by John W. Warnock
Greens win first seat in the Canadian Parliament
In the election on May 2, 2011 Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, won a seat in the House of Commons. Ms. May moved from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, her family home and residence, to run in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, in British Columbia. While the Green Party of Canada opposed the call for strategic voting to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, Ms. May benefitted from a massive swing of voters from the Liberal Party.
The strategy of the GPC was to get Ms. May elected to the House of Commons in the belief that her presence there would lift the support of the party. The emphasis on her personal campaign came at a high price. The vote for the GPC on the national level fell from 941,097 in 2008 to 576,221 in 2011, from 6.8% of the vote to only 3.91%. Furthermore, Harper’s Conservatives have made it clear that they will abolish the federal program of assisting political parties by granting them federal funds based on their vote. This will mean a drastic cut in funds for the GPC and the necessity of greatly reducing their office staff in Ottawa.
Scotland holds a good news election
Elections for the Scottish legislature were held on May 5, 2011. The Scottish National Party took 45% of the vote and 69 seats in the legislature. Labour won 32%, the Conservatives 14% and the Liberal Democrats 8%. SNP took 16 seats from Labour and 8 from the Liberal Democrats. The Greens won 4% of the vote and were granted 2 seats due to the modified electoral system which uses some degree of proportional representation on a regional basis. The Conservatives lost half of their seats, down to three. The SNP focused their election around their shift to renewable energy. They pledged by 2020 to have all electricity in Scotland from renewable resources. This is the first majority government in Scotland under the devolution of powers granted by Tony Blair’s Labour government. The Liberal Democrats, relatively strong in Scotland, were punished by voters for forming an alliance with the Conservatives in the UK Parliament and cutting key social programs.
Ireland’s Greens Cozy Up to the Conservatives
Elizabeth May and other Canadian Greens have praised the Green Party of Ireland for their strong stand on global warming and climate change. But is that enough? The Irish Greens gained popular support when they joined Sinn Fein in opposing the entrance of Ireland into the European Union. But then they formally joined in a coalition government with the right of centre Fianna Fail, which used taxpayers money to bail out the private Irish banks and then imposed a wide range of program cuts which fell heavily on the majority. Unemployment skyrocketed. They supported the free market policies of the dominant Irish political parties, including the demand that there should be virtually no taxes on corporations. To no one’s surprise, they were trashed in the February 2011 election and with only 1.8% of the vote lost all of their seats in parliament. It is no wonder that the Green parties in Europe have failed to increase their support over the past 20 years.
Iceland’s Greens Betray their Supporters
The Left Green Movement in Iceland was one of the most progressive of the Nordic Green parties. Iceland went bankrupt when the governing alliance of the conservatives and the social democrats privatized and deregulated the banking system. The inevitable crash destroyed the banks, and the coalition government agreed to bail them out and cover their debts. At the times, the Greens said “no”; taxpayers should not bail out private banks. The people then trashed the conservative Independence Party in the April 2009 election but produced a social democrat-Green coalition government. This new government also agreed to bail out the banks and compensate the fools in the UK and The Netherlands who invested in the bank’s fly-by-night ponzi schemes. But twice in referendums the Icelandic people said “no” – we won’t pay for the corrupt actions of the private bankers. The members of the parliamentary caucus of the Left Green Movement don’t seem to get it.
Australian Greens Making Breakthrough
The Australian federal election was held last Saturday, and the outcome has yet to be decided. There was a major swing against the Labor government, and their vote total fell to only 38%. The more right wing Liberal National Party coalition won 44% of the vote. Yet as the final mail-in ballots are being tabulated, it appears that both parties will end up with 70 or 72 seats, and neither will be able to form a majority government.
The big winner in the election was the Australian Green Party, which saw its vote total rise from 7.8% in 2007 to 13.9%. The party won a seat in the House of Representatives, taking Melbourne from Labor. Furthermore, in the Australian Senate, where seats are distributed according to a form of proportional representation, the Greens won a seat in all states for the first time and hold the balance of power. The vote total for the Greens was the highest recorded by any third party in an Australian federal election.
The Australian Greens remain committed to the original Four Principles of the original Green movement, which includes social justice and peace and non violence. So in clear contrast to the Green Party of Canada, the Australian Greens are to the left of the Australian Labor Party.
