Category Archives: Green Party

The Canadian Greens’ first MP

On paper — hey, great, the Greens have acquired their first member of Parliament by accepting a former Liberal who’s been sitting as an independent. That’s how the Bloc Québécois started in Parliament, more or less.

But O, what a headache Blair Wilson could prove to be. He’s been sitting as an independent because his former party suspended him for (1) alleged election financing irregularities, and (2) not disclosing some unrelated matters to the party before the election. He’s been cleared of the first, but the second problem was enough to keep the Liberals from readmitting him to caucus. He barely squeaked into Parliament in a riding where the Greens finished a very distant fourth, with six per cent of the vote, so Wilson’s very unlikely to hold the seat longer than a few more months.

All it does, the only thing, is boost the Greens’ argument for being included in the televised leaders’ debates. I think they should have been on the stage a long time ago on principle, but given leader Elizabeth May’s stated support for Stéphane Dion for prime minister, as a practical matter having her take part might not be the best thing for the party’s electoral fortunes.

The Greens throw in the towel

Here’s Maclean’s‘s Paul Wells on the federal Green Party’s giving up hope and becoming an anti-Tory party rather than a positive force unto itself.

A bunch of senior federal Greens have quit their party posts; at least one in my neck of the woods, John Ogilvie, is refocusing on the provincial party instead.

Look, you want to be in electoral politics, you have to try to win something from time to time. Looks like the federal Green Party would rather be a lobby group.

A careless Green message

Oh, cripes. It’s obvious to a person of goodwill what the Green party was getting at in describing most ISAF soldiers in Afghanistan as “forces from a Christian/Crusader heritage,” but politics is, tragically, not full of people of goodwill. Particularly not Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative MP for Nepean-Carleton, who specializes in responses like this, which I’m reluctant to dignify by quoting. Suffice it to say that Poilievre demands a retraction of the Greens’ insult of our Canadian troops, takes shots at the Liberals, etc.

On the one hand, I deplore cheap stunts like Poilievre’s. I think he’s a bad man for what he and people like him do to our discourse. On the other, one of the Greens’ biggest problems is in sending clear messages about where they stand, i.e., not always in Birkenstocks. Sometimes vagueness is a necessary consequence of divisions within the party that have to be papered over for now. This time, it’s just sloppiness, made all the worse because it comes before the thrust of the news release has even become clear.

Job lots on the Green executive

The release doesn’t seem to be on the Ontario Green Party’s website yet, but by e-mail I’m informed the party has a new interim female deputy leader, Melanie Mullen, the existing female deputy leader, Victoria Serda, having stepped down to focus on her work as a town councillor in Saugeen Shores.

Nothing against Mullen, who’s unpolished but obviously knowledgeable, and pulled 11.4 per cent of the vote as a candidate in Niagara Falls in the last provincial election … but why the heck does the party specifically have male and female deputy leaders, and male and female regional representatives?

This is the sort of thing that makes the party look like leftover hippies, ascribing more value to intrinsic characteristics than personal qualities and ideas in choosing officers.

The party just acclaimed Jeanie Warnock as its eastern region female representative — who was, of the dozens of provincial candidates I met in the last election, one of the two weakest, least prepared, most ill-suited to the task of winning office that she’d set for herself (the other possibility was the New Democrat in her riding, whom she beat by 60 votes). The only reason she’s on the Ontario Greens’ executive now is because of a party quota. It’s not a recipe for success.

Elizabeth May goes too far

You have to read to the end before you reach today’s excursion into deep space by the leader of the Green Party of Canada, and even then I found I had to read twice before I untangled her syntax.

Nevertheless, it seems that one very reasonable reading of this passage in a piece on the outcome of the Commonwealth talks on climate change in Uganda —

For the dreadful irresponsibility of the Harper government. George Monbiot said that the triumvirate of Harper and Bush and Howard blocking action on climate represented a moral failure more culpable than that of Neville Chamberlain. I was variously skewered and attacked last spring for mentioning how Canada’s international reputation had suffered, citing George Monibiot’s statement to make the point.. (No need to revisit the various ways that quoting George Monbiot was viewed as some sort of political equivalent of a kamikaze mission.)

I repeat those words now, not because I thirst for abuse, but because in the light of day, following Canada’s actions in Uganda, they seem an understatement.

— is the new headline that news aggregator Pierre Bourque put on it:

MayNazis

The switch is that May has gone from pointing out Monbiot’s criticism to actively agreeing with it. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to argue that inaction on climate change will lead to deaths, both from an increased propensity toward natural disasters and from conflicts over dwindling resources — water, fertile land — in some parts of the globe. But to equate a bad policy with letting Nazi Germany rise largely unchecked in Europe in the hope that, as Churchill put it, Britain would be eaten last is … at the very least, not helpful.

Now the Tories have something they can talk about instead of trying to explain what Prime Minister Stephen Harper actually did in Uganda, which may or may not have been smart but certainly doesn’t look good on the face of it. I expect they’re quite pleased.

Update: Welcome, Bourque readers! Lest anyone think I have it in for Elizabeth May, take a look at a column I wrote on her last January, specifically admiring her skill with words and nuanced thought:

Consider the Green leader’s understanding of the assignment that sent Canadian troops to Afghanistan in the winter of 2002. It was, she said, “a mission to help [President Hamid] Karzai and the people of Afghanistan build a liveable civil society and a democracy, in the wake of many wars.”

