Thursday, May 23, 2019

Ring of Fire Bungling Jeopardizes Green Economic Prosperity for Northern Communities

Buried beneath the feet of Northern Ontarians are the materials that will drive the green economy. Nickel, copper, cobalt and lithium are needed in abundance for batteries that will store electric energy (see: "Enabling Clean Energy Applications, Information Bulletin,” Natural Resources Canada, March 2017).  The world is already shifting from greenhouse gas-emitting fossil energy sources like coal, oil and natural gas in an effort to minimize the very worst effects of climate change.  Northern Ontario, with our abundant mineral resources, is strategically positioned to be a global leader in the clean economy.  

Leadership requires commitment – and that’s always been a problem for Northern Ontario, a vast but sparsely populated region that is far too often treated as a resource colony by governments and investors located in southern Ontario (see: "N. Ontario little more than a 'colony' – report,” the Sudbury Star, April 27 2016). Our region’s mineral wealth is far too often seen as resources ripe for exploitation, rather than as the building blocks for our own prosperity.

Earlier this month, Northerners were excited to hear that Noront Resources had selected Sault Ste. Marie as a home for its ferrochrome smelter to process chromite extracted from the Ring of Fire in northwestern Ontario. It sounds like progress, but the truth is the Ring of Fire, a $60 billion project, remains stalled – and likely will be for some time as Ontario’s new government is walking away from engagement with the indigenous people who live in the region (see: "Basic Facts About the Ring of Fire Including FNs Traditional Territories – by Stan Sudol,” Republic of Mining, November 30 2018).

The Ring of Fire is located in the traditional territory of the nine Matawa First Nations.  In 2014, the Matawa tribal council and the province entered into a regional framework agreement that set out the parameters for discussions related to development.  But any goodwill stemming from these negotiations evaporated quickly.  Last year, Eabametoong First Nation Chief Elizabeth Atlookan accused the government of playing a game of “divide and conquer” by moving forward with projects, like road construction, in a piecemeal fashion, absent consultation with all Matawa nations (see: "Ontario playing favourites with First Nations on Ring of Fire, say chiefs,” CBC News, November 23, 2018).

The desire to compartmentalize development of the Ring of Fire and other resource extraction projects in the remote north has long been a sore point for indigenous communities and environmentalists.  Rather than planning for development in a comprehensive manner which assesses all impacts on the natural and social environments, the province has pushed a piecemeal approach that evaluates components of development independently from one another (see: "Ring of Fire (Northern Ontario),” Wikipedia).  It’s a 20th century colonial approach that no longer works in an era of ‘free, prior and informed consent’ as mandated by United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

And now Ontario’s new provincial government seems intent on exacerbating the gridlock by repealing the Far North Act. Although First Nations communities have viewed the Far North Act as an imperfect vehicle for making local decisions, it is the only legislative framework in place to guide development in the region. The Far North Act’s repeal will leave indigenous communities even further out of the decision-making loop (see: "Ring of Fire development to be 'slow, contested' if Far North Act replacement stands as-is, legal expert says,” CBC News, April 17 2019). 

With indigenous lands often treated as a resource colony ripe for exploitation by government and industry, First Nation communities know that their own future prosperity is put at risk by government decisions that exclude them from decision making.  Without a firm commitment of true government-to-government negotiations, the only recourse for First Nations will be to pursue their rights through the judicial system – a process that could delay development for decades. 

Significant time has already been lost due to the intransigence of governments in Toronto and Ottawa to work with the people who live in the region and by failing to comprehensively plan for development in Ontario’s remote north.  With the world knocking at our door, clamouring for the materials needed for the green economy, all of the North’s communities – indigenous and settler – are at risk of losing out on the opportunity of being a world leader.

Originally published online and in print as, "May: Ring of Fire bungling jeopardizes Green prosperity for North," at the Sudbury Star, Saturday May 18, 2019 - without hyperlinks.

****UPDATE - June 19 2019****

Well, publication of this piece in the Sudbury Star generated some feedback from members of the public.  It started with a letter to the Editor from a man named Peter Best (see: "Green Party policies naive, harmful to Sudbury," the Sudbury Star, May 25 2019), who described my column as "utopian" in that I sought an "overnight" transition to a zero-carbon economy.  Best was also incensed that I described the location of the Ring of Fire as being in the "traditional territory" [of Matawa First Nations] rather than describing the area as "Crown Land". And finally, Best took issue with me and Green Party having campaigned against a smelter in Coniston. 

Not at His Best

Peter Best isn't just some local yahoo - he's a known and respected lawyer who lives and works in my community.  And that's what makes Best's criticisms even more problematic, as some are simply not based on the sort of factual evidence that one would expect a respected lawyer to use when laying out a case.

First of all, let me back up a little bit here.  Although I write a column for the Sudbury Star, and although I maintain this blog - neither my column nor this blog are sanctioned by the Green Party of Canada, the Green Party of Ontario or any of its affiliates (like a local constituency association).  And although I am an officer in several local Green associations, as per the Constitutions of those associations, in my role as officer, I am not sanctioned to speak on behalf of those associations.  What I write here and for the Star is nothing more than my own opinion.  The references to the Green Party that appear in the Sudbury Star and in my own blog are to disclose my connections to the Party for those reading.  This is done in the interests of transparency.  

That said, I understand that it may be confusing to readers like Best, who assume that the opinions I express in my Sudbury Star columns are somehow aligned with those of the Green Party.  So with that in mind, I can expect that there may be from time to time some confusion around that relationship - like that experienced by Mr. Best.

That said, though, Best ended up taking matters into a counter-factual fantasy land when he stated that "Residents of Sudbury were dismayed, largely because Mr. May’s Green Party successfully campaigned against it [Noront's proposed ferrochrome smelter] being located here."  The fact is that neither the Green Party of Canada, the Green Party of Ontario, or any unit of the Party participated in any campaign against the smelter. Best is simply making this up.  I understand that some members of the Green Party - and members of other political parties - may have been a part of a grassroots initiative that came together to oppose the location of the smelter - but to suggest that this was somehow a Green Party initiative is simply not true.  

In a response to this part of Best's letter, Pat Rogerson - who ran for the Green Party of Ontario in the Sudbury riding in 2011, and who remains involved with the Green Party today - set the record straight (see: "Coniston didn’t want smelter, either," the Sudbury Star, June 6 2019). I know Pat very well - and I know that she could have written a lot more about the grassroots initiative the sprang up quickly after the proposed location for the smelter was announced by the City in absence of any public consultation with the local community - a smelter which, by the way, I described in my column as one Northerners were "excited" about - and which she refers to as a "disaster for the Ontario government."