The Australian Greens have concluded that there is no need for another middle of the road middle class political party. Instead, they have focused their organizing on the young, those disgruntled by the Labor Party’s shift to the right, and those living in the large urban centres. Thus their vote totals are higher in the inner city areas: Melbourne (36%), Australian Capital Territory (20%), Sidney (24%), Brisbane (21%) and Perth (16%).
In the election campaign the Greens stressed opposition to the war in Afghanistan, greater justice for the refugee boat people, and action on climate change. Most notable is their call for a return to progressive taxation: increased corporate taxes, higher income taxes on the rich, the re-introduction of an estates tax, and the elimination of consumption taxes like the goods and services tax. They put forth a policy package which promotes a more equal society.
The Australian election was prompted by the coup within the caucus of the Australian Labor Party. The Right bloc, backed by leaders of organized labour, succeeded in removing Kevin Rudd as party leader and prime minister and replacing him with the even more pro-business Julia Gillard. This was done in a profoundly undemocratic manner, which alienated the party leadership from its members.
Kevin Rudd had stirred up a political hornet’s nest by proposing to raise resource royalties on the mining and oil and gas industry. This could have been a popular move which would have boosted Labor’s electoral support. However, The Labor Party, with its long commitment, since 1983, to neoliberal policies planned to use the new revenues to provide additional subsidies to business interests. None of the major programs announced would have benefitted the average citizen. This opened the door to a successful major campaign by big business interests, particularly in the mining area, to overthrow the Rudd government.
The Netherlands Shifts to the Right
An election was held in The Netherlands on June 9, 2010, and the populist Freedom Party (PVV) was the big surprise. Under the leadership of Geert Wilders, they increased their vote to 16% and their number of seats from 9 to 23. Wilders campaigned on restricting immigration from Muslim countries. It now appears that the pro-business Liberal Party (VVD) will lead of coalition government with the Freedom Party and the Christian Democrats (CDA).
The Dutch Labour Party received 20% of the vote and 30 seats. The Green Left (GL) slightly increased their vote to 6.6% (10 seats), and the left Liberals (D-66) increased their vote to 6.9% with 10 seats. The Socialist Party (SP) saw its vote fall from 16.6% to 9.9% and 15 seats. Following a trend in Europe, the working class is shifting its support to populist neo-fascist parties. The progressive Socialist and Green Left alternatives seem to have limited appeal at this time of economic crisis.
Greens and the German Federal Election
The German election of September 27, 2009 saw the Christian Democratic Party under Angela Merkel returned to office, this time in alliance with the liberal Free Democratic Party. The media concentrated on the collapse of the Social Democratic Party, whose vote fell from 34% in 2005 to only 23%. The 71% voter turnout was the lowest since the end of World War II.
The Left Party continued as the fourth largest party with their vote rising to 12.5%. Many thought it would be higher as they were the only major party to oppose German participation in the Afghanistan war, which is strongly opposed by the electorate.
The Greens increased their vote from 8.1% to 10.6%. They continue their shift to the political right, now forming alliances with the CDU on the state level. During the period of coalition government with the Social Democrats (1998-2005) they supported the Blairite Hartz IV and Agenda 2010 programs which were a broad attack on the welfare state, including pensions and unemployment insurance. Demographic surveys show their support shifting to those with higher incomes; their electoral support is lowest in working class and poor areas.
The elections in Portugal on September 28, 2009 saw another setback for the social democrats, whose share of the total vote fell from 44% to 36%. Prime Minister Jose Socrates is expected to continue governing but without a majority in the parliament. The biggest gains were by the Left Bloc, an alliance of new left socialists, whose total rose from 6.4% to 10%.
In Portugal, the Green Party (PEV) always runs in a coalition with the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP). The Democratic Union Coalition (CDU) saw its vote rise slightly to 7.8%, which got them 15 members in the legislature. In the local elections and those for the European Parliament the CDU normally receives around 12% of the vote.
Australian Greens on the Rise
The one Green Party which has shown a steady rise in popularity is the Australian Green Party. In May 2009 they won a by-election in Fremantle in Western Australia, taking a seat from the Australian Labor Party (ALP). In the 2009 election in Queensland they won 8.4% of the vote. In 2008 they received 16% of the vote in the seats where they ran candidates in the Northern Territory. That year they won 12% of the vote in the general election in Western Australia.
