|Green Party of Canada
Parti vert du Canada
75 Albert Street
|Youth wing||Young Greens of Canada|
|International affiliation||Global Greens|
|Seats in the House of Commons||
1 / 308
|Seats in the Senate||
0 / 105
|Politics of Canada
The Green Party of Canada (French: Parti vert du Canada) is a Canadian federal political party founded in 1983 with 10,000–12,000 registered members as of October 2008. The Greens advance a broad multi-issue political platform that reflects its core values of ecological wisdom, social justice, grassroots democracy and non-violence. It has been led by Elizabeth May since August 26, 2006.
The party broke 1% of the popular vote in the 2004 federal election, when it received 4.3% and qualified for federal funding. Its support has ranged between 3.1% and 14% since the 2006 federal election. In the 2008 federal election, the Green Party of Canada was invited to the debates for the first time and achieved a high mark of 6.8% of the popular vote. With just under a million votes, it was the only federally funded party to receive more votes than in 2006, but it still failed to win any seats. In the 2011 federal election the Green Party of Canada decided to focus on increasing seats over increasing votes, and succeeded in sending its first MP to Ottawa, while its share of the popular vote dropped to below 4% for the first time in eleven years.
On August 30, 2008, independent MP Blair Wilson joined the Green Party during Parliament’s summer recess, technically becoming its first Member of Parliament (MP). He was defeated in the 2008 federal election, which was called before he had a chance to sit in the House of Commons as a Green MP.
On May 2, 2011, Green Party leader Elizabeth May became the first elected Green Party MP to sit in the House of Commons. She won the riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands in coastal British Columbia. In winning her seat, May also became one of the few Greens worldwide to be elected in a federal, single-seat election. On December 13, 2013 Thunder Bay—Superior North MP Bruce Hyer, who had left the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 2012 to sit as an independent after breaking party lines to vote in favour of a repeal of the Long Gun Registry, joined the party, resulting in a record two-member caucus in parliament.
Principles and policies
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The Greens have always had leftist and centrist factions that have been ascendant at different times in the party’s history. Many Greens also claim that this traditional left-right political spectrum analysis does not accurately capture the pragmatic ecological orientation of an evolving Green Party. The ecumenical approach (expressing affinities with all Canadian political tendencies and making cases to voters on all parts of the left-right spectrum) has been advocated by those who believe their success can also be measured by the degree to which other parties adopt Green Party policies. By this measure of success, the adoption of a revenue-neutral Carbon tax at the British Columbia government level, greenhouse gas emission reduction programs, and the promotion of the Green (Tax) Shift by the federal Liberal Party under former leader Stéphane Dion, indicate that Green Party policies are gaining traction in Canada.
An emphasis on a green tax shift in the 2004 platform, which favoured partially reducing income and corporate taxes (while increasing taxes on polluters and energy consumers), created questions as to whether the Green Party was still on the left of the political spectrum, or was taking a more eco-capitalist approach by reducing progressive taxation in favour of regressive taxation. Green Party policy writers have challenged this interpretation by claiming that any unintended “regressive” tax consequences from the application of a Green Tax Shift would be intentionally offset by changes in individual tax rates and categories as well as an ‘eco-tax” refund for those who pay no tax.
Under Elizabeth May’s leadership, the Green Party has begun to receive more mainstream media attention on other party policy not directly related to the environment — for example, supporting labour rights and poppy legalization in Afghanistan.
The Green Party of Canada is founded on six key principles that were adopted at the 2002 convention of the Global Greens. These principles are:
- ecological wisdom
- social justice
- participatory democracy
- respect for diversity
In 2011, the Green Party of Canada’s policies include:
- Reduced payroll and income taxes
- Increased taxes on polluters
- Income splitting for families
- A national childcare plan
- Support for family farms
- Government transparency
- Proportional representation
- Regulation and taxation of cannabis
- Cutting subsidies for industries that pollute
- Subsidy for public transit and environmentally friendly technology
- Transfers to municipalities for infrastructure
- Access to information
- Maintain a competitive corporate tax rate
- Mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) foods and food ingredients
- Maintain the ban on GE wheat and oppose GE alfalfa.