But Best's real issues don't appear to be with the Green Party so much as they are with where my own personal opinion is at with regards to indigenous issues.  Tellingly, Best took exception to my reference to 'free, prior and informed consent" as per UNDRIP, which Best quite rightly pointed out is not the law of the land (something that I never actually claimed).  Best appears to consider himself a bit of an expert on this subject matter, though, having written a book entitled, "There is No Difference," which is dismissive of what he refers to as a "Nation-to-Nation fantasy" that some people (elites) believe exists when it comes to treaties signed between Canada and indigenous peoples (see: "Sudbury author wades into controversial territory," the Sudbury Star, November 7 2018).  The Star reports that his book has been endorsed by Barbara Kay and Tom Flanagan. Clearly, Best and I are not on the same page with regards to indigenous issues.

And I'm not the only one to find himself at odds with Best here.  

Writing in response to the Sudbury Star column guest column by Best about the Justice Hennessy's Restoule Decision (see: "Sudbury Accent: Decision further erodes Crown sovereignty," the Sudbury Star, February 2 2019), former Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court Stephen O'Neill wrote:

"Reconciliation will almost invariably involve a rigorous debate between the guardians of the status quo, who see treaties between Indigenous peoples and the Crown as being one-time historic transactions, destined to condemn First Nation peoples to a lifetime of poverty, and those who are seeking fundamental change through the application of judicially mandated treaty interpretation principles required to realize the true meaning and legal effect of these treaties.  I would put Peter Best — based on his comments regarding Restoule v. Canada and Ontarioin his guest column dated Feb. 2 — in the former category." (see: "Treaties provide means to peacefully share wealth," the Sudbury Star, February 18 2019).

Now look, I'm not a lawyer, and I don't profess to understand the nuances of decisions like Restoule.  But I have been paying a little attention to court cases brought forward by indigenous peoples over the past couple of decades.  And with regards to former Chief Justice O'Neill's "two groups" I think that the trend regarding the rule of law in our civil society here would be to bet against the opinion of the "status quo" supporters.  But I'm not a lawyer like Mr. Best is.  That's for sure.

Don't Touch the Ring

And finally, this column provoked what I many considered an unusual response - in that it was written by a man who calls Faro, Yukon his home - a location significantly removed from Sudbury spatially - but perhaps really just virtually next door thanks to the internet.  The thesis of this letter writer was to take both myself and Mr. Best to task for our apparent support of developing mining activities in the Ring of Fire (see: "Ring of Fire should not proceed," the Sudbury Star, June 13 2019).  

For me, this actually was the more interesting letter - because I'm not particularly used to coming under friendly fire for my columns or blogs.  And in this case, that's exactly what happened.  Although he now calls Faro, Yukon his home - the author of this letter has long been engaged in Ontario politics. Frank de Jong was, in fact, the former Leader of the Green Party of Ontario.  I don't think many reading Frank's letter appreciated that - but I sure did.

Frank's thesis appears to be that the environmental risks to developing the Ring of Fire are not worth the price of the investment in making it happen.  Frank is right that the area in which the Ring of Fire is located is particularly environmentally sensitive - and the costs of bringing development to the region for what Frank refers to as "temporary jobs" will be enormous.  

And while I have always been concerned that development of the Ring - as well as any ancillary development, such as ferrochrome processing and even maybe a whole new stainless steel industry - would need to take place with the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples who live in the region, and in an environmentally sustainable context - I continue to believe that the resources found in the Ring of Fire are going to be ones that Ontario and Canada will need to help create a prosperous, low carbon future.

I get that it might come as a shock to some to discover that members of the Green Party support mining (when it's done right) - but the reality is that there are resources that we need to extract - and once extracted, become better stewards of.  The idea that Greens have a knee-jerk negative reaction to mining isn't in keeping with reality - although on a personal level, I would be remiss to suggest that all Greens feel that way that I do about mining - and let's face it, the historic practices of the mining industry in Canada - and ongoing practices of miners elsewhere in the world have created a circumstance where the mining industry really hasn't endeared itself to Green support.  That said, though, it would be foolish to think that we can prosper without new resources being extracted.

And with specific regard to the Ring of Fire, I feel compelled to remind former Green Party of Ontario Leader Frank de Jong just what, exactly, the Ring means to Ontarians: mineral wealth beneath the ground is estimated to be valued at between $30 and $60 billion - and that's just what we know about now.  That translates into thousands of well-paying jobs, many of which will be located in Northern Ontario - an area that is, shall we say, perhaps a little less economically well-off than other parts of the nation - due to a lack of historic investment on the part of federal and provincial governments that have had a long history of treating the region as resource colony.

But I digress.  De Jong is rightly concerned that the Ring of Fire could become Northern Ontario's tar sands. And if development doesn't occur properly, there might be a little something to that.  Luckily, there is a prescription out there - one that Frank might be a little surprised to discover - a prescription that if followed, would likely avoid the development scenario Frank fears.  

Frank might be surprised to discover that if he is still a member of the Green Party of Canada, he actually belongs to the only federal political party that has adopted a policy that specifically pertains to responsibly developing the Ring of Fire.  Frank's call for not developing the Ring would be, of course, offside with Green Party adopted policy.  But everyone can certainly have their own opinions about these things, right?

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Is This All That Stands in the Way of NDP-Green Electoral Co-operation?

Canada's political ground is shifting - and the upheaval is largely as a result of Canadians' growing awareness of, and concerns over climate change.  Here's what I'm seeing:

  • Greens recently won big in PEI, and took an important by-election in Nanaimo-Ladysmith - a riding previously held by the NDP.
  • Elizabeth May remains a far more popular leader than Jagmeet Singh, according to the polls
  • Those same polls show the Green Party polling in double digits for the first time - and they have the NDP mired between 15-20%
  • Jagmeet Singh is not very well-known by Canadians.  He's also not particularly well-loved by many in his Party.
  • The Conservative Party is polling in majority government territory.
  • Both the NDP and the Green Party are generally supportive of a Green New Deal - whatever that turns out to be.
  • The Liberals are pretending to be climate champions, but they bought a bitumen pipeline and are lining up to spend upwards of $8 billion to increase greenhouse gas emissions. They're not actually serious about climate change.
  • After losing the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election, former NDP MP Svend Robinson urged his party to learn from the defeat.  The message appears to have sunk in.  Jagmeet Singh announced yesterday that he no longer supports fracked natural gas - which presumably means that he no longer supports BC's LNG enterprise, as it will liquify fracked natural gas.
  • Singh is moving his party closer to the Green Party on climate change.  That threatens Greens - but really it's a victory for the Green Party, Canada and the planet: the more partners we have who are serious about taking climate action, the better off we all are.
  • Macleans magazine recently floated a trial balloon about an NDP-Green merger, and how it could lead to greater success for both parties.  While partisans in both parties have been incredibly resistant to the idea, the idea of a merger appears to be somewhat popular with Canadians.