That certainly meant shooting bad guys, May said: “The Taliban have to be removed. The Taliban insurgency, you can’t have them rebuild and regroup and constantly move back into Afghanistan, otherwise none of the efforts … are going to make much sense.”

This sounds like neither anti-Americanism nor reflexive peacenik-ery to me. It sounds like thinking that’s straight down the mainstream of Canadian opinion in 2007.

Above all, it sounds like the thinking of someone who knows that running a country is hard, a continual exercise in moral complexity and compromise, and isn’t about to pretend otherwise. It sounds like, at last, we have a party leader who’s determined to treat voters with respect.

I can’t believe the May wrote what she did yesterday without knowing exactly what she was doing.

Greens pull ahead of NDP in a national poll

Apparently this is a first. It is just one poll, and I’d very much like to see a second one to indicate that it’s not just an artifact of the margin of error, but it’s still good news for the party.

Its Toronto Centre candidate (and occasional EcoLibertarian commenter) Chris Tindal has some fairly generous words for the New Democrats, and I think he’s right:

The NDP have a legitimate and important role to play in Canadian politics; I just can’t understand why they’re not playing it. If I were to offer some unsolicited advice, it would be as follows. Be true to yourselves. Stand up for traditionally “left wing,” socialist principals. Put away the focus groups and the talking points, the negative tone and the overly partisan rhetoric. Let Layton be Layton: think back to his excellent work as a city councilor in Toronto, when he was committed to getting things done instead of “getting things done,” if you get my meaning.

I don’t agree with the NDP about much, but they speak for people who mustn’t be forgotten and leader Jack Layton’s useless sanctimony obviously isn’t doing them any good.

Elizabeth May profile in Maclean’s

Complete with backbiting comments from anonymous party insiders:

May’s praise of [Liberal leader Stéphane] Dion rankles many Greens. As does her constant vilification of Harper. Her comment last March that Harper’s stance on the environment is “a grievance worse than Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of the Nazis” created a furor. May said she was just paraphrasing a British journalist. A party insider sees the incident as telling of May’s intransigence. “She threw gas on it. She could have smoothed it over as any professional politician would have, but she prefers to fight. She turned a three- or four-day story into a three-week story by not finding her graceful exit and moving on.”

That’s a salaciously nasty bit, but it’s a serious piece Anne Kingston has written, shedding a lot of light on the ongoing civil unrest in the Green Party of Canada. Very, very worthwhile.

The NDP’s green problem

Check out this coverage of the spat between NDP leader Howard Hampton and Green leader Frank de Jong (for non-Canadians, the 46-year-old “New Democratic Party” is the leftmost mainstream party) over whether charging people to use natural resources and roads means “privatizing” them:

Mr. Hampton denied twisting the Green party’s positions.

“I have not mischaracterized their platform one bit,” he said during an early-morning campaign stop in Sudbury. “I encourage people to read their platform and think about the implications of private water, private electricity and private roads and think about what that would mean for average working people.”

Mr. de Jong said he has no interest in privatizing public services. He admitted the Green platform does call for new water taxes, but said that is vastly different from privatization. And while the Greens back the construction of private renewable energy projects, their platform makes no mention of private roads.

“Howard is fishing for something, but he’s in the wrong pond,” Mr. de Jong said.

For his part, Mr. Hampton attacked the Green party’s call for electricity rates to be increased in the next three years to reflect the true cost of power generation.

“They are all in favour of letting rates go through the roof and laying off tens of thousands of workers,” he said.

It’s hard to grasp how both propositions in that last quote could be true — if electricity rates went through the roof and the generation system that’s now almost all in public hands became a profit-making venture, why would they have to lay off tens of thousands of people? And if they could lay off tens of thousands of people while making more money … why does the power system need them now?

The NDP’s caught. It’s been the default party of sandal-wearing granola-crunchers for a long time, but it’s also the party of big labour, and those two constituencies are increasingly mutually exclusive. Voters have realized that you can’t be in favour of making stuff free, like water, while simultaneously being in favour of limiting its use — unless you also favour extremely heavy regulation. That’s how the NDP would solve most problems, but it’s sure not a vote-getter.

Today’s column: how the Greens have grown

Here’s my column in today’s Ottawa Citizen, on the striking progress the Green party has made in finding credible candidates, based on having met a whole bunch of them during the current Ontario election campaign:

The Greens are increasingly small-business owners and engineers, fewer and fewer of what Green leader Frank de Jong himself jokingly calls “nuts, fruits and flakes.” (He hit the Citizen‘s boardroom last Friday.)

De Jong admits he started out as one of them, a music teacher drawn to the party of tree-hugging and year-round sandal-wearing. But he’s learned the hard way that people like that, however committed, don’t win elections. They’ve been joined, though, by castoffs and renegades from other parties — disaffected Tories, mostly, but Liberals and New Democrats, too, who want to make more fundamental changes in the province than those parties advocate.

Forty-five minutes with Green leader Frank de Jong

The leader of the Green Party of Ontario, Frank de Jong, visited the Citizen today to talk to the editorial board. Audio of the discussion is here. It was a good, brisk session and de Jong did a pretty good job explaining the principles of Green-style tax-shifting, among other things, talking about privatizing public wealth (by giving away natural resources to industry) and socializing private wealth (by taxing production and income). If you’re reading this blog, the discussion is worth a listen.