Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Green confusion

Ever since last summer's federal election, I've been hearing a charge coming from many other New Democrats that the Green Party of Canada is deliberately obfuscating its message so as to usurp some of the people that would traditionally vote NDP. I simply don't buy it. The Greens' website and their party literature are quite straightforward about what kind of party they are, and the times I've heard individual Greens speak in public, their message has been consistent there as well. After talking with some of the people who are thinking of voting Green this time around, however, it's pretty clear to me that many of them nonetheless think they're supporting a different kind of party than the one that's actually getting their vote. It's not the Greens' fault; they're making it more than apparent that their proposed policies differ strongly from the ones found in other Green movements around the world. Their supporters just aren't listening.

To some degree, this kind of confusion is perfectly understandable. Worldwide, the Greens are quite clearly identified as a left-wing movement that focuses on environmental issues. In Germany, for example, the Greens are associated both in practice and in the public consciousness with a progressive economic and social policy, and the movements in New Zealand and the U.S. have taken similar approaches. In Canada, however, things look quite different. Green Party leader Jim Harris is a former Progressive Conservative, a Red Tory. He's a management consultant and a motivational speaker to large businesses who describes himself as a green conservative and his party as eco-capitalist. Two of the major planks in the Canadian Greens' platform include corporate tax cuts and taxing resources rather than incomes. Their solution to the abuse of the environment by the business sector isn't tough new legislation and enforcement of existing legislation, but voluntary compliance. Despite the fact that same-sex marriage was a major issue in the 2004 federal election, the Greens didn't have an official stance on it until February of 2005. They have no identified stance on abortion rights, and no proposals for how to address the income gap. In August of 2004, they hired a former assistant to an Ontario conservative cabinet minister as a party advisor. Last winter, there was an advertisement on the Greens' website for a conference on "environmental conservation and economic conservatism," at which former Reform leader Preston Manning was a featured speaker. Joan Russow, a leader of the Canadian Greens in the pre-Harris days, has lamented their sharp turn to the right and states that she can no longer support them. The 2004 Greenpeace "report card" gave the NDP a better "grade" on the policies that matter to them than the Greens, and Greenpeace and the Sierra Club both endorsed the NDP over the Greens in the 2004 federal election. One of the Canadian Greens' slogans is "not left, not right, but straight ahead." This is quite clearly not a progressive party. They're not even pretending to be one.

Now, I'm certainly not trying to tell you the Greens don't deserve a voice on the federal scene. On the contrary, the merger of the right-wing Reform-Alliance and the more moderate Progressive Conservatives has left former Red Tories disenfranchised, and it seems reasonable and appropriate that these people would want to make room for themselves on the political spectrum. I'm not even going to try to convince you not to vote Green--if you read their platform and like what you see, then by all means, tick their box on election day, whenever that ends up being. But if you're planning on voting Green because you think you're voting for a fresh new progressive perspective on the Canadian political scene, then you've made the all-too-common mistake of associating them with the other parties around the world that label themselves as Green. The Canadian Greens are nothing more and nothing less than Red Tories, with Red Tory ideals and a Red Tory agenda with an environmentalist bent. They pay lip service to social justice, but their proposed policies suggest that they believe that environmental issues can and should be addressed separately from issues of social justice and consumer culture. And every last one of their potential voters should be making quite sure that's actually what they want before heading to the polls.


Anonymous said...

Hi there, IP, don't know if you get notification of old comments, but I'll put this up anyway. Linked from your May 19, 2006 post to this one, and have to say thank you for pointing me in the right direction - I suppose it is time to slog through that 45 page platform of the Greens (and check the NDP's next). I wasn't able to vote in the election in January (for lack of knowing where my driver's licence was - I was abroad, to complicate things), but why cram all that activisim into a short time when elections roll around? Your eye-opener has just made me an even firmer proponent of PR!

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I do get notification of old comments, but it doesn't tell me what post someone has commented on, so I had to do a little sleuthing! I'm very glad to hear that my arguments have convinced you on the topic of PR, because there should be room for all of us.

And yes, you really should read the Green platform! Always important to know what you're voting for.