Ah, party loyalty. What a great thing it is. And what a drag. I have passionate, thoughtful, hard-working, door-knocking friends who are MPs, MLAs and committed supporters of both the New Democrats and the Greens. On their personal values, my friends share — well, pretty much everything.
Sorry, Liberals. Most of my friends don’t lean that way. Like me, they find you too middle-of-the-road, with your right foot stuck perpetually in the camp of big business, which means your left foot can’t stretch very far. We don’t trust what your right foot will get up to next, having just bought a pipeline while swearing that your climate commitments are good and how important the Paris Agreement is.
So, go strategic or go heart? If it’s a toss-up between which party is best placed to prevent the climate trolls from taking power, I go with my heart, and my heart decided many years ago.
I feel a resonance of values with the Green party. I share its members’ instinctive care for Nature and the Earth, and their unwillingness to trade jobs in coal, oil, fracking, forest destruction or salmon farming for Nature. In consequence of that unwillingness, I share their commitment to the development of green jobs in a zero-waste green economy, and to support workers during the transition. Yes, I like to spell Nature with a capital ‘N’, just as we do for Earth, Mars and Pluto, though editors sometimes object.
The truth is that I feel at home among Green party people. When in NDP circles, while I have always been warmly welcomed, I have usually felt that the fundamental loyalty is to workers and class rather than planet and people, and in consequence, when there’s a choice between liquefied natural gas/fracking and Nature, Site C dam and Nature, or old-growth forest destruction and Nature, under the NDP Nature will lose, because at the end of the day the jobs are more important. I have found little understanding of a future based on community wealth, work-sharing and community-based entrepreneurship in pursuit of genuine progress and wellbeing, rather than traditional economic growth at the expense of Nature.
For sure, there are Nature-loving individuals within the NDP, but if an NDP federal government was to discuss the merits of a fossil fuel expansion project with well-paid union jobs versus a Green New Deal to support the workers with training, moving and transition, I fear that fossil fuel expansion would win, as it has in B.C. with LNG.
On almost everything else, the Greens and the NDP are on much the same page. If their policy-makers were to sit down with each other in a friendly way to compare the NDP’s Commitments and the Green party’s Platform they’d go tick, tick, tick, all the way down the list. Affordable housing, healthcare, education, student debt, fossil fuel subsidies, Indigenous Peoples, pharmacare, childcare, tackling poverty, proportional voting — the differences are few.
So why two separate parties? Whenever people have asked me this in the past, or asked why the NDP and the Greens can’t cooperate at election time, I’ve said “Good luck with that!” I know how deep the loyalties, commitments and mutual suspicions lie. They are not helped by the NDP’s dirty tactics on Vancouver Island in this election, where they are using paid ads to spread known distortions about Elizabeth May’s and the Green party’s stand on abortion, and attacking May’s openness to conversation with Andrew Scheer, just as she has had respectful and considerate conversations with MPs across the party spectrum in her years as an MP.
It’s who she is, and I love her for it. As the anthropologist and explorer Wade Davis said, “The values we aspire to in our finest moments, she embodies in every moment of her life. Elizabeth May is the conscience of Canada, and those who attempt to tarnish her name and record with deliberate distortions, and cheap political tricks, gimmicks and falsehoods, are surely doing a disservice to all Canadians.”
But seriously. We are facing the floods, fires, deluges and drought-filled realities of a climate and ecological catastrophe. Our house is on fire, as Greta Thunberg most persistently reminds us, and when your house is on fire you don’t plan to call the climate fire brigade in 10 or 20 years’ time because your friends and party funders have jobs or investments tied up in oil and LNG.
The Greens have the strongest climate platform; they have paid far more attention to their climate response than the NDP. Even Marc Lee at the NDP-supporting Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives finds strength in the Greens’ climate position. The NDP and the Liberals only seemed to realize that the climate emergency mattered when Paul Manly won so convincingly in my home riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, becoming Canada’s second Green party MP.
So I’m voting Green, risking the possibility that the Greens and the NDP will split the vote and see the Conservative get elected. The risk would be the same if I voted NDP. I hate this process. The NDP has great candidates too. But the climate and ecological catastrophes are on us. I have analyzed 10 Green New Deals, including policies being proposed by Canada’s Green party and the New Democrats. Taken together, they are very encouraging. We know what’s needed, and it’s a lot more than carbon taxes. They are just one part of a 50-part puzzle.
So here’s what we’ve gotta do. With proportional voting off the table due to the Liberals’ wretchedly broken promise, it’s time to talk. A randomly chosen Citizens’ Assembly of Green and NDP supporters (not the party brass) should meet together on neutral ground, perhaps on an island in the Ottawa River. They will hopefully realize how much they share, how much they agree on, and how when it comes down to it most of their members’ hearts are in the same place. And hopefully, they will recommend that the two parties merge, becoming the Green New Democrats.
In the meantime, this election, I am listening to my heart and my values. I am voting Green.
Read more: Election 2019