- Federal animal welfare reform
- Establishment of a National Pharmacare programme
- Closing foreign tax loopholes
- Significant shift to investment in renewable energy
- Expansion of the ecoEnergy retrofit program
- Reduce employee and employer contributions to EI and CPP by 1/3
- Ending the logging tax credit
- Scaling military spending back to 2005 levels, and reorient toward peacekeeping
Long-time environmental activist and lawyer Elizabeth May won the leadership of the federal Green party at a convention in Ottawa on August 26, 2006. May won with 2,145 votes, or 65.3 per cent of the valid ballots cast defeating two other candidates. The second-place finisher David Chernushenko, an environmental consultant, owner of Green & Gold Inc. and two time candidate, collected 1,096 votes or 33.3 per cent of the total, while Jim Fannon, real estate agent at Re/Max Garden City Realty, four time candidate and founder of Nature’s Hemp finished a distant third, collecting just 29 votes or 0.88 per cent of the vote. (“None of the above” finished last with 13 votes or 0.44 per cent of the final vote.)
On November 21, 2006, May appointed outgoing Green Party of British Columbia leader Adriane Carr and Quebec television host Claude Genestas Deputy Leaders of the Party. David Chernushenko, who ran against Elizabeth May for the party leadership, was the Senior Deputy to the Leader for the first year after May was elected leader.
Previous leader Jim Harris was elected to the office with over 80% of the vote and the support of the leaders of all of the provincial level Green parties. He was re-elected on the first ballot by 56% of the membership in a leadership challenge vote in August 2004. Tom Manley placed second with over 30% of the vote. A few months after the 2004 convention, Tom Manley was appointed Deputy Leader. On September 23, 2005, Manley left the party to join the Liberal Party of Canada.
- Trevor Hancock (1983–1984)
- Seymour Trieger (1984–1988)
- Kathryn Cholette (1988–1990)
- Chris Lea (1990–1996)
- Wendy Priesnitz (1996–1997)
- Harry Garfinkle (1997) (interim)
- Joan Russow (1997–2001)
- Chris Bradshaw (2001–2003) (interim)
- Jim Harris (2003–2006)
- Elizabeth May (2006–present)
About one month before the 1980 federal election, eleven candidates, mostly from ridings in the Atlantic provinces, issued a joint press release declaring that they were running on a common platform. It called for a transition to a non-nuclear, conserver society. Although they ran as independents, they unofficially used the name “Small Party” as part of their declaration of unity – a reference to the “small is beautiful” philosophy of E. F. Schumacher. This was the most substantial early attempt to answer the call for an ecologically oriented Canadian political party. A key organizer (and one of the candidates) was Elizabeth May, who is now leader of the Greens.
The Green Party of Canada was founded at a conference held at Carleton University in Ottawa in 1983. Under its first leader, Dr. Trevor Hancock, the party ran 60 candidates in the 1984 Canadian federal election.
The Green Party of Canada is independent of other green parties around the world. However, all Green parties share the same philosophy. Its provincial counterparts in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, support green economics, progressive social planning, and responsible and accountable governance.
The Quebec wing hosted the 1990 Canadian Greens conference in Montreal. But soon after that, Canada’s constitutional problems interfered, and many Quebec candidates abandoned the Greens in favour of a Quebec sovereigntist party, the Bloc Québécois. There were only six Green candidates from Quebec in the 1993 election. In the spring of 1996, although the hopes of electing a representative to the BC legislature proved premature, Andy Shadrack in the interior of the province received over 11% of the vote. Overall, the party’s proportion of the popular vote surged to a new high. Shadrack was also the most popular Green candidate in the 1997 federal election, scoring over 6% of the popular vote in West Kootenay-Okanagan.
Joan Russow years
British Columbia’s Joan Russow became leader of the Green Party of Canada on April 13, 1997. Russow won 52% of the ballots cast in the 1997 leadership race, surpassing Ontario’s Jim Harris (39%) and Rachelle Small (8%). Immediately upon attaining the leadership, Russow was plunged into a federal general election. Russow’s campaign in 1997 set a number of important precedents. 1997 federal election was the first campaign in which the Greens conducted a national leader’s tour, presented a national platform and a bilingual campaign. Previous campaigns, due in part to the party’s few resources and, in part, to the party’s constitutional straitjacket, had been characterized by policy and spokespeople operating, at best, province-by-province and, at worst, riding-by-riding. In her own riding of Victoria, Russow received just shy of 3000 votes and 6% of the popular vote.
