Green Party of Canada
The Green Party of Canada (French: Parti vert du Canada) is a federal political party in Canada that was founded in 1983. Since its founding, the party has supported policies strengthening participatory democracy, nonviolence, social justice, sustainability, respect for diversity and ecological wisdom. Since November 4, 2019, the party has been lead on an interim basis by Jo-Ann Roberts; prior to that, the party was led by Elizabeth May from 2006 to 2019.
|Leader||Jo-Ann Roberts (interim)|
|Parliamentary Leader||Elizabeth May|
|Headquarters||116 Albert Street|
|Youth wing||Young Greens of Canada|
|Continental affiliation||Federation of the Green Parties of the Americas|
|International affiliation||Global Greens|
|Seats in the Senate|
0 / 105
|Seats in the House of Commons|
3 / 338
The Green Party has gradually increased its support over the decades and is currently the fifth party in the House of Commons. The party elected its first Member of Parliament (MP), then-leader Elizabeth May, in the 2011 election. In the 2019 election, the party expanded its caucus to three.
About two months before the 1980 federal election, eleven candidates, mostly from ridings in the Atlantic provinces, issued a joint press release declaring that they were running on a common platform. It called for a transition to a non-nuclear, conserver society. Although they ran as independents, they unofficially used the name "Small Party" as part of their declaration of unity - a reference to the "small is beautiful" philosophy of E. F. Schumacher. This was the most substantial early attempt to answer the call for an ecologically oriented Canadian political party. A key organizer (and one of the candidates) was Elizabeth May, who was the leader of the Greens from 2006 to 2019.
The Green Party of Canada was founded at a conference held at Carleton University in Ottawa in 1983. Under its first leader, Trevor Hancock, the party ran 60 candidates in the 1984 Canadian federal election.
The Quebec wing hosted the 1990 Canadian Greens conference in Montreal. But soon after that, Canada's constitutional problems interfered, and many Quebec candidates abandoned the Greens in favour of a Quebec sovereigntist party, the Bloc Québécois. There were only six Green candidates from Quebec in the 1993 election. In the spring of 1996, although the hopes of electing a representative to the BC legislature proved premature, Andy Shadrack in the interior of the province received over 11% of the vote. Overall, the party's proportion of the popular vote surged to a new high. Shadrack was also the most popular Green candidate in the 1997 federal election, scoring over 6% of the popular vote in West Kootenay-Okanagan.
Joan Russow years
British Columbia's Joan Russow became leader of the Green Party of Canada on 13 April 1997. Russow won 52% of the ballots cast in the 1997 leadership race, surpassing Ontario's Jim Harris (39%) and Rachelle Small (8%). Immediately upon attaining the leadership, Russow was plunged into a federal general election. Russow's campaign in 1997 set a number of important precedents. 1997 federal election was the first campaign in which the Greens conducted a national leader's tour, presented a national platform and a bilingual campaign. Previous campaigns, due in part to the party's few resources and, in part, to the party's constitutional straitjacket, had been characterized by policy and spokespeople operating, at best, province-by-province and, at worst, riding-by-riding. In her own riding of Victoria, Russow received just shy of 3000 votes and 6% of the popular vote.
Since its inception, the party has been developing as an organization, expanding its membership and improving its showing at the polls. In the 2000 federal election, the party fielded 111 candidates, up from 78 in 1997.
Candidates were not run in Newfoundland and Labrador, as a result of ongoing divisions over Joan Russow's refusal to endorse the Green candidate in an earlier St. John's West by-election. (The candidate in question supported the seal hunt and mining development, as most locals did.) This caused much uncertainty and friction between Newfoundland's Terra Nova Green Party Association and the Green Party leader as the party gradually adapted to the realities of functioning as a true national party rather than a disorganized federation of local activists.
The conflicts left Russow isolated and alienated from most members of the party. Volunteer efforts were substantially absorbed in provincial campaigns between 2001 and 2003, and the federal party became dormant between elections, as was typical in the past. Chris Bradshaw served the party as interim leader from 2001 to February 2003. During his term, the party ended its sharing of office and staff with the Ontario party, establishing its own office in the national capital of Ottawa.
Russow left the party in 2001 and has now criticized the Green party for not following their policies.
Breakthrough under Jim Harris
In February 2003, Jim Harris, in his second bid for the leadership, defeated John Grogan of Valemount, British Columbia, and Jason Crummey. Crummey was originally from Newfoundland and involved with Newfoundland and Labrador Terra Nova Greens.