But there is no time for the NDP and Green parties to merge - even if it were a desirable thing.  There's an election coming up in the fall, and both parties have to put all of our energies into electing MP's.

And yet, there's really very little stopping New Democrats and Greens getting together and co-operating for the chance of greater electoral success.  With the two parties clearly moving towards one another's positions and policies in a way that we never have before, a conversation about electoral co-operation is necessary.

It's necessary not just because the electoral stakes are so very high - although that's the case.  A Conservative victory in the fall would be epically disastrous for Canada and the planet. At a time when Canada should be acting as a climate leader, the Conservatives will fight the tide of history, undo a lot of the good that the Liberals have done, and take Canada backwards.  That's bad news for my children.  We can't let that happen.

But the conversation is also necessary because it's going to happen anyway.  There is no way that the Green Party is going to be able to reign in all of the Electoral District Associations that want to explore some sort of co-operative agreement.  It happened in 2015 in a couple of ridings - and it will happen in even more ridings in 2019.  

That Which Divides Us

So what's standing in the way of the Green Party's leadership exploring the possibility of co-operation with the NDP?  From where I sit, not a whole lot.  But I will say this: partisan Greens and partisan New Democrats seem hell-bent on nixing anything that would see our two parties co-operate pre-election.  Too many believe that there is a significant divide - one that can't be overcome - between Greens and New Democrats.

I don't think the divide is that significant, and I see strong evidence that it's shrinking.

In this blogpost, I'm going to explore those points of contention that appear to exist between our two parties.  Some of these issues are real - but others are more about perception than policy.  Examples here are taken from my years of observing politics, writing about the NDP and Green parties, and from comments being made by New Democrats and Greens on social media about one another. 

Ultimately, although the list appears to be lengthy, it's not particularly extensive, in my opinion.  

And it's not nearly as extensive as the points of agreement that Greens and New Democrats can find with one another.  And since the climate crisis really should be driving our decision-making at this time, I don't think we can let these few minor points of contention stand between us and co-operation.  I sincerely believe that our leaders need to sit down with one another with an eye to identifying what is possible between now and September.  Electing MP's that will stand for action on climate change should be paramount for both of our parties - whether those MP's are Greens or New Democrats.

Because, frankly, as this post will show, there's really not a whole lot of difference between a Green and a New Democrat any more.

Greens Complaints About New Democrats

NDP Doesn't Take Climate Change Seriously

Without question, this is the biggest concern for Greens: the NDP's lack of commitment to serious climate action.  Just about every point below feeds into this perception.  And it is true that New Democrats have a significant history with standing in the way of climate solutions.  Greens won't forget that the NDP campaigned against a carbon tax in British Columbia.  We can't forget that federal NDP Leader Jack Layton pulled the plug on Paul Martin's minority government, paving the way for a decade of Stephen Harper and climate inaction - at a time when Canada was hosting the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Montreal.  The Alberta NDP's massive support for doubling the tar sands production and the B.C. NDP's support for fracked natural gas - all of this feeds into the perception that the NDP have been actively hostile to climate action.

But that's not what the federal NDP under Jagmeet Singh is talking about now.  Singh just introduced a motion to the House to have the government declare a climate emergency.  Through considerable poking and prodding, the federal NDP has seriously shifted its policies away from promoting fossil fuels and towards sustainability.  The gap which has divided us is closing - and Greens need to recognize this.

Fracking / LNG

With NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's announcement yesterday pulling NDP support for fracking, this one is now off the table.  Greens and New Democrats will head into the election with both parties opposed to fracking and to the B.C. LNG scheme - which is supported by the federal Liberals.

Leap and a Green New Deal

The Manifesto calls for boldness and decisiveness. I encourage every Canadians to read it and sign it. But don’t just sign it: vote for it. The platform the Green Party ... offers signatories a chance to vote for what they believe in.” -Green Leader Elizabeth May, September 15, 2015.

The NDP hemmed and hawed about support for the Leap Manifesto in 2016, whereas the Green Party issued a press release offering support on the day that Leap was released.  Despite commitments to discuss Leap at the EDA level, the NDP continues to prevaricate on Leap. 

But that hasn't stopped Jagmeet Singh and other prominent New Democrats from talking up the New Green Deal.  The NDP appears poised to adopt some form of the Green New Deal as a central tenet of its election platform.  Whatever the "Green New Deal" is, it's a great marketing tool for which ever party decides to publicly buy in to it.  This may sound crass, but the specifics won't matter as much to voters as the packaging.  The media says that a Green New Deal is good for the environment - and that might just be enough.

I understand that there are Greens who say that the Green New Deal doesn't go far enough - and that our Vision Green offers a better approach.  I happen to be one of those Greens.  But poll your friends and family and find out how many of them have ever heard of Vision Green vs. the Green New Deal.  

Let's not let the perfect stand in the way of uniting behind something that's really good - and the Green New Deal - however it eventually manifests itself in Canada - will surely include numerous points of agreement for New Democrats and Greens - and likely very little that divides us.

Expanding the Tar Sands / Support for new Bitumen Pipelines

Rachel Notley's NDP government's "Climate Action Plan" put Alberta on course to almost double production in the tar sands by 2030.  It centred around getting Alberta bitumen to tidewater, through a new pipeline.  It was a plan to significantly increase emissions - and to put the heavy lifting of meeting Canada's emissions reduction targets on the other provinces.  The federal Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bought into this plan, leading Ontario Premier Doug Ford to declare that Ontario has already done enough to reduce emissions.

Notley's climate change plan was just not serious, and Greens could see right through it.  

And so could New Democrats.  In B.C., Premier John Horgan's government continues to oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline.  And under Jagmeet Singh, the federal NDP's position has been to oppose it as well.

Now that Rachel Notley is gone, the federal NDP have free reign to heal this division within their own party.  Clearly they are moving away from supporting tar sands expansion and towards sustainability.  They have moved closer to the Green Party than ever before - so much so that on Trans Mountain and tar sands expansion, Greens and New Democrats are on the same page.

