What’s in a name? That depends on whether you’re an idealistic young woman or the Liberal Party of Canada. Nine years ago, at 28, Jennifer Wright started an environmental consulting company in Toronto called Green Shift Inc. She grew her plans for reducing Canada’s carbon footprint into a $1.5-million-a-year business. Two months ago, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion launched Green Shift, an initiative that proposes a carbon tax and promotes energyefficient products. It’s being widely touted on pre-election whistle stops and on a Liberalwebsite, www.thegreenshift.ca. (Wright’s site is simply www.greenshift.ca-, no “the.”)
The night before Dion announced his Green Shift, Wright says, a Liberal operative called to let her know. She went ballistic. “They put us in a hard position,” she says. “We are genuine.” She hired a law firm to ask the Liberals to cease and desist. They ignored her. On July 9, her lawyers filed suit in Ontario Superior Court claiming $8.5 million in damages. On Aug. 9, counsel for the Liberals filed a 13-page statement of defence, saying basically that as an unincorporated political party they a) cannot be sued, and b) even if they could be, they would deny that Green Shift Inc. has exclusive rights to the name. “Green, as a colour and a word, is widely recognized as a term frequently used to describe environmental movements, issues, products, businesses or services,” the statement reads. And green shift is a short form for green tax shift, which, they say, is a term used around the world. Besides, “Brochures and printed materials describing the plan make it perfectly plain... that what is being discussed is the Liberal Party of Canada’s environmental plan.” No confusion. No harm done. And certainly no harm in the amount of $8.5 million.
Wright is more incensed than ever. “They are using our name to make themselves look green, and after the next election, they will discard it like the useless, valueless husk it will be.” But, surely, that’s only if Dion loses. And if he does, Wright will have the last laugh. M
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