In the 2008 election in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) they won 16% of the vote and were allocated four seats in the legislature. They chose to support a minority government backing the ALP rather than to join any coalition government.
While the Greens won only 8% of the vote in the 2007 federal election, they hold five seats in the elected Australian Senate. They received their strongest support in the low income inner city ridings: 23% in Melbourne, 21% in Sydney, 21% in ACT, and 19% in Grayndler. This is because they hold fast to the original four pillars of the Greens and stress social justice issues. They have been labeled “neo-communist” by the Christian fundamentalist parties and alliances.
The ALP has resorted to pre-election preferential vote alliances with the right wing conservative Family First Party and Christian Democratic Party in an attempt to discourage Labor voters from choosing the Greens as their second preferences. Australia has a preferential system of voting, where voters list parties on the ballot according to their preferences.
Iceland: New Coalition Government with Greens
The elections of April 25, 2009 produced another coalition government, this time with the Social Democratic Alliance in control with 30% of the vote and 20 seats. The Left-Green Movement, with 21.5% of the vote and 14 seats, will be the minor party in the new coalition government. Johanna Sigurdardottir, the former airline stewardess and prominant lesbian, will be the new prime minister. Steingrimur Sigfusson, the leader of the Greens and a former truck driver, will be the finance minister. The ability of the government to confront the economic and financial crisis will be greatly limited by the public debt and the structural adjustment program imposed on the country by the International Monetary Fund.
The Social Democratic Alliance stressed during their campaign that joining the European Union and adopting the euro was the only hope for the collapsed economy. The voters bought this argument. The Left-Green Movement, like the other Europen left green parties, has opposed joining the European Union. With the support of two minor parties, the Progressive Party and the Civic Movement, the Social Democratic Alliance has enough votes to apply for membership in the EU. The Left-Green Movement will not block this decision but has historically argued that this could only be approved after a referendum.
The First Green Government?
On January 24, 2009 Iceland’s government resigned and called an election for April 25. In the meantime, a caretaken government has been formed between the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement. Large demonstrations forced the government out for their handling of the financial crisis. Following the policies of Tony Blair’s government in the UK and Bill Clinton’s in the United States, the government of Iceland deregulated the financial industry. This was part of a general move to embrace free market economics. The three major banks in Iceland put a high priority on expanding abroad, going deeply into the shaky derivatives market.
Since the election of 2007, Iceland has been ruled by a “grand coalition” government of the right wing Independence Party and the centre-left Social Democratic Alliance. In a public opinion poll taken on the day of resignation, support for the Independence Party had dropped from 37% to 22%. Support for their coalition partner, the Social Democratic Alliance, had fallen from 27% to 19%.
The surprise has been the growth of the Left-Green Movement, which received 14% in the 2007 election but is now at 33% in the polls. The party has announced that it is willing to lead a coalition government after the May 2009 election. They are the only party which wants to renegotiate the agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
Political parties were re-aligned in Iceland in 1999. Because of their ideological support for neoliberalism, supporters from the Women’s Alliance and the National Movement broke with the Social Democratic Alliance and joined with the Left Green Alliance to form the new Left-Green Movement.
The Left-Green Movement is a Green socialist party, with a strong feminist orientation. They are affiliated with the Nordic Green Left Alliance of similar parties. Their four basic principles are:
(1) Conservation and protection of the environment.
(2) Equality and social justice.
(3) Commitment to promoting labour and the labour movement.
(4) An independent foreign policy, with no military alliances.
Labour Dumped in New Zealand; Greens Stagnating
In the election in New Zealand on November 8, 2008 Helen Clark's Labour government was soundly defeated, receiving only 34% of the vote. The National Party, with 45% of the vote, will form the government in an alliance with two small right wing parties. The Greens won 6.7% of the vote and eight seats in the legislature.
In the early 1990s the Green Party joined with the leftist NewLabour Party to form The Alliance, a left green party on the Nordic model. In the 1993 election The Alliance won 18% of the vote. The broad left party emerged after the Labour government (1984-90) took a strong turn to the right and virtually repealed the welfare state while embracing free market and free trade policies. In 1997 the Greens split from The Alliance, believing that environmental issues were being given less attention than social justice issues. How have they done? In 1999, 5%; 2002, 7%, 2005 5%, and 2008, 7%.