Support for Big Oil

As with the Trans Mountain issue, now that Rachel Notley is out of the picture, subsidies for Big Oil are off the table.  Singh has made it very clear recently: the NDP will no longer support subsidies for fossil fuels.  Greens should take him at his word - at least to get us through the coming election.

Concerns about the NDP being in the pocket of Big Oil-loving unions are overblown.  I'll discuss that further below.

Capping Gasoline Prices

Every now and then, particularly at the provincial level, the idea of capping gasoline prices to make driving more affordable for people of modest means, comes up.  It came up again just recently in the Ontario election in 2018 - and I've seen New Democrat MPP's taking issue with the Conservative budget in Ontario for not doing enough to drive down gasoline prices.

Of course for Greens, the idea that we should make driving cheaper is madness.  Yes, we recognize that people still have to drive, and rising gasoline prices adversely impact the least well off car owners.  Greens support targeted relief (somewhat akin to what the federal Liberals are doing with rural homeowners) rather than broad-brush approaches that provide an incentive for the rich to continue to use fossil fuels in a profligate manner.

At the end of the day, though, this is largely a provincial issue.  Further, both parties recognize that the issue of rising energy prices and how they effect the least well off among us is real and requires policy and programs to address.  Down the road, I suspect that Greens and New Democrats at all levels will find common ground to address that issue - and I think the Green New Deal will be the rallying point.

Commitment to Green Values

What binds Green parties throughout the world is a commitment to certain core values.  Those values are: Non-Violence; Social Justice; Participatory Democracy; Sustainability; Ecological Wisdom; and, Respect for Diversity.

Greens are very worried that New Democrats don't share these values.  Further, Greens are concerned that the NDP doesn't actually appear to have any values beyond the desire to get elected at all costs.  Greens are pointing to Singh's recent environmental shifts as just further evidence that the NDP will do and say anything if they think it will help them get elected.

The NDP's disposable values are certainly something that has long troubled me - even longer than I've been a member of the Green Party.  The lack of values of the Party is a real problem for the Party.

But the suggestion that New Democrats largely don't support the Green Party's core values is one that lacks evidence (besides, perhaps, the commitment to Non-Violence - something even sitting Greens have had some trouble wrestling with at times).  

On the contrary, I suspect that a lot of New Democrats would be surprised to discover that Greens identify as a core value a commitment to social justice and participatory democracy.  Members of both parties can find a lot of common ground among these core values.  Instead of keeping us apart, they can and should unite us.

Representative Democracy and Whipped Votes

Greens believe that the NDP lack of strong commitment to representative democracy.  This probably comes as a surprise to many New Democrats who believe the same about Greens.  Greens views are informed by a couple of things: the NDP leader selection process that gives votes to unions; and, vote whipping in legislatures.  Let's look at each in turn.

The NDP shifted to a one-member, one-vote process to elect leaders during the leadership election that saw Tom Mulcair take his party's mantle.  That was back in 2012.  Prior to the Mulcair election, it is true that for NDP leadership votes, not all votes were considered equal, and the Party did give organizations like unions the ability to vote for leaders in the same way that delegates to the convention could vote.  I know that's weird for Greens (frankly, it's just weird - unions aren't people, why are they voting?).  And the NDP appears to have recognized this, and dealt with it. Years ago.

Vote whipping is a problem in that it does not allow MP's to fully represent the interests of their constituents in parliament. Greens like to characterize our commitment to not whipping votes as "putting people ahead of party".  The NDP sees it differently: if MP's aren't speaking with a united voice, it waters down support or opposition.  A divided party is problematic as well from a media-management perspective.  There are good reasons why votes should be whipped.

If we were talking about a merger of the two parties, in my mind, whipped votes might be the biggest issue that divides us.  But for electoral co-operation this really should be a non-starter - each party's culture is not going to be effected at this time.  Let's just get it together on the big picture items.  We can deal with this later if we head down the road towards a merger.  We've got bigger fish to fry right now.

Corporate Political Donations

As a rule, Greens don't take corporate political donations.  It's part of our commitment to Representative Democracy.  Corporations - and unions - aren't people.  They don't vote.  They should not be influencing electoral outcomes.

The NDP has a history of taking donations from corporations and unions.  This will continue to be an area that divides us.

But it need not divide us at the federal level in 2019.  Federal rules prohibit corporate and union donations to political parties and candidates.  That makes this a complete non-issue.

Lack of Support for Proportional Representation / Electoral Reform

Both the NDP and the Green Party claim to be in favour of electoral reform - and specifically to moving from a First Past the Post electoral system to some form of Proportional Representation.  Greens, however, continue to have serious doubts about the NDP's commitments, given the NDP's actions at the provincial levels.

New Democrats have been in majority government situations in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia - and not one of those governments have ever followed through on enacting PR.  In my opinion, Greens are justified in our serious doubt that New Democrats really are committed to PR.  That probably bristles with many New Democrats, but there's really no denying the evidence.

But the reality in 2019 at the federal level is this: our differences, real or otherwise, on electoral reform do not matter.  It is doubtful that an NDP/Green alliance of any sort would form government.  Heck, an "alliance" need not even be on the table as part of a pre-election co-operation agreement.  What we do know is that the Liberals and Conservatives absolutely will not be moving on PR.  Are Greens any worse off if we support the NDP and their lukewarm commitment to PR? Not at all.  

This sticking point for Greens simply does not matter for electoral co-operation.

Support for Investor State Dispute Provisions in Free Trade Deals

I see that in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election, Green candidate (now MP) Paul Manly reached deep down into the bag of wedge issues and brought this one out.  It is true that the NDP voted in favour of the Canada-South Korea Free Trade deal, even though it included investor state dispute resolutions - something which Greens and New Democrats tend not to support.  And except for that one time, the NDP has been consistent on investor state provisions.

Look, it happened in the past. It's not likely to happen in the future (especially with the new NAFTA or whatever we're calling it) because Donald Trump isn't a fan of these provisions either.  

This happened in the past. Let's all move on and not let this get in the way of electoral co-operation.

Bombing Libya

Equally, this too happened in the past. Yes, Elizabeth May was the lone MP to stand up against everyone else in parliament over the decision of whether Canada should participate in the bombing of Libya.  I get that it calls into question whether the NDP really is committed to non-violence.  

