Green Party Leader Elizabeth May kicked off her party’s election campaign promising supporters she will guide the ship of state toward a safe harbour.
But given the past few days, it’s fair to ask whether the Greens will get stranded upon some rocky shoal before their leader has a chance to steer the country toward the sanctuary she envisions.
These are heady times for the Greens. Their support in the polls has never been higher – ahead of the New Democrats in certain surveys. The idea the party could emerge with 10 seats or more after the Oct. 21 vote isn’t a fantastical dream imagined by some ecoactivist on Vancouver Island.
At least it wasn’t until recently. But Ms. May and some of her candidates are doing their best to torpedo the party’s chances.
First Ms. May confounded and angered many of her backers when she refused to rule out propping up the Conservatives in a minority-government situation. How could the leader even suggest such a scenario given the Conservative party’s refusal to acknowledge climate change as the crisis it is?
Then Ms. May had Green followers further scratching their heads when she said in a recent interview with the CBC’s Vassy Kapelos that she didn’t have the power to silence a hypothetical Green MP who wanted to reopen the abortion debate. This, despite her own belief that women have the right to safe, legal abortions.
Many wondered why Ms. May, who said in the same interview that Jesus Christ was her hero and then apologized for admitting this, would not only say that she wouldn’t silence an MP in her party who held an opposing view than hers on abortion, but added that her approach was healthy for democracy.
It didn’t take long for her words to explode on social media, and not much long after that for the party to issue an urgent clarification. There was “zero chance,” the Greens said, that any MP representing the party would reopen the abortion debate. The party’s position was that the abortion discussion was closed and anyone who disagreed would not be able to run for the Greens.
But the damage was done. The entire affair made one wonder just how ready Ms. May was to lead a potentially much bigger Green contingent in Parliament.
If that wasn’t enough, the day before the election was called one of the party’s prominent Quebec candidates, Pierre Nantel, said he would vote to separate if there was a sovereignty referendum. Actually worse than that, he said in an interview there should be Quebec independence “as fast as possible.” (He also supports Bill 21, Quebec government legislation deemed racist by many and which prohibits public sector workers from wearing religious symbols, including hijabs.)
Unbelievably, when asked to respond to Mr. Nantel’s remarks about Quebec independence, a party spokesperson said any Green MP from the province would be allowed to espouse separatist views because the unity of the country was “not one of the party’s core values.”
The unity of Canada is not one of the Green’s core values? Are you kidding me? A party that actually imagines running the country does not have, as part of its central mandate, nurturing the health of one Canada? That is nuts.
I realize the Greens are mainly a one-issue group, and that one issue is the environment. But they do have a broader platform and they do want to be taken seriously, and they do want to present themselves as a modern alternative to the NDP. And there is no question that there are some New Democrats, disgruntled with the leadership of Jagmeet Singh, who are giving the Greens serious thought.
And there are likely people who maybe voted Liberal the last time around who are disillusioned – folks who don’t believe you can be serious about reducing greenhouse gases and buy pipelines at the same time. There are people who might have been looking at the Greens as a statement vote.
But I would not be surprised if there are more than a few who are now questioning what the Greens stand for. After all, if they can’t be counted on to fight for the future of this country as we know it, what good are they?
Sure, it’s a noble concept to say the party doesn’t whip votes or tell its MPs what to think. But there are limits to that philosophy. More likely, it’s a naive idea that will increasingly sink Ms. May and her party into the kind of turmoil and controversy they don’t need.
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