The Alliance split and collapsed in 2002 when its leader, Jim Anderton, insisted that the party support the U.S. war on Afghanistan. The Green Party stood in opposition to this war. However, the New Zealand Greens are now seen as a single issue party, no real alternative to the free market and pro-war policies of the National Party and Labour. Thus in the 2008 election the turnout in working class ridings dropped dramatically. Voters, dismayed by the right wing policies of the Labour government, stayed home rather than vote for the increasingly conservative Green Party.
Green Party of Canada: Mixed Results from Election
The results of the 2008 election were praised by the leadersof the Green Party, but many members were disappointed. The Green Party increased is share of the vote total from 4.5% in 2006 to 6.7%. It was the only major party to actually increase its numbers of votes. But it did not win any seats in the election. Right through the last weeks the polls showed the Greens at between 10% and 13% of the vote. Elizabeth May had been included in the CBC-TV leaders' debate, did very well, and many expected that this would result in a higher vote total.
Near the end of the campaign there was a push by many political activists to promote strategic voting, to try to keep Stephen Harper and the Conservatives from gaining a majority of the seats. This apparently hurt the Greens. Polls showed that the increase in Green support came mainly from Liberal voters who were dismayed by their leader, Stephane Dion. Many of the fluid voters returned to the Liberals or the NDP on election day.
In Saskatchewan the Greens increased their total to 23,279 for 5.6% of the vote. This was an improvement over the 2006 election and came in the face of tremendous pressure to support NDP candidates.
"The Greens Are Not a Left Wing Party" -- Elizabeth May
Throughout the election Elizabeth May insisted that the Green Party of Canada was not a party of the left. In an interview with Peter Mansbridge of CBC-TV she stated: "There is no left or right. There is only right or wrong." She insisted that the Greens were attracting voters from all parties, including the old Progressive Conservative Party and the right-wing Canadian Alliance Party. But polls show that most of those who vote for the Greens identify themselves with the progressive left. The second choice for the large majority of Greens is the NDP.
This points to the dilemma of the Greens in general. If they are going to be another middle of the road middle class party, how are they going to increase their votes? Where will they come from? The new Green Party of Canada, since 2004, is seen primarily as a one-issue party. But the 2008 election showed that the other parties can also come up with platforms whose environmental positions are not that different from the Greens.
In Europe the Green parties have been around for 28 years, and in most countries, even with proportional representation, they have a hard time gaining 5% of the total vote. But in Canada, and many other countries, there are 40% of voters who do not go to the polls. They are basically turned off by the centre-right politics that characterized todays major parties, from right wing conservatives to social democratic and labour parties. Why is this enormous pool of potential voters ignored by the Greens?
Canada Holds Election on October 14, 2008
Stephen Harper, Canada's Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative minority government, called an election for October 14, 2008. Public opinion polls in mid-September indicated that the support for the Conservatives was close to 40% and it was possible to win a majority government.
The first major issue in the campaign was the decision by the major media organizations to exclude Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, from the national televised debates. This exclusion was demanded by Harper and the Tories but also by Jack Layton, the leader of the social-democratic New Democratic Party. The Greens have been cutting into their base of support. While the Greens obtained around 4% of the vote in the 2006 election, polls now put their support at between 7% and 13%.
The public was outraged by this decision, and when polls showed a strong majority wanted the Greens included, both Layton and Harper reversed their positions. It remains to be seen whether this will assist the Green Party. In one recent election in British Columbia, the media allowed the leader of the Greens to participate, and their vote rose to 16%, mostly at the expense of the NDP. The Greens are running candidates in all ridings.
Elizabeth May Welcomes Blair Wilson into the Green Party of Canada
On September 1, 2008 Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, welcomed Blair Wilson into the party. He was the sitting member of the House of Commons for West Vancouver, one of the richest ridings in Canada. In October 2007 he made headlines when his father-in-law went public to denounce him for business corruption and campaign spending irregularities. While he was later largely exonerated by Elections Canada for campaign practices, the Liberal Party conducted its own investigation and expelled him from their caucus. For a year he had been sitting as an independent. He re-applied for inclusion in the Liberal Party, but they rejected him again and said he could not be a Liberal candidate.