But I remind Greens that our Party hasn't exactly done an exemplary job around non-violence either, with half the Green caucus voting with the Conservatives to go to war with ISIS in Syria (see: "Canada at war: Vote to launch combat mission against ISIS passes 157-134 in House of Commons," National Post, October 7, 2014).

So let's not be smug about this - and let's move on.

The Seal Hunt

Oh boy.  Along with vote-whipping, this might be one of the biggest issues that divides our Parties.  The Green Party has a nuanced position on seal hunting - with policies that treat the commercial and aboriginal hunts differently (which is actually upsetting to many Greens who favour an outright end to all seal hunting).  The NDP supports the seal hunt without reservation (which actually upsets many New Democrats who favour an outright end to seal hunting).

My advice here is for everyone to keep our eye on the ball.  The climate crisis is the issue. The seal hunt - while an important issue to many - is one we can table for now.  

NDP Beholden to Unions

Greens are concerned that unions have an outsized impact on NDP policy direction and platform.  They look at the NDP's historic opposition to climate action and see how some unions have been fueling it.

The truth is that union influence in the NDP has been diminishing for years.  Unions no longer vote directly for leaders.  They no longer contribute financially to the Party at the federal level.  Many unions - like LIUNA - have shifted away from the NDP over the NDP's cautious approach to environmentalism.  Others, like Unifor, have themselves shifted to what can only be described as a pro-environment position.  

If there are any outsized impacts here, I would suggest that they are on Greens perceptions of the NDP.  Singh's movement towards climate action actually shows that the climate delayers in the labour movement are not now ascendant - and are being ignored.

As a Green, I think we need to put our bias aside here.  That the NDP and some unions remain in alliance (or at least in loose affiliation) with one another is not a reason to delay climate action further by opposing one another.  

Site C

Yes, the NDP in B.C. blundered on Site C.  

It was a provincial issue.  It's done.  Greens at the federal level need to move on.

Sherebrooke Declaration

The federal NDP believes that a simple majority of voters in a referendum to break up the country should be enough to initiate a conversation around how it will happen.  Greens favour the approach mandated by the government via the Clarity Act.  And if any of this still sounds like it ought to be a sticking point for our two parties in 2019 - I'd suggest that being stuck in the past on the Sherbrooke Declaration isn't in anybody's best interests when we've got a climate crisis to tackle.

Ring of Fire

The NDP - at least in Ontario - has long argued that the government needs to move faster to develop resources in the Ring of Fire - an isolated region in Northwestern Ontario that contains significant chromite deposits along with rare earth metals and lithium.  Greens believe that development should only occur with the free and prior informed consent of indigenous people who live in the area - and if this takes time, so be it.

While there is some cross-over between provincial and federal jurisdictions here, Greens should acknowledge that at least federally, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has been clear that he wants resource development to respect UNDRIP.  Singh and the Greens are on the same page here - even if the provincial NDP isn't (and they're not).

Culture of Hypocrisy

Greens just don't trust the NDP to do what they say they're going to do.  Greens look at the NDP and see a party motivated by gaining power.  Policy positions are focus group-based rather than values-based.  They often conflict with one another in terms of outcomes (example: wanting to reduce emissions while making it easier for people to drive by capping gasoline prices or removing road tolls).

I acknowledge these concerns and share them.  What I can say is that it appears to me that under Jagmeet Singh, the NDP is finally starting to get their act together.  Whether that's because of some moral, values-based approach to policy has suddenly infused the NDP, or because focus groups are telling them they need to be more like the Greens if they want to win - you know what? I don't care which it is.  The NDP is moving towards us - let's call it a victory for Greens, embrace it for what it is, and work with them to elect similarly-minded MP's in October.

If we're looking beyond electoral co-operation after October, no doubt a new political party arising out of the existing parties will have carte blanche to determine how policies and positions will be adopted and adhered to.

NDP too Right-wing

Many Greens believe the NDP has drifted too far to the right side of the political spectrum.  The media narrative that Justin Trudeau ran to the left of the NDP in 2015 remains powerfully convincing - especially since Tom Mulcair committed to not running deficits (Greens here may conveniently forget that Elizabeth May made the same commitment as Mulcair).

The NDP's shift to Tony Blair's 'third way' for labour under Jack Layton can't be ignored.  Many New Democrats will scoff at the idea that Greens should be concerned about their right-ward drift - but few will deny that it's happened.  

This left/right political stuff sometimes wears me down.  Frankly, it's far less important for me to define where, specifially or relatively, one party sits on this spectrum when compared to another.  Right now, the question ought to be, do we agree on the big stuff?  And the answer is clear: we do agree.  Let's not let a 19th Century political paradigm stand in the way of progress.  If we want to hash out who's less "right-wing" after the election then let's do that - but honestly, it seems a pretty pointless exercise to me.

Jagmeet Singh

And finally, many Greens have been loud and clear that they just can't support Jagmeet Singh.  What they've been less clear on is why.  Some of what I've seen suggests that Singh is too weak; he's not committed to climate action; he's touchy-feely; he doesn't use evidence and fact to inform himself; he's a johnny-come-lately to the climate crisis.  Maybe these are good points - I don't know.  But he's what the NDP has - are we really going to let this stand in our way?

One thing I think Greens and New Democrats can agree on is that Singh is a good man, possessed of an abundance of integrity - someone who wants to see Canada prosper.  He's a good man.  Let's not tear him down for his slight imperfections.

New Democrat's Complaints About the Green Party

Unfriendly to Labour

"[We] believe in the rights of workers to organize and in the free collective bargaining process. Labour rights are human rights. We believe in pay equity for women, in the equal treatment of organized and non-organized workers, and in workers’ right to fair wages, healthy and safe working conditions, and working hours compatible with a good quality of life." -from Section 1.8 of Vision Green

The overwhelming complaint about Greens that I've seen from New Democrats centres around the perception that Greens are unfriendly to labour and are not committed to social justice.

As identified above, a strong commitment to Social Justice is one of the Green Party's core values.  And as such, with regards to labour issues, the Green Party actually has a fairly robust suite of policies.  Is it on par with the NDP?  Maybe, maybe not - but I think that New Democrats are likely to find nothing objectionable about labour in Vision Green.

But there is something to the notion that Greens can be more than a little "anti-union" - and that stems from our value in Representative Democracy, and the notion that unions - because they are not people - ought not to be treated as if they were.  This does not diminish the fact that most Greens recognize the importance of unions. But Greens and green ideas have for long been opposed by unions and neither Greens nor New Democrats can really deny that unions have at times stood in the way of climate action.