During the 2004 federal election the Green Party of Canada became the fourth federal political party ever to run candidates in all the ridings. When the ballots were counted, the Green Party secured 4.3 percent of the popular vote, thereby surpassing the 2 percent threshold required for party financing under new Elections Canada rules.
Momentum continued to build around the Green Party of Canada and in the 2006 federal election the Green Party again ran 308 candidates and increased its share of the popular vote to 4.5 percent, once again securing federal financing as a result.
The party's 2006 election campaign was disrupted by allegations made by Matthew Pollesell, the party's former assistant national organizer, that Harris had not filed a proper accounting of money spent during his 2004 leadership campaign, as required by law. Pollesell issued a request that Elections Canada investigate. Pollesell and another former party member, Gretchen Schwarz, were subsequently warned by the party's legal counsel to retract allegations they had made or face a possible legal action. Dana Miller, who served in the party's shadow cabinet with responsibility for human-rights issues, made public her earlier complaints that the party has violated election law and its own constitution and has also asked for an Elections Canada investigation. Miller had been expelled from the party after filing a complaint within the party in April.
Elizabeth May years
A leadership vote was held at the party's August 2006 convention. On 24 April 2006, Jim Harris announced his intention not to stand for re-election as party leader. Three candidates officially entered the leadership race: David Chernushenko, Elizabeth May, and Jim Fannon. May won the leadership with 65% of the vote on the first ballot.
On 22 October 2006, Elizabeth May announced she would run in the federal by-election to be held on 27 November 2006, in London North Centre, Ontario. She finished second behind the Liberal candidate but garnered 26% of the popular vote.
On 30 August 2008, Vancouver area MP Blair Wilson became the first-ever Green Member of Parliament, after sitting for nearly a year of the 39th Canadian Parliament as an Independent. He had been a Liberal MP, but stepped down voluntarily from the caucus earlier in the parliament after anonymous allegations of campaign finance irregularities, most of which he was later cleared after a 9-month investigation by Elections Canada. Wilson had joined the Green Party during Parliament's summer recess and never sat in the House of Commons as a Green MP.
After initial opposition from three of the four major political parties, May was invited to the leaders' debates. In the 2008 federal election, the party increased its share of the popular vote by 2.33% (to 6.80%), being the only federally funded party to increase its total vote tally over 2006, attracting nearly 280,000 new votes. However, the party failed to elect a candidate. Some prominent Green Party members blamed the public discussion of strategic voting and the media's misrepresentation of May's comments during the election campaign for the failure of some promising candidates to reach Election Canada's 10% reimbursement threshold, as well as reducing the party's federal funding based on popular vote.
On 11 August 2010, 74% percent of Green party members voted to hold a leadership review after the next election, instead of in August 2010, which was when May's four-year term as leader was set to end.
On 2 May 2011, Green Party leader Elizabeth May became the first elected Green Party MP to sit in the House of Commons. She won the riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands in coastal British Columbia. In winning her seat, May also became one of the few Greens worldwide to be elected in a federal, single-seat election. On 13 December 2013, Thunder Bay—Superior North MP Bruce Hyer, who had left the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 2012 to sit as an independent after breaking party lines to vote in favour of a repeal of the Long Gun Registry, joined the party, resulting in a record two-member caucus in parliament.
In August 2014, President elect Paul Estrin published a blog post on the Green Party's website criticizing the actions of Hamas during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict. In his article, "Why Gaza Makes Me Sad", Estrin talked about Hamas' "desire to obliterate" the State of Israel and how the terrorist group uses children as human shields. Estrin's blog post was subsequently deleted by the party, with many party seniors and decision makers, including Elizabeth May, distancing themselves from Estrin, with a large majority of the party calling on him to resign. On 5 August, Estrin resigned, criticizing the party for betraying their commitment to values of inclusivity and open public discourse. Elizabeth May accepted the resignation of Estrin, stating that he was not forced to resign but did so of his own volition. May has said that the problem with his statements were the "confusion" they caused because they differed from party lines, but confirmed that Estrin was indeed a "true Green".
In the federal election on 19 October 2015, May was re-elected in the riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands and was the only Green Party member to win a seat, until 2019. Hyer lost the election to Liberal Party candidate Patty Hajdu in his riding of Thunder Bay-Superior North.
