New Green Party leader


in Canada, Daily updates, Politics, The environment

Canada’s Green Party elected a new leader today: Elizabeth May, who is described by The Globe and Mail as a “[l]ong-time activist.” The Greens have been around since 1983, usually polling about 5% of the national vote, but they have never had a seat in Parliament.

The electoral situation facing the Greens is not unlike many of the environmental problems about which they are concerned. It is one of the broad distribution of a phenomenon that would have political relevance if concentrated, but fails to do so when diffuse. Because the Greens do not have enough support to achieve a plurality of votes in a federal riding, they will probably never win seats in the House of Commons – not even enough to be a viable coalition partner for a minority government.

Barring a change in the electoral system – which I would welcome, largely because of how it would benefit parties like the Greens – the best hope the party has is to become an especially effective critic of government. If they can assemble the winning combination of good policies, strong supporting evidence and arguments for them, and media attention, they have a chance of swaying the policy development of whoever is in power. The fact that this leadership election is the first I have heard about the Greens in months suggests that the last of those, at least, is somewhat lacking at the moment.

In a governmental system like Canada’s, where enormous power is vested in the Prime Minister, it seems especially important to have innovative and effective criticism generated by other parties in Parliament. They, along with the media, provide one of two essential planks of oversight, along with the Supreme Court. I hope that the Greens, under Ms. May, prove capable at generating accomplishments from such a position.

PS. Almost by chance, I had a most interesting dinner with Edwina today. I hadn’t known that she spent nine months in Afghanistan a few years ago. It’s astonishing to learn what kind of life experiences your fellow students here have had.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. August 27, 2006 at 11:10 pm

Elizabeth May seems pretty stridently anti-American.

R.K. August 27, 2006 at 11:11 pm

May said it’s clear now NAFTA has become a “one-way ratchet down on labour rights and the environment” for Canada.

Similarly, she says Canadians have to start speaking up more against the policies of George W. Bush’s administration, with which Harper has been trying to cultivate more friendly ties.

“The reality is that policies of the U.S. president imperil us here,” May said…

“If Mr. Harper gets it and actually puts forward a workable plan… I will celebrate it. I’m afraid to say I do not expect it. I expect Harper’s made-in-Canada plan to be made in Houston,” May said.

Anonymous August 28, 2006 at 2:47 pm

Of course, there are many who say that – since the Greens are electorally hopeless – the best approach is to vote for the NDP instead.

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