Since its inception, the party has been developing as an organization, expanding its membership and improving its showing at the polls. In the 2000 federal election, the party fielded 111 candidates, up from 78 in 1997.
Candidates were not run in Newfoundland and Labrador, as a result of ongoing divisions over Joan Russow’s refusal to endorse the Green candidate in an earlier St. John’s West by-election. (The candidate in question supported the seal hunt and mining development, as most locals did.) This caused much uncertainty and friction between Newfoundland’s Terra Nova Green Party Association and the Green Party leader as the party gradually adapted to the realities of functioning as a true national party rather than a disorganized federation of local activists.
The conflicts left Russow isolated and alienated from most members of the party. Volunteer efforts were substantially absorbed in provincial campaigns between 2001 and 2003, and the federal party became dormant between elections, as was typical in the past. Chris Bradshaw served the party as interim leader from 2001 to February 2003.
Russow left the party in 2001 and has now criticized the Green party for not following their policies.
Breakthrough under Jim Harris
In February 2003, Jim Harris, in his second bid for the leadership, defeated John Grogan of Valemount, British Columbia, and Jason Crummey. Crummey was originally from Newfoundland and involved with Newfoundland and Labrador Terra Nova Greens.
During the 2004 federal election the Green Party of Canada became the fourth federal political party ever to run candidates in all the ridings. When the ballots were counted, the Green Party secured 4.3 percent of the popular vote, thereby surpassing the 2 percent threshold required for party financing under new Elections Canada rules.
Momentum continued to build around the Green Party of Canada and in the 2006 federal election the Green Party again ran 308 candidates and increased its share of the popular vote to 4.5 percent, once again securing federal financing as a result.
The party’s 2006 election campaign was disrupted by allegations made by Matthew Pollesell, the party’s former assistant national organizer, that Harris had not filed a proper accounting of money spent during his 2004 leadership campaign, as required by law. Pollesell issued a request that Elections Canada investigate. Pollesell and another former party member, Gretchen Schwarz, were subsequently warned by the party’s legal counsel to retract allegations they had made or face a possible legal action. Dana Miller, who served in the party’s shadow cabinet with responsibility for human-rights issues, made public her earlier complaints that the party has violated election law and its own constitution and has also asked for an Elections Canada investigation. Miller had been expelled from the party after filing a complaint within the party in April.
Elizabeth May years
A leadership vote was held at the party’s August 2006 convention. On April 24, 2006, Jim Harris announced his intention not to stand for re-election as party leader. Three candidates officially entered the leadership race: David Chernushenko, Elizabeth May, and Jim Fannon. May won the leadership with 65% of the vote on the first ballot.
On October 22, 2006, Elizabeth May announced she would run in the federal by-election to be held on November 27, 2006, in London North Centre, Ontario. She finished second behind the Liberal candidate but garnered 26% of the popular vote.
On August 30, 2008, Vancouver area MP Blair Wilson became the first-ever Green Member of Parliament, after sitting for nearly a year of the39th Canadian Parliament as an Independent. He had been a Liberal MP, but stepped down voluntarily from the caucus earlier in the parliament after anonymous allegations of campaign finance irregularities, most of which he was later cleared after a 9-month investigation by Elections Canada. Wilson had joined the Green Party during Parliament’s summer recess and never sat in the House of Commons as a Green MP.
After initial opposition from three of the four major political parties, May was invited to the leaders’ debates. In the 2008 federal election, the party increased its share of the popular vote by 2.33% (to 6.80%), being the only federally funded party to increase its total vote tally over 2006, attracting nearly 280,000 new votes. However, the party failed to elect a candidate. Some prominent Green Party members blamed the public discussion of strategic voting and the media’s misrepresentation of May’s comments during the election campaign for the failure of some promising candidates to reach Election Canada’s 10% reimbursement threshold, as well as reducing the party’s federal funding based on popular vote.
On August 11, 2010, 74% percent of Green party members voted to hold a leadership review after the next election, instead of in August 2010, which was when May’s four-year term as leader was set to end.
In the 2011 federal election, May was the first Green Party candidate to win a seat in the House of Commons.
Federal election results
|Election||# of candidates nominated||# of seats won||# of total votes||% of popular vote|
The Green Party of Canada has fielded candidates in all of the nation’s ridings in two federal elections.
