Loving/hating the Canadian Green Party

Since today is election day in the federal By-Elections of Repentigny, QC and (more interestingly) London-North-Centre, ON, I decided it was appropriate to talk about what the entire blogosphere is talking about today:  Elizabeth May.

Allow me to begin by stating that I am very pleased with the fact that May is starting to shift the Greens back to their roots on the left where they belong.  Now many people I know will debate with me as to whether the Greens are inherently on the left or on the right.  In fact, just about every Green blog that I’ve seen enjoys putting the meaningless platitude forward that the Greens are “neither left nor right: but in front”. 

This is complete, unadulterated, crap! 

EVERY party can be placed on a left-right spectrum and the measure of where it stands on this spectrum is simple:  does it stand for safeguarding the accumulation of capital in the hands of the few or not?  

Now, when I said that the Greens belong on the left, I was not making a normative statement based on my personal world-view or ideology.  I make the argument that the Green Party of Canada ought to be on the left for two reasons:

#1) All green parties that are a part of the Global Greens movement (as the Green Party of Canada is) subscribe to what are called the 4 pillars.  These are:


     Social Justice;

     Grassroots Democracy; and


While we may disagree on whether pro-capitalist tax reforms (like a flat tax etc…) are inherently opposed to social justice, no serious person can argue that they help the cause of social justice.   So at best, these tax reforms that the Green Party of Canada (and the Ontario Green Party) support, ignore one of the founding principles of the Global Greens which constitutes a significant portion of that party’s ‘soul’.

#2) The second reason why the Green Party of Canada belongs on the left is because history has shown that the most successful green parties are on the left.  Take the following examples:

a) Germany:  The German Greens are undoubtedly the most successful Green Party on the face of the planet.  Some of their current and historic policies include:

i) Opposition to NATO military operations on German soil.

ii) Opposition to the bombing of Afghanistan by American-led coalition forces following 9/11.  (Note that even the NDP in Canada supported this mission at that time, as did the Labour Party of the UK, the Democrats in the US and the Social Democrats in Germany)

b) Finland:  The Finnish Green League is another one of the more successful green parties on the planet.  The Green League has attacked socialism as not caring about the environment (and, understanding Finland’s historical relationship to the USSR and the Soviet’s perverse brand of “socialism” this is entirely understandable).  However, what’s more important to note is that they have also criticized the free market as disastrous for the environment.  Thus, while they’re not far left, they’re certainly left.

c) Belgium:  Both of the green parties of Belgium – the French-speaking “Ecolo” and the Flemish “Groen!” – are firmly planted on the left and were strong left-wing voice in several coalition governments.  Unfortunately these two parties have recently become much weaker.

d) New Zealand:  New Zealand once had two green parties:  the “Progressive Green Party” (which, despite its name was right-wing and aligned itself with the National Party) and the “Green Party” (which was left-wing).  Guess which party was destroyed and guess which one is still around?  C’mon, guess?

Now, what has Elizabeth May proposed as her tax plan in this by-election?  You can read about them in the London Free Press here.   She proposes:

“Creating senior government tax incentives and policies, including skills and trades training, to foster “green” businesses and industries.”  (If you can explain what that means, then you’re smarter than I am.  I do however understand what government tax incentives are:  giving money to corporations as if they’re hard done by)

“Establishing a small-cities green venture capital fund”.  (Supposedly, this would be geared towards small firms, however large corporations take advantage of venture capital as well.)

“Creating clusters and networks of small- and medium-sized green enterprises.”  (Because, apparently, businesses have always had problems creating networks amongst themselves)

“Boosting railway links in the Windsor-Quebec City transportation corridor and reducing reliance on trucks.” (This is common sense and everybody from David Orchard to the NDP to Jean Chretien supported this)

And lastly,

“Creating a new pool of civic funding through a change in tax policy to allow municipal bonds to be held within RRSPs.”

