Are the Greens Redundant?
Updated: Jan 25, 2022
There is a healthy amount of uncertainty surrounding the future of the Green Party of Canada. The 2021 election was nothing short of a disaster, losing a massive amount of vote share and holding onto only two seats (one of which was due to the removal of Liberal candidate Raj Saini). They have been passed by Maxime Bernier and the PPC and are now the 6th largest party in Canada. With a first past the post electoral system the Green Party will always be stuck winning a single-digit vote share and focusing on a few winnable ridings across the country. After dropping down to 2.3% of the vote, what purpose do they serve in Canadian politics?
The 2019 election was the high watermark for Green Party success. They grew to three seats and captured 6.5% of the popular vote. Because they posed a threat in specific ridings and with a higher vote share, all the major political parties were forced to adopt aggressive climate plans. This is the ideal outcome for the Green Party, they will never win an election and it is very unlikely they will even hold the balance of power in a minority government. Forcing the Liberals and NDP to adopt aggressive and comprehensive climate plans was the ideal scenario when the party was founded in 1983 and this was achieved in 2019. In 2021, voters showed us that when the Liberals and NDP have comparable climate plans there is little reason to vote Green, especially when there are more pressing economic and public health concerns.
In the past two elections, the Green party has tried to keep progressive votes by taking aggressive stances on social issues and public spending. If you took the party affiliation off of the Green Party and NDP’s platforms they could be interchangeable. I argue that this is a serious mistake for the Green party and damaging to Canadian politics overall. The Green party started as being politically moderate in all areas except environmental protection and climate change. It was a home for voters across the political spectrum who cared about Green issues above all else. This has slowly changed over time as progressives and young voters have latched onto the party and incorporated a broader leftist ideology. As we saw in the 2021 campaign, a clash between old school Green party members and new progressives created a rift that bogged the party down in turmoil and delegitimized their new leader Anime Paul. There are few things as exemplary of progressive cannibalism as a Green Party tearing itself apart over an Israel Palestine debate.
What good does it serve for there to be three progressive parties all fighting for votes when there is massive overlap in their platforms? The Green party should only be relevant in situations where the major parties are ignoring environmental issues and they can pose an electoral threat by taking policy positions that are clearly differentiated from the three major parties. Taking a lesson from the recent surge in support for the People’s Party of Canada the Green party should understand the role they play come election time. Maxime Bernier admitted that he will never win an election, but he did acknowledge that the bigger his party gets the more pressure he puts on the Conservatives to adopt PPC policy stances. The Green party should stick to the fundamental principles that the party was founded on and stay away from the divisive issues that inevitably lead to progressive infighting.
From my perspective, the inconvenient truth about the Green party is that their existence was redundant in the 2021 election. They split the progressive vote needlessly and in some close ridings, the outcome could have changed if you transferred Green votes to the NDP or Liberals. But their newfound redundancy is actually a good thing, they succeeded. Moving forward they can hope the Liberals and NDP continue to fight over who has the more aggressive response to climate change and reemerge when there is clear policy distance between themselves and the other two parties.