to small parties that don't surpass two per cent of the overall vote in a federal election.
Parties with more than two per cent receive $1.75 for each vote they receive.
In 2000, with 73 candidates, the party got about 66,000 votes, Longley said. In the last election, the party got half the number of votes with 71 candidates.
The reason for the drop? Longley said it's because the federal party split before the last election, with some members joining the Green Party or the NDP in an attempt to go more mainstream.
The other reason is that more parties are talking about decriminalizing and legalizing pot, something only the Marijuana Party had advocated in the 2000 election, Longley said.
The bid to have a registered EDA in Windsor comes as Marc Emery, leader of the B.C. branch of the Marijuana Party, is being sought for extradition to the U.S. Two years ago, Emery visited Windsor, smoking a 10-gram joint in front of police headquarters.