Green Party of Canada

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The Green Party of Canada is a federal political party in Canada. The Greens are currently the largest federal party not represented in Parliament. The party has registered between 1% and 9% in various public opinion polls since 2000. In the 2006 federal election the party received 4.5% of the total vote but did not win any seats. The party has lobbied the consortium of Canadian television networks to be included in the televised leaders debate without success.

Established in 1980, the current party leader Jim Harris announced on April 24, 2006 that he will not stand for re-election, and a new leader will be chosen at the party's national convention in Ottawa in August, 2006.<ref>"Jim Harris won't lead Greens into next vote", CTV.ca website, Apr. 24 2006</ref>

Contents

Current status

In the 2006 Canadian general election, the Green Party received about 4.5% of the popular vote, only slightly more than in 2004, despite having received public funding (over $CDN 1 million per year) for the first time and receiving more media coverage. In the 2004 federal election, the Green Party fielded candidates in all 308 of the nation's ridings and received 4.3% of the popular vote. In the 2000 Canadian general election, it fielded candidates in 111 of 301 ridings (districts or constituencies). Under Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, no Green Party candidate has yet been elected to the federal or provincial level of government in Canada.

The current leader of the Green Party of Canada (GPC) is Jim Harris. He was first 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.)

In the fall of 2005, Sonya Chandler was elected to the Victoria, BC council as a Green. A number of other elected municipal officials are Green Party members, although they were elected as individuals and not on Green Party slates or labels in local (at least officially) non-partisan municipal elections . They include Councilor Jane Sterk who topped the polls in Esquimalt BC, Councillor Elio Di Iorio in Richmond Hill, Ontario; Councillor Rob Strang in Orangeville, Ontario; and the late Richard Thomas, reeve of Armour Township, Ontario.

In the 2004 election, the consortium of Canadian television networks did not invite Jim Harris to the televised leaders debates. This sparked unsuccessful legal actions by the Green Party, a petition by its supporters to have it included, and statements by non-supporters who believed it should be included.

The party secured enough votes in the 2004 election to qualify for the new federal funding, available to parties that received over 2% of the vote. The Green Party received $1.75 per vote it won in the 2004 election for each year leading up to the 2006 election. There was some internal controversy over the distribution and allocation of these funds between central administration and local EDA's and a membership vote was held to resolve the issue. A group of former party activists (two of whom were on the party's federal council), as well as some former NDP members, are working to create a new party, "the Peace and Ecology Party", which they say will have no leader, and adopt a more activist stance, essentially replicating the way the party was organized from 1988-96.

The Green Party was also not included in the leaders' debates for the 2006 election.<ref>[1]</ref>

History

Main article: History of the Green Party of Canada

Internet innovation

The Green Party was the first Canadian political party on the Internet, with almost full party contacts across Canada for provincial and federal through e-mail and FidoNet back in the late 1980s.

While the organizing and election planning was centralized, policy development was 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, 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. Its innovative Rank a Plank system let net users "rank planks" in the 2004 platform, and this gathered some 60,000 online votes (on which planks were key) by election day.

Policy direction

The direction of the 2004 platform, while retaining similar ecological themes as before, was perceived as shifting from a centre-left to a centrist stance or even centre-right position. An emphasis on a green tax shift 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 would be fully offset by changes in tax rates and categories as well as an 'eco-tax" refund for those who pay no tax. These adjustments are currently published 2006 policy and part of the Green Tax Shift concept.

As early as 2000, the party had published platform comparisons indicating the reasons why supporters of any of the five other Canadian federal political parties should consider voting Green. The Greens have always had right-wing, 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 of 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 be measured by the degree to which other parties adopt Green Party policies. It is however difficult to discern the degree to which this process has contributed to phenomena like the Liberal Party of Canada adopting several key items of the Green program, such as accelerated Capital Cost Allowance deductions restricted to sustainable technology only, and the adoption of the ecological and social indicators and green procurement rules Greens have long advocated. The relative degree of influence in developing these policies of Greens, non-partisan environmental groups and the party's own Green wing is difficult to discern.