Are Greens really unfriendly to Labour?  I think New Democrats should take a look at our policies - start with Vision Green.  It may not be everything that New Democrats want to see, but I think in looking, New Democrats will see that the Green Party is a firm supporter of the labour movement and recognizes the importance of labour - especially as a component of a just transition for fossil energy workers - which is a part of any Green New Deal.

Support for Back to Work Legislation

I agree with New Democrats on the one instance that I know of where an elected Green supported pre-emptive back-to-work legislation.  Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner did this in December, voting with the Conservatives to prevent a strike at Ontario Power Generation.  

I acknowledge that a lot of potential good will between Greens and New Democrats was lost because of this vote.  It's a real problem - the vote brings into serious question whether Greens will have the backs of labour.

In my opinion, it was a mistake - for a number of reasons.  

But in the face of the climate crisis, this is really small potatoes.  It happened.  We acknowledge it happened.  Can we move on and look at the big picture?

Rules for Joining Unions

Equally, a vote in British Columbia has left New Democrats there wondering whether Greens really have labour's back.  In B.C., Greens voted with the Liberals around provisions deemed unfriendly to labour for unionizing workplaces.  Greens in B.C. were following the recommendations of a provincial expert.  It still might not have been the right thing to do.

But again, in the face of the climate crisis, this is small potatoes.  For the purpose of working together for electoral co-operation at the federal level, this kind of thing really should not stand in our way.  The stakes are just too high.

Social Justice

New Democrats believe that the Greens commitment to social justice issues is thin. Some even say that Greens have only recently developed policies around housing, health care, indigenous rights.  Those who say that clearly have not investigated the Green Party.

Greens commitment to social justice forms one of our core values - as it does for all Green Parties.  Greens have long had a robust policy agenda on social justice issues - one that has often been far out in front of the NDP on many issues (like a guaranteed income, for example).  I believe that our social justice policies are, on the whole, more robust than those of the NDP at the federal level - because they interlinked with policies related to environmental justice.  That's just me, though.  I don't think it benefits either of our parties at this time to quibble about who's got the best policies when the fact is that both of our parties have extremely good policies.

Social justice issues should actually be an area of agreement between our two parties.  New Democrats who continue to believe that Greens are behind the times here are mistaken.

Carbon Rebates

Why on earth would a government collect a carbon tax and just give it away? That money could be invested into achieving low carbon outcomes.  The Greens support of a carbon fee and dividend approach to pollution pricing is madness!

I acknowledge that this is an issue that divides our two parties - and may very well be a roadblock. But I think it's something that ought to be tabled for the 2019 election.

First of all, we don't know which form of pollution pricing New Democrats are going to champion in this election.  There's been no consistency on this, unlike with the Green Party.  But chances are the NDP will settle for a carbon tax that sees revenues invested in green projects - something that the Ontario Liberals were doing with revenues generated from Cap and Trade.

In Ontario, the Liberals insisted that revenues worked 4x as hard this way - as they worked towards driving emissions down by initially making prices higher, and then, through investment in green projects, they further reduced emissions.  And there is something to that for sure.

Greens, though, have long suggested that the sorts of investments that the Ontario Liberals were making should have been happening anyway - and that the revenues from Cap and Trade should not have been the only funding mechanisms used.  Greens would evaluate all government expenses through the lens of climate change, and not just treat "green projects" as "nice to haves" dependent for funding on pollution pricing.

I understand the debate around returning money to consumers - many New Democrats clearly think that money ought to be invested in green projects.  But the reality is that consumers are going to need relief as prices start to climb as pollution pricing begins to approach actual costs.  Right now, there is significant resistance in Canada to a carbon tax of $20 per tonne on fossil outputs.  In part, resistance is offset by seeing this money returned to consumers - many of whom will actually come out ahead when everything is tallied up.

Can you imagine what level of resistance there would be at $50 per tonne if nothing were being returned to consumers?  And now imagine the rioting in the streets that would take place at $150 per tonne - a carbon price that is more in line with the actual costs of carbon pollution.

Yes, this one will be hard to square for New Democrats and Greens - but not impossible.  And with carbon pollution now priced at just $20 per tonne, it's not something that I think Greens and New Democrats should let stand in the way of electoral co-operation.

Greens are Weak on Polluters (regulation vs. marketplace)

Some New Democrats believe that the Green Party's position on carbon rebates vs. regulating makes Green weak on polluters.  This is, of course, ludicrous - and frankly to me it seems to be nothing more than a talking point for ultra-partisans. 

The idea that one Green Party policy can be looked at in isolation - without looking at the entirety of the Party's vision - is just dumb. Greens are not weak on polluters.  Yes, we want to see a market-based mechanism used to reduce carbon emissions - but please, that's just one form of pollution.  

And even with regards to carbon pollution, there is evidence form B.C. to suggest that a market-based approach works.  Economist William Nordhaus just won a Nobel Prize for his research into market-based solutions to the pollution.  That market-based approaches are the more efficient than regulation should be a reason why New Democrats would support them.  New Democrats, after all, are always looking for ways not to waste taxpayer's money, given how NDP governments are always under the microscope on this.

Sorry, the idea that the Green Party is weak on polluters is just not reality-based.


Some New Democrats oppose working with the Green Party because Greens support capitalism and capitalist responses to significant issues, like climate change.  I can't help but think those same New Democrats would be surprised that the NDP too supports capitalism and capitalist responses to significant issues, like climate change.  And I can only imagine their surprise in discovering that the Green New Deal does the same thing.

Look, I get that there are serious concerns about capitalism. I often express these in my blog.  But they system is the system - and until we are in a position of power to change the system, it's one we are resigned to working in.  Anti-capitalist New Democrats should be a little introspective here, given that the NDP hardly transformed Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba or British Columbia (much less Alberta) into havens of socialism when the NDP was in power there.

But those New Democrats should take heart in discovering that many of the conversations they've been having in their own parties around the need to reform capitalism have been going on for a long time in the Green Party.  And if anything, they probably have more legs with Greens, given our lack of commitment to the growth paradigm that capitalism needs in order to be a thing.

There is common ground to be found here and NDP partisans on the left should look for those things which bring us together.  It's an important conversation to have, going forward.  But both of our parties tentative support for capitalism - and our policy and programming offerings made within that context - should bring us together in electoral co-operation.  We are not divided on this issue.

