Should the Green Party have a full platform?

Apparently, the Green Party has a position on income splitting. If this seems a bit random and disconnected from the environment, it is also reflective of a controversial question about what the party ought to be.

Given our first-past-the-post electoral system, the Green Party is never likely to elect many MPs. At the same time, the party has a reasonably large number of supporters – quite possibly more supporters across Canada than the Bloc Quebecois. I would argue that the main message these voters are sending is that Canada needs to take better care of the environment, and prioritize the development of a sustainable society more than we do now. I don’t think they are really endorsing their personal Green candidates, for the most part, or even that they are endorsing the overall Green platform.

Since they will never form a government (barring major constitutional reform, or a huge realignment of voter preferences), it seems there is a strong case to be made for the Greens sticking to their core message and not campaigning on unrelated issues (except as individual candidates, if they wish). It seems like taking a stance on environmentally unrelated things could lead to voters who disagree on those peripheral issues rejecting the party. If the Green Party took a strong stance on an issue like whether Canada should (or should not) have intervened in Libya, the risk is that they would be broadening their message somewhat pointlessly and alienating potential supporters. The Green Party isn’t about income splitting, or intellectual property rights, or criminal justice policy. There may be areas in which policies in this area have environmental effects – and it makes sense for the Greens to comment on them in those senses – but I don’t see the sense in them unnecessarily adopting political positions outside their area of core competency.

What do others think? Would the Greens be a more effective force for driving improved environmental policies if they focus on that area exclusively, or does seeking to be a party with a comprehensive platform actually make more sense for them given the nature of our electoral system and what they want to achieve?

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

23 thoughts on “Should the Green Party have a full platform?”

  1. Whether or not you believe they will ever be able to form government, or be part of a coalition government, having a complete platform is important for anyone considering voting for a Green candidate in a riding where it is not just a protest vote – where the Green candidate actually stands a chance of winning. Our MPs don’t only represent us by taking a set of campaign values into a government; they represent us by speaking for us, as residents of a local area, to parliament. And the values of that area as an area can only be represented (imperfectly, of course), if the candidate runs on a full platform.

  2. Only one Green candidate has the slightest chance of winning a seat, and she probably will not, even with help from the Liberal Party.

  3. Having a comprehensive platform is important. I know I wouldn’t vote for a candidate of party who didn’t have an opinion on a certain major topic. It all depends if they want to be seen as a “national” party vs a loose coalition of like minded but independent candidates. Party unit or cohesion.

    That said electoral reform is sorely needed though it seems impossible as people are resistant and fearful of change, judging by the Ontario MMP result last provincial election.

  4. Even if one only votes for the greens in hopes that in the future they are able to elect representatives in an MMP or STV system, it’s still important for them to have a comprehensive platform. Otherwise they can only be seen as a “protest” vote.

    Although, personally, I’m not voting for the Greens. I live in a riding where votes matter – so I will vote either Liberal or NDP (the two candidates with a chance of winning) depending on what I decide during the campaign.

  5. I believe there is no “should” on this issue. It is for the Green Party to decide what it will do, and for voters to decide if what they have done warrants casting a vote for the Green Party.

    The Green Party has been effective in focussing their energies on environmental issues. Therefore a vote for the Green Party is a vote for the importance of that issues. The voter voting for a Green Party candidate (with the exception of Elizabeth May’s riding probably), is under no illusion that the Green Party candidate will win the seat.

    As the Green Party gains seats then it will become more important for me that the Green Party have a comprehensive platform. At this time I do not require it.

  6. Greens promise deficit reduction and carbon tax in platform
    By Linda Nguyen, Postmedia News April 7, 2011

    TORONTO — Elizabeth May unveiled a Green party platform Thursday full of promises to create more jobs by addressing climate change, reducing the national deficit quicker than other parties and reforming the Canadian electoral system.

    “I think we need more vision, more co-operation and a willingness to find solutions in this country,” the Green leader said during a news conference at the Centre for Social Innovation in downtown Toronto. “That is what’s Canadian.”

    May, who until now has been campaigning exclusively in her Vancouver Island riding, said the platform has three main themes: supporting a smart economy, strong communities and true democracy. To accomplish this, the party promises to allow income-splitting for all families, including common-law and same-sex couples and single mothers with adult children.

    This program, which will become effective immediately, will also not get in the way of reducing the national deficit, she said.

  7. THE Greens are the “against party”. They are against a flashy rail project in Stuttgart, against nuclear power and, say their critics, against progress and growth. Yet on March 27th the party’s defiance paid off in stunning fashion. German angst over the nuclear disaster in Japan crested just as two south-western states held elections. In Rhineland-Palatinate the Green vote tripled, vaulting the party into government as junior partner of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which had previously ruled alone. In Baden-Württemberg 58 years of government by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) came to an end. The Greens will now take control of a state government for the first time.

