Green Party support grows as alarms sound on climate crisis

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Elizabeth May at podium in 2015. Photo: Bob Jonkman/Flickr

What do Ireland, the British Parliament, and Ottawa and Vancouver city councils have in common? All voted in 2019 to declare a climate emergency.

Following the Green Party win in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection, both the NDP and the Liberals proposed climate-change emergency resolutions for debate in the House of Commons.

On May 16, the day the motions were being debated, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May presented "Mission Possible," a 20-point green action plan.

The first point calls climate the greatest security threat the world has ever seen.

For the Greens, climate is no longer just an environmental issue -- it requires putting Canada on a war-like footing, directed by a multi-party inner cabinet, on the model Winston Churchill employed during the Second World War to combat fascism.

Since its inception in 1983 the Green Party of Canada has not attracted enough voter support to be seen as a big threat by other political parties. But recently announced voting intentions for the Greens at 12 per cent now have other parties paying attention.

The Green Party has been gaining political representation: in P.E.I., where it now forms the Official Opposition, and in New Brunswick, where it has party status. Green Party leaders have won seats in Ottawa and in four provinces, and hold the balance of power in B.C.

With 17 elected Green Party members at the provincial and federal levels, the Greens look to be competitive in a number of federal ridings across Canada in the October 21 election.

The first-past-the-post electoral systems used in Canada have worked against the Green Party. A vote for a small party is often considered a wasted vote because it means not defeating a troublesome government or boosting a more likely winner.

When feelings run strong against a ruling party, supporting a fourth party amounts to being complicit with those wielding power.

However, a vote for a third or fourth party is also an opportunity to send a message to parliamentarians and the public.

In a minority government situation, with a multi-party parliament, a small party can be the linchpin in a coalition or influence the legislative and spending agenda, and can even determine which party forms government. 

Leader Elizabeth May told the Huffington Post's Althia Raj that given his position on the climate, Andrew Scheer is "unfit to govern."

May asserted that her party is ready to join with other parties to help the Liberal Party form a government, if Justin Trudeau finds himself with fewer seats than the Conservatives in a minority parliament after the next election.

In a hyper-partisan political world, where anger and invective work to undermine trust in political parties and attention to public debate, the federal Green Party offers a detailed program of action -- Vision Green -- based on serious research and reflection.

The ecological crisis is a result of the way we produce goods and services and exploit natural resources. This has propelled political forces of the left to identify capitalism as the driving force behind environmental crisis and climate change.

Since the Green Party of Canada does not denounce capitalism or capitalist imperialism, the political left has largely ignored the Greens or heaped disdain on their efforts.

Outside Parliament, environmental activism has a history of building successful citizen action groups and acting through NGOs.

The nonviolent resistance group Extinction Rebellion was established in Britain in May 2018 and already has considerable public support. It believes no political party has the will to fight against ecological collapse and calls on activists to organize on a local basis to prevent climate breakdown and species extinction. 

The 20-point Green Party action plan ranges from buying water bombers to fight forest fires instead of F-35 stealth bombers for their first-strike capacity, to banning fracking and restoring carbon sinks.

The Liberals are increasingly going to be called upon to deliver on green projects as city councils, regional jurisdictions, and civil society groups initiate their own climate emergency calls.

The Green Party 20-point plan calls for an "all-hands-on-deck" approach to the climate emergency. Recognizing that Canada has one of the worst records on Earth for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Greens assert "we can still be the global leaders we must be."

Duncan Cameron is president emeritus of and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: Bob Jonkman/Flickr

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