BDS / Palestine

But we are divided on this one.  The NDP have long been opposed to anything resembling tentative support for Palestinians over Israelis.  If I may say, this has been an entirely cowardly position for New Democrats to adopt - and I know a lot of New Democrats feel the same way.  Nevertheless, NDP elites who run the Party have a good point about this one - even if the grassroots thinks its crap.  Support for BDS in any form is not a vote-winner and is far too easily misconstrued by political opponents as being anti-semitic.

Greens know this first hand.  And for New Democrats, this might actually be the issue that sinks electoral co-operation.  The NDP might not want to associate with the Green Party due to our stance on BDS.

But this is such a minor thing in the face of the climate crisis.  The Green Party's platform almost certainly will be silent on BDS.  But if it becomes the only sticking point for electoral co-operation, with all due respect to the suffering people of Palestine, your interests will be better served by a Canada that becomes a world leader on taking global action on the climate crisis than it would be by having a fourth-party support boycotts that will never happen.  If the NDP makes a stink here, Greens need to give on this one.

Greens too Right-wing

New Democrats have a false impression that the Green Party is right wing because some of our solutions to the climate crisis are market-based - and because when push comes to shove, we haven't exactly had the backs of unions. I'd suggest that neither of these inherently makes Greens a right-wing party - although clearly there are real concerns about the labour issue, which I've addressed above.

As I indicated earlier, Greens express the same concerns about New Democrats - they're too far to the right.  But for Greens, leftist credentials aren't nearly as important as they are for the NDP.  Here I can only suggest that critical New Democrats take a close look at Green policy - maybe even to the point of identifying which policies are "too far to the right" for the NDP.  I've asked some of my NDP 'friends' to undertake this exercise in the past, but no one ever does - or at least they never get back to me and tell me which policies they have an issue with.

The issue of who is furthest to the left should not get in the way of electoral co-operation.  In the fact of the climate crisis it's really a pretty petty thing for both of our parties to be strutting around, trying to own.

Elizabeth May

As with concerns that Greens have with Jagmeet Singh, New Democrats who are not fond of Elizabeth May can probably agree that she is a woman of integrity who has the best interests of her nation and planet at heart.  Electoral co-operation with the Greens does not mean that May is going to lead a merged party.  

And frankly, I don't think that May would even want to.  Let's face it: May's been leader of the Greens now for over a decade.  She just got married for goodness sake.  Although Greens aren't talking about it (maybe out of denial), this is likely to be May's last election as leader.  New Democrats should take heart that if we are to go forward beyond electoral co-operation, it is very unlikely that May will offer herself up as leader of some kind of alliance or merged party.

That Which Divides Us, Revisited

And that's what divides us.  It's not especially significant.  Or insurmountable.  Especially if we are just talking about electoral co-operation.  Yes, I understand that both of our Parties have provisions in our constitutions that require running candidates in all of Canada's ridings.  So what?  Let's overlook them. Let the complainers complain - we have bigger fish to fry.  

A Conservative victory in October will set Canada back a decade or more in our fight against the climate crisis.  That's time that we simply can't afford.  That which divides us is not especially significant in the face of this reality.  But that which unites us - our desire for real action on the climate crisis, in an equitable and just manner - let that be what brings New Democrats and Greens together before September.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should REALLY not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Greens to be Ignored No More

"From where I'm sitting, this whole "green surge" thing - there doesn't seem to be a lot of actual evidence to back it up.  Yet." -Sudbury Steve May, "Is the Green Surge For Real?" February 5, 2019.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith Federal Electoral District - Results - Elections Canada
I would have been satisfied with a squeaker.  But Paul Manly and his team of Greens wanted to leave no doubt in anyone's mind that the Green Party in Nanaimo-Ladysmith was for real.  Pundits were predicting a close finish, but most were giving the nod to the New Democrats, who took the riding in 2015.  The B.C. Greens had, after all, just received a pretty hefty thumping by the New Democrats in an overlapping provincial riding.  

Manly and the federal Greens - although an interesting side-story, especially after Peter Bevan-Baker's PEI Greens took 8 seats in that province's provincial election a couple of weeks ago - would probably fall victim to the same old problem Greens face everywhere: not getting the vote out.
Projection of Popular Vote in Nanaimo-Ladysmith - May 5/19 - 338Canada
338Canada did give the edge to the Green Party, but as recently as Sunday, the algorithm fueling that polling aggregator site suggested that the riding could still go any which way.  It's not clear whether 338Canada gave any credence to an Oracle Poll conducted on May 1st that was released by the Green Party over the weekend (see: "New Green Party poll puts Paul Manly in lead in Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection," CHEK News, May 4 2019).  

Oracle Called It

How could anyone take that poll seriously, anyway?  While no polling was released by any party or the media throughout the course of the by-election, the late campaign poll commissioned by a clearly biased Green Party claimed results that seemed, well, quite far-fetched.  But the Oracle Poll proved to be startlingly accurate - Green candidate Paul Manly actually finished up with 37.3% - better than the 36% predicted by Oracle.

If Oracle missed anything - and it did - it under-identified Conservative Party support, and over-estimated support for the Liberals.  I won't give Oracle too much of a hard time on this, though - their poll was taken 6 days before e-day, and that's a lot of time for movement to occur.  

First, it's not unusual for a poll to underestimate Conservative Party support, because people 'supporting' other parties will tell pollsters that they're going to vote NDP, Liberal or Green - but on e-day, they don't show up.  That's been a huge problem for the Green Party - which seems to poll about 20% higher than candidates are able to pull on e-day.

Second, by strategically releasing this poll on the eve of the election, the Green Party sent a message to voters - especially Liberal voters.  By showing the Green Party out in front, and having built a substantial lead in the by-election, Liberal voters were given a disincentive to support their preferred party.  Either those voters didn't show up to vote at all, or if they did, they moved to another party. This is evident based on the e-day result for the Liberals - whose vote clearly collapsed to an abysmal 11%.

Finally, the very absence of polls released by the other parties suggest that they knew this all along.  None of the parties was going to leak to the media poll results that showed their vote stagnant or headed the wrong way, while Greens just kept climbing.  What I'm less certain of is why the local media didn't do any polling - and maybe the answer to that question has a little something to do with how Greens have long been ignored by the media, generally speaking (although the media has always been very good to Greens here in Sudbury!)

Well, the Green Party is to be ignored no more.

Trends Matter

For Greens, it was the trends that mattered.  And an old reliable trend might have helped Manly become the darling of voters: when voter turn-out is high, Greens do well.  And, as the CBC's Eric Grenier reports, voter turnout for last night's by-election was about 10% higher than the average for all other by-elections held since the Liberals formed government in 2015 (see: "Trudeau, Singh both have reason to worry about Green byelection breakthrough," CBC News, May 7 2019).