    This almost-unthinkable result is a big blow to Angela Merkel, the chancellor and CDU leader, who has lost the party’s crown jewel. Her pre-election decision to shut down seven nuclear-power plants looked panicky rather than principled, and may have made matters worse for the CDU. The elections were an even bigger setback for her coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP). But the SPD also has little to cheer about: its share of the vote was the lowest in half a century in Rhineland-Palatinate and the lowest ever in Baden-Württemberg, where it will become the junior coalition partner. Only the Greens have reason to celebrate.

    The party’s offices in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg’s capital, look readier for protests and demonstrations than for the assumption of government responsibility. Yellow drums done up to look like nuclear-waste containers are stacked by the door. Bamboo poles for hoisting banners rest against them. Yet the ready-to-rally impression is somewhat misleading. Baden-Württemberg’s Greens are on the party’s “extreme realist” wing, says Dieter Fuchs of the University of Stuttgart. The incoming premier, Winfried Kretschmann, belongs to the Central Committee of German Catholics and to a traditional shooting club. His down-to-earth Swabian manner matches the state’s spirit better than did the conservative pugnacity of Stefan Mappus, the premier he defeated. The export-oriented Mittelstand has nothing to fear, he suggests. “You can be in the black with green ideas,” he said in an interview shortly before the election.

  8. The Greens? Care about the environment?
    Pining for electoral reform—the real Green cause—as the planet burns is pure political narcissism

    by Andrew Potter on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 7:00

    Getting banned from the leaders’ debates was probably the best thing that could have happened to Green party Leader Elizabeth May. It gave her serious national media attention for the first time since the writ was dropped and earned her the support and sympathy of pundits across the political spectrum. It also allowed May to strike her favourite pose as the innocent victim of our first-past-the-post electoral system—which, face it, is the issue May and her party care most about, certainly more than they care about the environment.

    There are basically two ways you can influence the way policy gets made in this country. The first, and most direct, is by working within a large political party to gain political power so you can make policy yourself. The second is by lobbying politicians to implement the policies you want. Since it was formed in 1983, the Green party has been an ineffective hybrid—a single-issue lobby group that also happened to run candidates in federal elections, finding no great success by either measure.

    Elizabeth May’s victory in the 2006 leadership race was supposed to change all of that. Electing the popular and charismatic May was the party’s attempt at becoming a serious political party, with the overarching goal of an environmentally sustainable economy served by a broad electoral platform promoting smart jobs, green energy and fair trade.

  9. Among the most important elements of yesterday’s election was following Elizabeth May’s election as the first Green MP in Canada. I look forward to following what she does in the House. I realize that she will be only one member. However , I have a feeling she will stand out.

    I am looking forward to seeing her succeed in brining more civility to the House especially during Question Period. Question Period has degenerated so much, especially when you see it live.

  10. Green Party unveils platform pledging infrastructure cash, housing – and no deficit

    The Green Party has become the first of Canada’s federal parties to announce its election platform, vowing to invest in the environment, health care and seniors’ support.

    Leader Elizabeth May announced the plan in Vancouver, saying the party’s billions of dollars in promises won’t run a deficit.

    The party would put a price on carbon while protecting Canada’s coastlines from pipelines and tankers.

    If elected, the Greens say they would commit $6.4-billion to municipal infrastructure and reverse cuts to Veterans Affairs, Canada Post and the CBC.

  11. Official support for Israel boycott policy causes some Greens to fear for party’s future

    OTTAWA — Despite reassurances from its leader and president, the Green Party’s adoption of controversial resolutions at a biennial convention in Ottawa this weekend is causing some to question its political future.

    Leader Elizabeth May said she and some others in the Green shadow cabinet felt “pretty devastated” after members voted in favour of adding support for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel to the party platform Sunday.

    Still, after what was seen as a largely successful convention she still projected resilience, saying, “we don’t make decisions as a party based on what we think is going to make it more popular.”

  12. I was interested to note that Jill Stein – the Green presidential candidate – was recently arrested and charged for spray painting a bulldozer in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

    This seems to raise some questions about the nexus between environmental activism and party politics. On one hand, Stein’s actions are probably seen as acceptable or praiseworthy by her party members and likely Green voters. At the same time, they may be counterproductive from the perspective of doing as well as possible in the election.

  13. Elizabeth May fires three of her shadow cabinet after they publicly slammed B.C. Green leader

    OTTAWA — Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May fired three members of her shadow cabinet today following their harsh criticism of B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver.

    The three were among 24 party members, including Green foreign affairs critic and 2015 Vancouver Centre candidate Lisa Barrett, who slammed Weaver in a published statement on the Tyee online newspaper.