On 6 May 2019, Paul Manly became the second MP elected under the party's banner, after winning a by-election in Nanaimo—Ladysmith. In 19 August 2019, a former NDP and briefly Independent MP Pierre Nantel joined the Green Party during the Parliament’s summer recess.
During the 2019 federal election, both May and Manly were re-elected while Jenica Atwin was elected in her New Brunswick riding of Fredericton, making her the third elected Green MP in the federal parliament, and the first Green MP outside of British Columbia.
On 4 November 2019, Elizabeth announced she would be stepping down as leader of the Green Party of Canada. May will continue to lead as in the parliamentary caucus and sit as a member of Parliament. The decision to step down came as a promise to May's daughter.
Principles and policies
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The Greens have always had 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 ecological orientation of the Green Party that is neither pragmatic or principled. The ecumenical approach (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 also be measured by the degree to which other parties adopt Green Party policies. By this measure of success, the adoption of a revenue-neutral carbon tax at the British Columbia government level, greenhouse gas emission reduction programs, and the promotion of the Green (Tax) Shift by the federal Liberal Party under former leader Stéphane Dion, indicate that Green Party policies are gaining traction in Canada.
An emphasis on a green tax shift in the 2004 platform, 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 from the application of a Green Tax Shift would be intentionally offset by changes in individual tax rates and categories as well as an 'eco-tax" refund for those who pay no tax.
Under Elizabeth May's leadership, the Green Party has begun to receive more mainstream media attention on other party policy not directly related to the environment — for example, supporting labour rights and poppy legalization in Afghanistan.
The Green Party of Canada is founded on six key principles that were adopted at the 2002 convention of the Global Greens. These principles are:
While the organizing and election planning was centralized, policy development was to be 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. Using wiki technology, the goal of the Living Platform was 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. To this end, the Green Party used the Living Platform to develop election platforms for 2004 and 2005 were developed, thus making the Green Party of Canada the first political party to use a wiki for such a purpose.
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.
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 that called upon the government to implement Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI). While the act was introduced into the House of Commons as a private members bill, it never became law. A small number of Greens who advocate the more cooperative approach to legislation object to the new rule not to hold cross-memberships, a tool they occasionally employed.
Long-time environmental activist and lawyer Elizabeth May won the leadership of the federal Green party at a convention in Ottawa on 26 August 2006. May won with 2,145 votes, or 65.3 per cent of the valid ballots cast defeating two other candidates. The second-place finisher David Chernushenko, an environmental consultant, owner of Green & Gold Inc. and two time candidate, collected 1,096 votes or 33.3 per cent of the total, while Jim Fannon, real estate agent at Re/Max Garden City Realty, four time candidate and founder of Nature's Hemp finished a distant third, collecting just 29 votes or 0.88 per cent of the vote. ("None of the above" finished last with 13 votes or 0.44 per cent of the final vote.)
On 21 November 2006, May appointed outgoing Green Party of British Columbia leader Adriane Carr and Quebec television host Claude Genest as Deputy Leaders of the Party. David Chernushenko, who ran against Elizabeth May for the party leadership, was the Senior Deputy to the Leader for the first year after May was elected leader.
Previous leader Jim Harris was 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 23 September 2005, Manley left the party to join the Liberal Party of Canada.
in March 2018, Green party Leader Elizabeth May appointed journalist and broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts as a deputy leader along with environmentalist Daniel Green of Montreal. Roberts ran as Green party candidate in a Victoria, B.C. riding during the 2015 federal election and finished second.
On November 4, 2019, Green party Leader Elizabeth May announced that effective that day, she would be stepping down as leader of the Party but remaining leader of the Parliamentary caucus, with deputy leader Jo-Ann Roberts assuming an interim leadership role.
- Trevor Hancock (1983–1984)
- Seymour Trieger (1984–1988)
- Kathryn Cholette (1988–1990)
- Chris Lea (1990–1996)
- Wendy Priesnitz (1996–1997)
- Harry Garfinkle (1997) (interim)
- Joan Russow (1997–2001)
- Chris Bradshaw (2001–2003) (interim)
- Jim Harris (2003–2006)
- Elizabeth May (2006–2019)
- Jo-Ann Roberts (2019–present) (interim)
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0 / 295
0 / 295
0 / 301
0 / 301
0 / 308
0 / 308
0 / 308
1 / 308
1 / 338
3 / 338
There have been five (but three elected) Green Members of Parliament in Canadian history:
- Jenica Atwin (Fredericton, 2019–present) - ran as a provincial Green candidate in the New Brunswick 2018 general election, but lost to PC candidate and incumbent MLA, Jeff Carr in the New Maryland-Sunbury district. She was later elected in 2019 as a federal Green in the Fredericton district.
- Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay—Superior North, 2013–2015) - first elected in 2008 as a member of the New Democratic Party, Hyer left the NDP in 2012 to sit as an Independent after disagreement with his party over firearms legislation. Hyer joined the Green Party and its parliamentary caucus in 2013. He was defeated in the 2015 federal election by Liberal Patty Hajdu.
- Paul Manly (Nanaimo—Ladysmith, 2019–present) - originally planned to run as an NDP federal MP candidate like his father and former politician, Jim Manly, but was blocked by the party itself over his stance on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Manly joined the Green Party to contest the riding as their candidate, but lost in the 2015 federal election, coming in fourth place. In the 2019 Nanaimo—Ladysmith by-election he once again ran, this time winning the seat.
- Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, 2011–present) - elected as a Green in 2011 and re-elected in 2015 and 2019.
- Blair Wilson (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, 2008) - elected in 2006 as a Liberal. Wilson left the Liberal caucus in 2007 to sit as an Independent following allegations of improper campaign financing. In 2008, he joined the Green Party, becoming its first and only parliamentarian. He was defeated later in 2008 by Conservative John Weston. Wilson joined the Green Party during Parliament's summer break, and the 2008 election was called before the House reconvened. As such, he never physically sat in the House of Commons as a Green MP.
Two other Members of Parliament have been affiliated with the Green Party, but not as caucus members:
- José Núñez-Melo - elected in 2011 as a New Democrat in the riding of Laval, Núñez-Melo was barred by the NDP from seeking nomination for the 2015 election after he publicly criticized the nomination process. After the dropping of the writ, Núñez-Melo announced he would run for re-election in Vimy as a Green Party candidate. He was defeated by Liberal Eva Nassif. As Parliament was dissolved for the election at the time of Núñez-Melo's change in affiliation, he was never formally recorded as a Green MP.
- Pierre Nantel (Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher/Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, 2011–present) - elected as a New Democrat in 2011 and 2015 in the same district. Prior to the next federal election, there were reports that sparked his removal from the NDP caucus, indicating that he was in talks with the Green Party. On August 19, 2019, it was announced that Nantel would be running under the Green Party banner in the 2019 federal election; he lost.
Exclusion from debates
In the 2004 election, the consortium of Canadian television networks did not invite Jim Harris to the televised leaders debates. The primary reason given for this was the party's lack of representation in the House of Commons. There were unsuccessful legal actions by the party, a petition by its supporters to have it included, and statements by non-supporters such as Ed Broadbent who believed it should be included. The Green Party was also not included in the leaders' debates for the 2006 election. The same reason was given.
On 8 September 2008, the consortium announced that they would once again exclude the Greens from the French and English debates for the 2008 election. The party had secured a seat in the House at this point (Blair Wilson), satisfying the necessary criteria used in all previous debates dating to at least 1993. While Wilson was not elected as a Green MP, nor had he even sat in the House as one, the situation paralleled that of the Bloc Québécois in 1993. All of the Bloc's members had been elected as either Conservatives or Liberals or, in Gilles Duceppe's case, as an independent, before the group formally registered as a political party. The Bloc was nevertheless included in the 1993 debates.
However, the consortium said that three parties (later identified as the Conservatives, NDP, and one other party) had threatened to boycott the debate if the Green Party was included, and that it had decided it was better to proceed with the four larger parties "in the interest of Canadians". Liberal leader Stéphane Dion supported May's inclusion in the debates but said he would also pull out if Harper withdrew. Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe said that while his party was against the Greens' inclusion, he would attend the debate whether or not they were included. The Green Party said it would sue to force the consortium to allow it to participate. This was not necessary, however, because of the networks' reversal two days later. Many people protested and threatened to boycott Layton and Harper by staging protests, as well as phoning in and e-mailing the networks and the opposing parties, prompting both parties to recant their position.
In the 2011 Canadian federal election, the consortium of broadcasters playing host to the political debates (consisting of CBC, CTV, Global, Radio-Canada and TVA) announced it would only invite the leaders of the four recognized parties in the House of Commons, namely the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. Therefore, the Green Party would be excluded. "This is an unacceptable, outrageous, high-handed attempt to shut down democracy in this country," May said in an interview aired on CBC News.
