Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Garth going Green makes sense

Now that ousted Tory Garth Turner has been musing publicly about joining the Green Party, many bloggers are confused. "The Green agenda is about as far from Conservatism as anything could possibly get, isn't it?" asks Conservative DazzlinDino. Guess again.

Jim Harris, the former Green Party leader who drastically increased his party's percentage of the vote during his tenure, is a management consultant and corporate motivational speaker who has described himself as a "green conservative" and his party as "eco-capitalist." Before he joined the Greens, he was a member of the Progressive Conservative party, and while he was leader, he hired several prominent Ontario Tories as party advisors. Harris's Greens' party platform was quite fiscally conservative, including corporate tax cuts and taxing resources rather than incomes, and they favoured voluntary compliance solutions to the business vs. environment conflict.

New Green Party leader Elizabeth May, too, has Progressive Conservative roots, which may come as a surprise to the people who are trying to paint her as a hard-left granola-eater. May once worked for Brian Mulroney's environment minister, and while she resigned her post over policy differences, she had nothing but praise for Mulroney when she saw to it that he would be named Canada's Greenest Prime Minister in April. "The truth is that for many years I've been saying that Brian Mulroney had an environmental records that puts subsequent prime ministers to shame," May said only a few months ago. The voters recognize this connection, too--a recent SES poll even found that Elizabeth May's Greens are the second choice party for more than a third of Conservative voters. Hardly surprising when you consider that the current Green platform includes planks on personal income and corporate tax cuts.

The baffled bloggers are right about one thing, though--the Greens are hardly Stephen-Harper-style conservatives. But then again, neither is Garth Turner. The blue streak in the Canadian Green Party is of a decidedly Progressive Conservative shade, and Turner, too, is a Red Tory who once sat in Kim Campbell's Progressive Conservative government and ran for the leadership of that party in 1993. He's a strong fiscal conservative who has spoken out in favour of same-sex marriage and criticized Rona Ambrose's environmental policies. He never really drank the Harper Kool-Aid. And if you look at the Greens' platform--really look at it, rather than just assuming they're nothing but a somewhat less successful clone of the NDP--it's pretty clear that a fiscally conservative, socially liberal, environmentally conscious MP like Garth Turner would be a far better fit for the Green Party than for Harper's Conservatives anyway.

Now, many lefties have criticized the Greens for not being left-wing enough, but to me that's a bit too much like criticizing a petunia for not being a geranium. I don't believe in Progressive Conservative or Green Party policies, but I do believe in a full spectrum of real voter choice, and by now it's pretty clear that the merger of the Progressive Conservatives with Reform left a gaping hole in the Canadian political scene. Sure, Harper has made the occasional minor gesture to appease the Red Tories, but his government has shown itself to be much further to the right on social issues than they'd like it to be, and the recent Clean Air Act fiasco has proven once and for all that Harper and Company think Alberta oil wealth should take precedence over serious environmental policy. The Greens offer Canadians a synthesis of Red Tory fiscal policies, progressive social policies, and a strong environmentalist bent, and there's more than enough room on the Canadian political scene for that.

I say go for it, Garth. It only makes sense.


Jan_ from_ BruceCounty said...

Good post.

West End Bound said...

"to me that's a bit too much like criticizing a petunia for not being a geranium."

LOVE this line!!!

As a future Canadian, I don't understand the term "Red Tory". Can you help me out? Thanks.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

west end bound,

The wikipedia link in the post is the best definition I can give you, actually. (I even thought of you when I hunted down that link! :-)

Scott Tribe said...

Hey IP:

THat poll you're referencing is actually "one-third" of Tories polled would pick the Greens as their 2nd choice (36%), not 2/3. Still a signifcant number however.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Whoops! Thanks for catching that--fixed now.

Kuri said...

While I wouldn't criticize the Greens for being what they are, I think it's fair to correct Green voters who are still under the illusion that the GP is to the left of the NDP, or that the Canadian GP is the same as the European Green parties.

Berlynn said...

Good post, ip, but never underestimate the capacity of the grassroots to make change within the Greens. I think we will see it moving and shapeshifting to fit its base. And, so far as I can tell, it's base is not with the Cons or the NDP but the disenfranchised.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Oh, sure, correct away! That's not what Boyce Richardson was doing, though.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Well, since the most disenfranchised voters these days are Red Tories, I don't see how you're disagreeing with me. *grin*

Jim said...

Good post, IP.

Jim Harris recently had a blog entry on this very subject.

Greens: More Fiscally Responsible than Cons, more progressive than NDP.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Well, clearly I don't agree with Harris's characterization of the NDP! But that doesn't mean I think the Greens don't deserve to grow.

The truth is that while the Greens and the NDP may be very different policy-wise, there are a number of goals we have in common, and the biggest one is proportional representation. If the Greens gained ground at the expense of the big parties, even if it were only a minor bleed, that would put more teeth behind the electoral reform movement, and that would benefit the entire country. I say bring it on.