Now I think some of these tax policies are good ideas.  For instance, I have no strong objections to municipal bonds being held within RRSPs, nor do I oppose a beefed up Windsor to Quebec train corridor.  What I do object to is that there is NOT ONE MENTION of:

1) Homelessness

2) Access to healthcare

3) Quebec-style, federally-funded daycare (to be fair, May did come out in support of daycare elsewhere by saying that she supports the Liberals’ old plan developed by Martin and Ken Dryden)

4) NAFTA and the crushing effect Free-Trade is having on both labourers and on the environment (ever heard of Bulk Water export?)

5) The decreasing standard of living in Canada

So, the question is:  If I lived in London-North-Centre, would May be getting my vote?

The answer is ‘yes ‘ and the reason is because I’m a hopeless optimist and I am hopeful that maybe May just didn’t have time to develop an economic policy that spoke to the full range of issues that she (hopefully) cares about.  I’m hopeful that she will continue to shift the Greens to the left, away from the dreadful legacy of her predecessor, Jim Harris.  I’m hopeful that she will keep the NDP on their toes and prevent them from sliding further to the right.  Lastly, I’m hopeful that she and the NDP will be able to have a serious dialogue about the negative effects of capitalism on people and the negative effects of capitalism on the environment.   This is a dialogue which needs to be had in this country and I think it’s a dialogue that will show that the left-wing parties and the environmental movement have more in common than they think.

Workers and environmentalists of the world, unite!


5 Responses to “Loving/hating the Canadian Green Party”

  1. 1 Kimberlee 27 November, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    What bothers me the most is that the Greens just don’t mesh with the conservative lifestyle! What member of the Green party denies global warming and drives a Hummer? (You can see I’m still enraged over “Jesus Camp”… 0.6 degrees, my ass) What member of the Green party thinks it’s ok to shoot for 2050 as a goal to have emissions down? One of these things is not like the other, I swear.

    Oh, and on an unrelated note, I thought you’d be interested in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–chxdJysGg

  2. 2 RPJ 28 November, 2006 at 2:17 am

    The above link appears to be corrupted. Can you repost it?

  3. 4 Junior 17 December, 2006 at 9:14 am

    I ran as a green in the Provincial election of 1990. I started out as office help as I lived around the corner from the office and was interested. Jim Harris sweet talked me into running (he was very good at this) but he was also still parking his BMW around the back of the office. Policies were whatever you thought was good so as a left green I was all anti nuke and “greater good”
    I could have said “let’s bring back zeppelin travel” and that would have been okay – no monitoring, no censuring. Just run a warm, Green body in every riding, this was Jim’s goal.
    The irony of the whole thing was that most people in the office were happy when the NDP won, myself included. Kind of defeats the whole purpose really.
    Canada needs a socialist party drawn up on European lines. The NDP are no longer socialist. TRY and find this word in any of their websites, literature etc.
    Dirty dirty word. Scotland now has PR and four MSP’s. One of them was arrested at an anti nuke protest, something the Greens here need to do (or at least be vocal like they used to be) instead of stitting around whining about raw milk and straw bale houses.
    Doubt anyone will read this but that is my piece. Thanks for keeping the debate open Paul.

  4. 5 paulitics 18 December, 2006 at 11:48 am

    Junior – your insights into this matter are invaluable.

    I think your point about the NDP is an excellent one as well. If anybody takes a step into the past and reads Tommy Douglas’s thoughts on any number of given subject matters, “socialist” and sometimes even “bolshevism” come up fairly frequently and no with negative connotations. In fact, Douglas’s most famous speaches were his “socialist parables” which were, obviously, overtly socialist. He would be rolling in his grave if he knew what the NDP has become.

    Disenchanted New Democrats (I used to work for an NDP MP on Parliament Hill) and Greens like yourself must work together to reverse the now prevalent idea that there is too much of a divergent policy base between the two parties for them to be reconciled. It has worked in Europe to the point now where the Communist, Socialist and other left-wing parties sit together as a ‘party-group’ with the Nordic green parties in an alliance that is both successfull and admirable.

    O’ for the day when that becomes the reality in Canada.

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