338Canada's aggregate of all federal vote intention polls shows the Green Party at just under 10% - and that was before the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election.  Green support has been slowly, but steadily building over the past several months - and pollsters and pundits have started to notice.  

We can now put to rest any questions that might still remain about whether the "Green Surge" is for real.  It is.

Acknowledging this reality, though, can only lead to other - sometimes more problematic questions - less about the Green Party itself, and more about how the Green Surge might impact the upcoming national election.
338 Canada - Popular Vote Projection - May 5/19
The Collapse of the New Democrats

With the New Democrats mired in third place under what can only be described as a lackluster leader, their prospects of forming government have completely evaporated.  Polling puts the NDP at around 11% in Quebec - a province that they dominated in 2011 under former leader Jack Layton.  But half of those New Democrats didn't return under Tom Mulcair's leadership in 2015 - and since then, the NDP have gone on to lose Mulcair's old beachhead riding of Outremount in a by-election earlier this year.  

Since about half the New Democratic caucus comes from Quebec, the NDP's numbers in parliament are about to be wiped out.  Throw in the fact that a number of popular New Democrats like Nathan Cullen and Murray Rankin have decided not to run, and even more ridings are going to be put into play.

The rise of the Green Party - if it continues - and the trends suggest that it will - is only going to eat further into the NDP's support.  The NDP, however, can thank the Liberals for also finding their support eroding.  A strong Liberal showing could prove disastrous for the New Democrats, but Justin Trudeau and the Liberals appear to be doing everything in their power to give Canadians a reason to vote for a Party that isn't the Liberal Party.  It's a strange election strategy, but the Liberals might still pull i....

Can the Liberals Still Pull It Off?

No.  I realize that one should never count the Liberals out of anything.  But they're done.  Their support is going to continue to erode.  Unless maybe Justin Trudeau resigns as leader - something he should have done when the Globe and Mail first broke the LavScam story.  Yes, there is still time for the Liberals to turn things around - but given the sheer hatred that so many Canadians appear to have when it comes to Trudeau, it's just not likely going to happen.

Yes, Trudeau might decide to make some big, important policy or program announcement between now and September - something that he hopes would rally voters around the Liberal flag.  But chances are he's going to get that wrong too.  Thing is, he's lost the trust of voters, and he's not going to get it back.  And the biggest announcement in the world isn't going to change that reality for him and the Liberals.

Trudeau's only play might be actually doing something - or causing something to be done - between now and September.  Something that he can point to and say, "I did that, vote for me."  Pretty much the only potentially winning thing he can do now is figure out a way to get shovels in the ground and construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline started.  Couple that action with publicly distancing himself from the Paris climate accord and making peace with new Alberta Premier Jason Kenney - and maybe with Ontario Premier Doug Ford by cancelling the carbon tax - and there's a good chance that he might be able to recover some lost ground with voters on the right side of the political spectrum.

The Conservative Beneficiaries

Trudeau shifting to the right is not at all what I would like for him to do - but it may be the only hope the Liberals now have of getting elected.  And I can't help but think that even a more right-ward leaning Liberal government would be far more preferable to the outcome that I expect now to see on e-day: a Conservative Party majority government.

The hard reality for Greens is this: the better our party does, under this damn antiquated first-past-the-post voting system, the more likely Conservative candidates will be elected. Unless the vote of one of the other party's collapses, the presence of a strong Green in the field is going to change the complexion of the vote at the riding level.  

The Liberal vote is not likely to collapse.  Poll after poll after poll shows that the Liberals continue to have a strong base that isn't going anywhere.  The New Democrats on the other hand are likely to be strong in certain areas, but much less so relative to the Greens in others (the Maritimes come to mind).  I fully expect that Greens will outperform New Democrats in a good number of ridings this coming election - and in a few, the Green candidate might credibly complain that if it weren't for the presence of the vote-splitting NDP, Greens might have taken the riding (but the Green candidate won't be making that complaint - not after years and years of having that crap flung in our faces).

Do What We Have to Do

One thing I'd like to point out to readers right now: nowhere in my analysis of election outcomes have I talked about the importance of policy or programs, save for that brief discussion about Trudeau and Trans Mountain.  This might be hard for Greens, but the reality is that our policies really don't much matter at this point. If we can keep the bozo eruptions to a minimum, and not have too many flakey candidates bow out pre-writ, and if we can present a respectable and costed platform based on the issues that Canadians have come to expect us to champion, that's all we need do on that front.

Our focus must be on our ground game - getting our volunteers out knocking on doors, handing out literature, sending around memes on Facebook and Instagram.  Compiling data in our databases for a full-on Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort.  The sorts of things that we have a bit of a reputation for not doing very well. That's what we've got to do now, instead of talking shop.  It's time for us to walk the walk.

The Upside to 4 Years of Scheer

The only upside to a majority Conservative government that I can see is that it will give Greens and New Democrats 4 years to merge our Parties - and if we're going to undertake that exercise, 4 years might not actually be long enough.  But the writing really is on the wall, I feel.  Too many New Democrats are already dissatisfied with the direction that their Party leaders have been taking their Party.  Too many Greens are growing dissatisfied with showing up only to have our hearts broken.  If Greens have a good showing at the expense of New Democrats this time out - only to lead to the election of a Conservative government - you can bet that it will be more than just the political pundits making the case that Greens and New Democrats should work together (see: "A Green-NDP merger? It could be a big hit." MacLean's Magazine, April 28 2019).

I for one am totally onboard with the idea of a merger - although as an engaged partisan, I also know that merging the two parties won't be easy (see this Twitter Thread for my further thoughts).  The idea of merging is likely more popular with our supporters than with our members.  We come from different cultures, and there is a lot of space between us on some important issues.

But ultimately it's that which we have in common that outweighs our differences - and I think we have a lot more in common with one another than most hard-core members on either side think.  The online debate MacLean's stirred up over the question of a merger demonstrated one thing to me: members of our parties, for the most part, really don't seem to know as much about one another as I had thought.  Meaning that there's a lot of myths that need to be exploded about what Greens and New Democrats really stand for.

But now that Greens appear poised to have a serious impact on electoral outcomes, I think now more than ever it's incumbent on Greens and New Democrats to find that common ground which unites us.

Unfortunately, that project is going to have to get started after the October election.  Maybe Paul Manly and a few other former New Democrats in our ranks can figure out a way to get that ball rolling when our caucuses face off against one another in November.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)