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BC Election 2019 Category
Election 2019

Please Advise! What Does It Mean, Being Green?

Besides the fact that ‘We are all Earthlings,’ of course? Dr. Steve weighs the current progressive options.

Steve Burgess 13 Sep 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

The Green Party is trending up in the polls. The NDP is slipping down. Do you think the coming federal election will see Elizabeth May’s Greens take over the role of Canada’s foremost progressive party?


Orange and Green

Dear OG,

There’s trouble on the left, all right. Wednesday night in Victoria, the media bus scraped under the wing of the Liberal campaign plane, putting it out of commission. Which wing was damaged? You guessed it. Mechanics examined the left wing. Diagnosis: a third-degree metaphor. The results could well be tedious.

But most of the left-wing carnage has been going on elsewhere. The Greens and the NDP appear to be in a mano-a-mano fight. The usual hostility of such a contest has been exacerbated by the bizarre New Brunswick story about the NDP defections that weren’t. It was one of those mutually ugly spats that makes Mom turn the car around and cancel the trip to Playland altogether.

The Greens have had other issues. They have started the campaign like the Not Ready for Prime-Time Players. First came May’s remark that she wouldn’t stop Green MPs from voting to outlaw abortions because the party doesn’t believe in whipped votes, followed by a clarification that it was hypothetical because no such candidate would ever survive candidate screening. Presumably the same holds true for puppy-strangling and bank fraud — can’t be helped but we do make a sincere attempt to screen out that sort of person.

More recently came Quebec Green candidate Pierre Nantel’s statement that keeping Canada together was not a Green priority. That may not sit well with a Canadian electorate, but it does tie in neatly with May’s declaration that “First and foremost, we are Earthlings.” It seems to be a new Spielberg strategy, but you shudder to think what will happen if alien visitors say “Take me to your leader.” Hopefully Donald Trump will be golfing and Boris Johnson getting his hair done.

If the Greens have had a rough start, Jagmeet Singh has responded, “Hold my beer.” Already short of national candidates, his NDP lost two this week, one in the wake of assault allegations, the other in light of some sketchy social media posts. The party is so desperate for people Thomas Mulcair has taken to answering calls with “New phone, who dis?” New Democratic poll numbers are putting them within shouting distance of both Maxime Berniers.

At the Green campaign kick-off May said, “This is the most important election in Canadian history,” thereby covering a key Bingo square — it’s not officially an election until someone mouths that line. But for the Greens themselves it’s certainly true. This looks like a watershed election for May’s party. A changing of the guard seems at least possible with the Greens overtaking the New Democrats, an orange vs. green battle to match any on the streets of Belfast.

They have one major advantage. “Green Party” is the best pure brand name in politics right now. “Liberal” and “Conservative” can mean a lot of things (BC Liberals are right-wingers, and Conservative candidates currently occupy an alarmingly wide political spectrum). The New Democratic Party name has a certain philosophy attached to it, but that brand may not be powerful enough to overcome some current attitudes to its leader and policies.

But Green? Now there’s a clear brand. Do you care about the environment? Great! We’re the Green party. It’s like being the Happiness Party, or the Tom Hanks Party. Who could dislike that? Green means automatic credibility and authority on environmental issues, just like being an evangelical Christian makes you the go-to source for Jesus-mongering.

But of course, reasonable people understand that evangelical Christians frequently don’t know jack shit about Jesus. And being Green doesn’t necessarily mean anything either. It’s just a name. An effective one, but still.

It bears repeating that Adriane Carr’s BC Greens opposed the building of what would eventually become the Canada Line to YVR Airport. How does a Green politician oppose a massive investment in transit that will take hundreds of thousands of car trips off the road? Easy. Apparently the party had concerns about the public/private funding model. It seems even a Green can fail to see the forest for the trees.

That’s why the recent fumbles over abortion rights and separatism are so potentially damaging. People are going to be looking harder at the party and its essential nature. Are the Greens actually a progressive party on issues not related to the environment?

Clever Dr. Steve answers that question with another question: will it matter? Or will that brand name be enough?

Once voters have an idea in their heads of who you are, that established image can be very hard to shake. Witness the American Republican Party. For decades it has been well-established that the GOP is the party of balanced budgets and financial prudence. For just as many decades, Republican administrations have racked up historic, drunken-sailor deficits via military spending and tax cuts for their wealthy clientele. Nonetheless — their bogus image as wise bankers survives even now.

The Greens maintain the advantage of that wonderful brand name. And most voters don’t pay all that much attention to passing scandals and news stories anyway. Dr. Steve recommends that Jagmeet Singh get his act together pronto, or election night could see him turning a little bit green himself.  [Tyee]

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