Prior to the October 2015 Federal election, May was invited to participate in two of the debates: one hosted by Maclean's magazine on 6 August 2015 and the first French language debate hosted by Radio-Canada on 24 September 2015. However, May was excluded from the other two debates. After being advised of the exclusion from The Munk Debate on Canada's Foreign Policy on 28 September 2015, May took her message to social media where she attacked the Harper government using tweets on Twitter.
May-Dion electoral co-operation in 2008
With Stéphane Dion winning the Liberal leadership on a largely environmentalist platform, and both the Liberals and Greens having a shared interest in both defeating the Conservatives, whose environmental policies have come under criticism from members of both parties, some political observers questioned if an alliance of some sort between the two parties might take place.
When Green Party leader Elizabeth May made the announcement that she would run in Central Nova, then held by Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay, local Liberals would "neither confirm nor deny" that they had had discussions with May over ways to unseat MacKay. On 21 March, Dion said, "Madame May and I have conversations about how we may work together to be sure that this government will stop to do so much harm to our environment". The speculation was confirmed when Dion and May agreed not to run candidates in each other's ridings.
May earlier attempted to broker a deal with the NDP, by contacting Stephen Lewis to set up a meeting with party leader Jack Layton, who both rejected the notion outright. When the May-Dion deal was announced, it was criticized by the Conservatives and NDP.
Ultimately May failed in her bid to get elected in Central Nova, losing to McKay by 18,240 votes (46.6%) to 12,620 (32.24%) in the 2008 federal election. The New Democratic Party candidate, Louise Lorifice, placed third with 7,659 votes (19.56%).
Role in 2008-2009 parliamentary dispute
In December 2008, during the 2008–09 Canadian parliamentary dispute, May announced the Green Party would support, from outside parliament, the proposed coalition between the Liberals and the NDP (with the parliamentary support of the Bloc Québécois), which was then attempting to displace the incumbent Conservative government. Liberal leader Stéphane Dion indicated that the Green Party would be given input, but not a veto, over coalition policy and also left open the possibility of May being appointed to the Senate if Dion were to become prime minister. Ultimately, however, the coalition fell apart after Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in order to delay an impending non-confidence vote, advised the Governor General to prorogue parliament. Liberal leader Dion resigned and was replaced by Michael Ignatieff and, when parliament resumed in January 2009, the Liberal Party decided to support the Conservative government's new proposed budget. While parliament was prorogued, Harper also announced his intention to fill all current and upcoming Senate vacancies with Conservative appointees.
Provincial and territorial parties
Nine provinces and one territory have an active Green party. While these parties and the Green Party of Canada share values and often supporters, they operate as independent entities and do not have common membership.
Currently, fifteen Green legislators sit in provincial legislative assemblies, including eight in Prince Edward Island, three in British Columbia and New Brunswick, and one in Ontario. The Greens in Prince Edward Island are the first Green party to form the official opposition in any provincial assembly.
The only province without a green party is Newfoundland and Labrador. An association called the Terra Nova Greens, created in 1996, was previously the Green Party of Canada's "Official Unit" for the province. TNG was never a registered party, but fielded independent candidates in three provincial general elections. They remained the federal party's "Official Unit" until 2007, but most supporters cut ties to the national party in 2006 (or earlier) over its opposition to the traditional Newfoundland seal hunt. As of 2014, there are ongoing efforts to establish a provincial green party in Newfoundland and Labrador.
|Party||Seats / Total||Role in legislature||Last election||Leader|
|Green Party of Alberta||
0 / 87
|No presence||2019||Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes|
|Green Party of British Columbia||
3 / 87
|Confidence and supply for New Democratic minority government||2017||Andrew Weaver|
|Green Party of Manitoba||
0 / 57
|No presence||2019||James Beddome|
|New Brunswick Green Party||
3 / 49
|No status||2018||David Coon|
|Nova Scotia Green Party||
0 / 51
|No presence||2017||Thomas Trappenberg|
|Green Party of Ontario||
1 / 124
|No status||2018||Mike Schreiner|
|Green Party of Quebec||
0 / 125
|No presence||2018||Alex Tyrrell|
|Green Party of Prince Edward Island||
8 / 27
|Official Opposition||2019||Peter Bevan-Baker|
|Saskatchewan Green Party||
0 / 61
|No presence||2016||Shawn Setyo|
|Yukon Green Party||
0 / 19
|No presence||2016||Frank de Jong|
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