    They accused him of being “misguided” in his criticism of the federal party after members at a summer convention adopted a motion advocating a boycott of Israel over its human rights record.

  14. “No one likes the Indian Act, but asking First Nations governments to prepare policy and bureaucracy to do the job of every single part of it in less than 10 years is asking for the impossible. Such an imposition would, in an instant, require 600-plus bands with populations ranging from a few dozen to a few thousand to create inheritance policy, land codes, taxation regimes, membership codes, human rights regulation, conflict resolution policies, election codes, public housing authorities, education authorities, child welfare authorities, fish and game regulation, agricultural regulation, and on and on and on.”

    Elizabeth May’s Greens Need to Fix Their Indigenous ‘Vision’ | The Tyee

  15. Mr Eickhout thinks Mr Macron’s mistake was to introduce a carbon tax without using the revenues to aid those on the whom it falls hardest. To tackle such problems, Green parties have broadened their platforms far beyond environmental issues. In Germany Mr Habeck has proposed a social-security guarantee, similar to a basic income, to convince working-class voters that the party is not only for tree-huggers. In the Netherlands Mr Klaver has made tax avoidance by multinational corporations one of his signature issues.

    But there is tough competition on many of these issues. Working-class voters may be more attracted to economic hard-left groups such as Unsubmissive France, or to populist-right parties. Tax-justice and rule-of-law enthusiasts may gravitate to liberal parties like the Netherlands’ d66.

    Indeed, no Green party has consistently stayed above 20% support in polls. That makes their ambition to lead Europe’s left seem like a long shot. But Mark Blyth, a professor of European politics at Brown University, argues that with social-democratic parties collapsing, European leftists have little choice. “The left is weak or dead, unless they jump on the youth and enthusiasm that the Greens attract,” he says.

  16. From protest to power
    The stars have aligned for Germany’s Greens
    The next election may put them in government

    Above all, the Greens’ policies have broadened. “We are working hard not to be perceived as a single-issue party,” says Mr Habeck. Take public investment, where the Green plan is a refreshing contrast to the pro-austerity dogma of the cdu and others. The party wants to make up for years of underinvestment by borrowing €35bn ($39bn) per year to upgrade transport, digital, energy and other infrastructure, loosening the constitutional “debt brake”, which limits deficits, to exploit more generous eu rules. (That would be hard but possible, insists Mr Habeck.) A second strand is a social policy targeted at disaffected spd voters. The Greens want a higher minimum wage, rent caps and to make Germany’s welfare system more generous again by softening earlier reforms.

    Foreign policy is trickier. Most Greens shed their instinctive pacifism long ago. They take a tough line on China (the party opposes inviting Huawei to build Germany’s 5g networks) and Russia (it is against the Kremlin-backed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline). Yet such impulses do not make up a broader strategy. And since 1999, when the party split over whether to back intervention in Kosovo, it has grown only more sceptical of military adventures abroad. The party resists what Mr Habeck calls the “symbolic” nato target of devoting 2% of gdp to defence, instead vaguely urging a focus on capabilities and co-operation with European allies. Yet France, Germany’s most important partner, wants it to step up its military help in places such as the Sahel. “European soldiers, including Germans, must be prepared to deploy under certain circumstances,” says Mr Habeck, while acknowledging that the issue is “extremely challenging” for his party.

    Difficult compromises are being forged on climate, the party’s signature issue, too. Despite having battled to shake off their image as humourless eco-moralists tossing off prohibitions against motorists and carnivores, the Greens are again talking about bans, which Mr Habeck has called “the condition for freedom”. The Greens want to phase out coal power and the combustion engine (in new cars) by 2030. They also want cheaper trains, dearer flights, eu tariffs on climate-unfriendly imports and a higher price on carbon emissions—plus compensation for those affected by it. Yet overall the party seeks to harness the power of markets and innovation, not to scare voters with radical proposals implying privation. The party assiduously courts business; Mr Kretschmann, its most successful politician, hugs closely the car firms that employ hundreds of thousands in his state. Still, there are limits. The Greens will not shake off their founding opposition to zero-carbon nuclear energy.

  17. Germany’s Green party once made its name campaigning against high military spending, nuclear power and dirty fossil fuels.

    Since taking office as part of Olaf Scholz’s three-party “traffic light” coalition government last December, however, Die Grünen have become the Bundestag’s most vocal advocates of supporting the Ukrainian resistance with heavy weapons. They have extended the running time of three nuclear power stations due to shut down at the end of the year, reactivated mothballed coal plants and built the country’s first terminals for importing fossil fuel in liquefied form.

    More surprisingly still, voters seem to like it.

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