Still, the party was somewhat embarrassed in 2004 to find Greenpeace and the Sierra Club of Canada ranking its environmental platform slightly below that of the NDP (a fact the NDP made much of in some closely-contested ridings in an attempt to encourage Greens and other environmentalists to vote for them strategically). The 2005/06 Green Party platform once again received the highest environmental marks of any federal party.

Policies

The GPC had originally adopted a form of the Ten Key Values originally authored by the United States Green Party.

The August 2002 Convention adopted the Six Principles of the Charter of the Global Greens, as stated by the Global Greens Conference held in Canberra, Australia in 2001. These principles are the only ones included in the GPC constitution.

Membership exclusions

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. This change to the constitution was discussed at a duly constituted GPC General Meeting and was passed by a very large majority. This rule does not apply to staffers or advisors.

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 which calls upon the government to implement Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI). This motion passed in the 37th Canadian Parliament.

A small number of Greens who advocate this approach object to the new rule not to hold cross-memberships, a tool they sometimes employed.

Current policy debates

The policy platform for the 2006 federal election can be found on the internet on the platform website.

Election results

2006 National Election

  • Percentage nationally: 4.5%
  • Number of votes: 665,940
  • Best province: Alberta, 6.6%
  • Best riding (percentage): Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound, 12.9%
  • Best riding (number of votes): Ottawa Centre, 6,766 votes
  • Best riding (ranking): Wild Rose, 2nd behind Conservative
  • Notable mentions, 3rd place finish ahead of the NDP: Calgary West & Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound

Best riding percentage-wise in:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Random--Burin--St. George's, 1.4%
  • Prince Edward Island: Egmont, 5.2%
  • Nova Scotia: Halifax, 5.2%
  • New Brunswick: Madawaska--Restigouche, 3.3%
  • Quebec: Westmount--Ville-Marie, 8.3%
  • Ontario: Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound, 12.9%
  • Manitoba: Winnipeg Centre, 7.0%
  • Saskatchewan: Souris--Moose Mountain, 5.2%
  • Alberta: Calgary Centre-North, 11.8%
  • British Columbia: British Columbia Southern Interior, 11.3%
  • Territories: Nunavut, 5.9%
Election Candidates nominated Seats won Total votes % of popular vote % in ridings contested
1984 60 0 26 921 0.21% 0.90%
1988 68 0 47 228 0.36% 1.44%
1993 79 0 33 049 0.24% 0.86%
1997 79 0 55 583 0.43% 1.54%
2000 111 0 104 502 0.81% 2.11%
2004 308 0 582 247 4.31% 4.31%
2006 308 0 665 940 4.49% 4.49%

Although the party did not win a seat in the 2004 election, 4.31% of the vote was a significant improvement. Starting in 2004, Canadian political parties who receive 2% of the vote in the last election are eligible for a subsidy ($1.75 per vote in 2004) from the federal government. The 2004 election results earned the Greens around $1 million CAD per year.

Based on the 2006 vote, the Greens will receive $1.2 million CAD in federal funding each year until the next federal election.

Leadership election

There will be an automatic leadership vote at the party's August 2006 convention. On April 24, 2006, Jim Harris announced he will not be standing for re-election as party leader<ref>[2]</ref>.

At this time, two candidates have officially declared their intention to run for the party leadership. On March 30, 2006, David Chernushenko, who ran in both the 2004 and 2006 elections in Ottawa Centre and received the highest vote count of any Green Party candidate in the 2006 election with 10% of the vote, declared his candidacy. On May 9, 2006, Elizabeth May, who only weeks earlier had resigned from her position as Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada after leading the organization for 13 years, became the second person to officially enter the race.

Broadcaster David Suzuki, who was rumoured as a possible candidate, has indicated that he is not interested in the job. Suzuki had been encouraging May to enter the leadership contest. <ref>[3]</ref>

Leaders

Affiliations

The GPC is a member of the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas and recognized by the Global Greens as representing Canadian Greens federally.

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