As of May 2, 2011, Elizabeth May has been the only elected member to the Canadian Parliament, and the only one to sit in Parliament. Blair Wilson, the existing MP for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, joined the Green Party on August 30, 2008, and became the first Green MP. However, Wilson became a Green Member while Parliament was on summer recess, and the 2008 federal election was called on September 7, 2008, before the House reconvened, he never sat in the House as a Green MP.
Members of the party have achieved municipal offices, though most were elected as individuals and not on Green Party slates or labels in local non-partisan municipal elections. However, some people have been elected with a Green Party affiliation identified directly on the ballot. The first two were elected in the November 1999 municipal elections:
- Art Vanden Berg, elected as a City Councillor in Victoria, British Columbia, and
- Roslyn Cassells, elected to the Vancouver Parks Board on the same day.
- Sonya Chandler was elected municipally to Victoria City Council in Victoria BC in 2005, and re-elected with her co-candidate Philippe Lucas in 2010 – both under the Green Party banner (noted on the ballot)
- Adriane Carr was elected as a City Councillor in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2011
- Former Green Party President John Streicker was also elected to Whitehorse City Council in the Yukon Territory in 2011
Former Councillor Elio Di Iorio was narrowly defeated in his 2006 reelection bid in Richmond Hill, Ontario and former Councillor Rob Strang did not run for reelection inOrangeville, Ontario. The late Richard Thomas served as reeve of Armour Township, Ontario from 2003 until his death in 2006.
Exclusion from debates
In the 2004 election, the consortium of Canadian television networks did not invite Jim Harris to the televised leaders debates. The primary reason given for this was the party’s lack of representation in the House of Commons. There were unsuccessful legal actions by the party, a petition by its supporters to have it included, and statements by non-supporters such as Ed Broadbent who believed it should be included. The Green Party was also not included in the leaders’ debates for the 2006 election. The same reason was given.
On September 8, 2008, the consortium announced that they would once again exclude the Greens from the French and English debates for the 2008 election. The party had secured a seat in the House at this point (Blair Wilson), satisfying the necessary criteria used in all previous debates dating to at least 1993. While Wilson was not elected as a Green MP, nor had he even sat in the House as one, the situation paralleled that of the Bloc Québécois in 1993. All of the Bloc’s members had been elected as either Conservatives or Liberals or, in Gilles Duceppe‘s case, as an independent, before the group formally registered as a political party. The Bloc was nevertheless included in the 1993 debates.
However, the consortium said that three parties (later identified as the Conservatives, NDP, and one other party) had threatened to boycott the debate if the Green Party was included, and that it had decided it was better to proceed with the four larger parties “in the interest of Canadians”. Liberal leader Stéphane Dion supported May’s inclusion in the debates but said he would also pull out if Harper withdrew. Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe said that while his party was against the Greens’ inclusion, he would attend the debate whether or not they were included. The Green Party said it would sue to force the consortium to allow it to participate. This was not necessary, however, because of the networks’ reversal two days later. Many people protested and threatened to boycott Layton and Harper by staging protests, as well as phoning in and e-mailing the networks and the opposing parties, prompting both parties to recant their position.
In the 2011 Canadian federal election, the consortium of broadcasters playing host to the political debates (consisting of CBC, CTV, Global, Radio-Canada and TVA) announced it would only invite the leaders of the four recognized parties in the House of Commons, namely the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. Therefore the Green Party would be excluded. This resulted in a response from Elizabeth May.[clarification needed]
While the organizing and election planning was centralized, policy development was to be decentralized. In February 2004, the Green Party of Canada Living Platform was initiated by the Party’s former Head of Platform and Research, Michael Pilling. Using wiki technology, the goal of the Living Platform was to open the party’s participatory democracy to the public to help validate its policies against broad public input. It also made it easy for candidates to share their answers to public interest group questionnaires, find the best answers to policy questions, and for even rural and remote users, and Canadians abroad, to contribute to Party policy intelligence.
To this end, the Green Party used the Living Platform to develop election platforms for 2004 and 2005 were developed, thus making the Green Party of Canada the first political party to use a wiki for such a purpose.
In 1998, the party adopted a rule that forbids membership in any other federal political party. This was intended to prevent the party from being taken over.
