Canada federal election 2021: 'The deck is stacked against' Green Party, especially with late platform release, experts say

·4-min read

While the last decade has seen the Green Party secure its place in Parliament as the country’s fifth political party, its future in the political landscape appears to be marred by in-fighting and controversy. That could point to why the party released a platform less than a week before the election.

The Greens secured their first seat in the House of Commons in 2011 by then-leader Elizabeth May. While their number of seats expanded to three back in the 2019 election, May stepped down as leader immediately afterward. In 2020, Annamie Paul was elected as the party's leader, though the Greens have since been consumed by contestation. The federal council, a governing body appointed by party members, tried to revoke Paul’s party membership, an issue that was brought to arbitration and has since been blocked. The dispute is now a matter of the courts and the party has since elected a new federal council. Back in June, MP Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals over the Green’s policy on the Middle East, dwindling the number of seats held by the party to two. 

The internal strife appears to go beyond the party's tension towards its leader. The Globe and Mail obtained a copy of an internal report on the Greens, which found the party had significant issues with racism and transphobia and that the organization had failed to effectively manage the problem.

It remains to be seen how the challenges within the climate change-focused Greens will impact the upcoming election.

Green Party policy on climate change strong, but they haven't made a mark

Gerald Baier, an associate professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, says the Green Party are contenders when it comes to policy specifically about climate change, though it doesn't look like they’re set for a breakthrough when Canadians head to the polls on Sept. 20. 

“They've been involved in raising climate change issues for a long time and those have a more prominent place in the election, then they have in the past,” he says. “The Green Party has been in part responsible for moving that along. The question is whether the party has served its purpose in raising those issues or if there’s a real place for them in the House of Commons going forward.”

Cara Camcastle, a lecturer in the department of political science at Simon Fraser University, says the Greens have found success within the ridings where they’ve been elected.

“The Greens who’ve been elected in B.C. have been elected several times already,” she says. “Elizabeth May is well known in her community...her and Paul Manly are experts at critiquing the government and have been articulate in the climate change issues, which is top of mind for Canadians.”

But Baier says that when a party leader has lost the confidence of candidates and campaign people, it can sap the energy of what they can do on the ground to win seats.

“Where it has been successful is in finding ridings, like Elizabeth May’s riding, where they have a good chance,” says Baier. 

The deck is stacked against them so they have to play the game they’re dealt. So that means find a way and hope to build on that momentum in the future.Gerald Baier, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of British Columbia

What does the Green Party stand for?

The party released a platform less than a week before the election, the core focusing on aggressively reducing greenhouse gases to "net zero" by 2050 - something no other party has promised - and cancelling pipelines.

While campaigning in August, leader Annamie Paul said one was coming, but that the party’s policies on environmental issues were identical to what it had previously outlined in 2019. She also urged Canadians to resort to online research if they wanted to learn more about the Green’s policies on climate change.

Under the “Our Vision” section of the Green’s website, the party vows to “launch meaningful action to avoid climate catastrophe.”

Some key points include:

  • Slash greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2030 and to zero by 2050

  • End all fossil fuel industry subsidies

  • Lead a movement to divest from fossil fuels, starting with the federal government

  • Rapidly phase out coal-fired electricity and transition to a prosperous decarbonized economy

  • Invest in a Canadian Grid Strategy to deliver 100 per cent renewable electricity across Canada

The Greens have also vowed to scrap the first-past-the-post electoral system, expand and protect Health Care, and tackle homelessness. They’ve pledged to work with other parties in targeting unmanageable housing costs by declaring a national housing emergency.  

The party has also promised to develop a guaranteed basic income and work on building a minimum of 300,000 affordable housing units in the next decade.

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