In the past, some Green Party members have been comfortable openly working with members of other political parties. For instance, GPC members Peter Bevan-Baker and Mike Nickerson worked with Liberal MP Joe Jordan to develop the Canada Well-Being Measurement Act that called upon the government to implement Genuine Progress Indicators(GPI). While the act was introduced into the House of Commons as a private members bill, it never became law. A small number of Greens who advocate the more cooperative approach to legislation object to the new rule not to hold cross-memberships, a tool they occasionally employed.
May-Dion electoral co-operation
With Stéphane Dion winning the Liberal leadership on a largely environmentalist platform, and both the Liberals and Greens having a shared interest in both defeating the Conservatives, whose environmental policies have come under criticism from members of both parties, some political observers questioned if an alliance of some sort between the two parties might take place.
When Green Party leader Elizabeth May made the announcement that she would run in Central Nova, then held by Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay, local Liberals would “neither confirm nor deny” that they had had discussions with May over ways to unseat MacKay. On March 21, Dion said, “Madame May and I have conversations about how we may work together to be sure that this government will stop to do so much harm to our environment”. The speculation was confirmed when Dion and May agreed not to run candidates in each other’s ridings.
May earlier attempted to broker a deal with the NDP, by contacting Stephen Lewis to set up a meeting with party leader Jack Layton, who both rejected the notion outright. When the May-Dion deal was announced, it was criticized by the Conservatives and NDP.
Ultimately May failed in her bid to get elected in Central Nova, losing to McKay by 18,240 votes (46.6%) to 12,620 (32.24%) in the 2008 federal election. The New Democratic Party candidate, Louise Lorifice, placed third with 7,659 votes (19.56%).
Role in 2008-2009 parliamentary dispute
In December 2008, during the 2008–09 Canadian parliamentary dispute, May announced the Green Party would support, from outside parliament, the proposed coalition between the Liberals and the NDP (with the parliamentary support of the Bloc Québécois), which was then attempting to displace the incumbent Conservative government. Liberal leader Stéphane Dion indicated that the Green Party would be given input, but not a veto, over coalition policy and also left open the possibility of May being appointed to the Senate if Dion were to become prime minister. Ultimately, however, the coalition fell apart after Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in order to delay an impending non-confidence vote, advised the Governor General to prorogue parliament. Liberal leader Dion resigned and was replaced by Michael Ignatieff and, when parliament resumed in January 2009, the Liberal Party decided to support the Conservative government’s new proposed budget. While parliament was prorogued, Harper also announced his intention to fill all current and upcoming Senate vacancies with Conservative appointees.
Paul Estrin controversy
In August 2014, President elect Paul Estrin published a blog post on the Green Party’s website criticizing the actions of Hamas during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict. In his article, “Why Gaza Makes Me Sad”, Estrin talked about Hamas’ “desire to obliterate” the State of Israel and how the terrorist group uses children as human shields. Estrin’s blog post was subsequently deleted by the party, with many party seniors and decision makers, including Elizabeth May, distancing themselves from Estrin, with a large majority of the party calling on him to resign. On August 5, Estrin resigned, criticizing the party for betraying their commitment to values of inclusivity and open public discourse. Elizabeth May accepted the resignation of Estrin, stating that he was not forced to resign but did so of his own volition. May has said that the problem with his statements were the “confusion” they caused because they differed from party lines, but confirmed that Estrin was indeed a “true Green”.
Provincial and territorial parties
Nine provinces and one territory have an active Green party. Parties with an asterisk to the right of their name have at least one elected MLA.
There is currently no provincial Green Party per se in Newfoundland and Labrador. An association called the Terra Nova Greens (TNG) were created in 1996. It became the Green Party of Canada’s “Official Unit” for Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1998, the TNG ran a full slate of candidates for the national executive but none were elected. In 2000 TNG again ran a slate of candidates who were not elected. TNG also fielded independent candidates in three different provincial general elections. They remained the federal party’s “Official Unit” until 2007, but most supporters cut ties to the national party in 2006 (or earlier) over its opposition to the traditional Newfoundland seal hunting. TNG was never a registered provincial political party. It was ultimately disbanded under the auspices of a Green Party of Canada paid-employee who was hired to organize the province. As of 2014, there are ongoing efforts to establish a provincial Green Party in Newfoundland and Labrador.