Elizabeth May argued that by having Wilson listed with the House of Commons as a member of the Green Party this would help convince the Canadian mass media to include her in the all-candidates debates to be held during the fall 2008 election campaign. Ms May was also able to get the Green Party candidate nominated for West Vancouver to step aside for Wilson.
U.S. Green Party Nominates All-Women Slate
The Green Party of the United States has nominated Cynthia McKinney as their candidate for president and Rosa Clemente as their candidate for vice president. McKinney is a former Democrat Member of Congress who was basically driven out of the party for taking a strong stand against the war in Iraq. Rosa Clemente is a social justice activist and a hop hop star. The main problem for the Greens, as well as Ralph Nader, running as an independent, is that the Democrats and Republicans have conspired at the state level to keep third party candidates off the ballot.
The Greens are stressing their differences with the Democratic Party ticket of Barrack Obama and Joseph Biden. Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, is best known for his strong support of the war in Iraq. Obama promises to step up the war in Afghanistan and send U.S. and NATO troops into Pakistan.
The Greens have strong policy positions on the housing crisis, the environment, the free trade agreements, alternate energy, and call for an end to U.S. imperialism abroad and the destruction of all weapons of mass destruction.
Who Are the Biggest Household Polluters?
It is well known that on a per capita basis Canada is one of the world's top polluters. A new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, using Statistics Canada data, shows clearly that when it comes to an ecological footprint, income and wealth make a big difference. Their study, Size Matters, published in June 2008, finds that the household footprint grows systematically by income level. The biggest difference comes in the size of a house/property and transportation. The richest ten percent of households have a footprint that is several times as large as the footprint of lower and lower-middle income Canadians. The top 10 percent have much larger homes and are extensive users of air transportation.
Green Taxes have been seen as the solution to climate change in Canada. However, they are consumption taxes that fall equally on all regardless of income or wealth. Much popular opposition to Green Taxes is based on the common view that those who are well off are not affected and that they are regressive taxes which fall heaviest on those least able to pay.
Subprime Mortgage Crisis and U.S. Corporate Policy
The U.S. Center for Responsive Politics has recorded that all three of the major candidates for the presidency of the United States are being bankrolled by big corporate interests, including the finance/insurance/real estate corporations responsible for the mortgage crisis for low and medium income earners. As of March 2008 these interests had contributed more to the candidates of the Democratic Party than to Republican John McCain.
The Green Party of the United States points out that the Finance Chair of the Obama campaign in Penny Pritzker, former board chair of Superior Bank of Chicago, which collapsed in 2001. Her brother, J. B. Pritzker, heads Citizens for Hillary Clinton.
The GP/USA argues that the root of the mortgage crisis is the failure of the U.S. government policy of financial deregulation, and major abuses by the banking and credit industries, "Enron-style corporate practices," and state-supported policies which imposed debt on low income working Americans. The GP/USA supports the formating of community development banks, capitalized by public funds, to provide low interest credit and low-risk assistance for home owners. They call for an interim five year moratorium on foreclosures on home owners.
Foreign Policy: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in the U.S. Presidential Race
The Green Party of the United States points out that little will change if Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John McCain are elected president in November 2008. All three are committed to the continued occupation of Iraq. All three support the privatization of Iraqi oil and its control by US and UK oil corporations. All three call for greater U.S. military spending, with Obama demanding 90,000 more U.S. troops. All three are open to a military attack on Iran. All three voted to provide additional funding to keep the war going in Iraq. McCain and Clinton both supported the invasion of Iraq and all three strongly support the repressive Patriot Act. All three want to see a major escalation of the U.S. military role in Afghanistan. The GP/USA has argued that the invasion of Iraq was a war crime under the Charter of the United Nations and international law and that the occupation should end as soon as possible.
Canadian By-elections Reveal Distain for Our Political Parties
There were four federal by-elections held in Canada on March 25, 2008. Only 28% of those on the voters' list went to the polls. The Green Party of Canada cheered the results, for their percentage of the vote cast went up. Their total votes were 8,625, almost as high as the 8,856 in the January 2006 general elections. But all of the federal parties refused to discuss the astonishly low turn out of voters. Not only did the voters say they had no reason to support the Tories and the Liberals, they failed to be impressed in any way with the policy direction of either the New Democratic Party or the Greens. None of the parties chose to campaign on the war in Afghanistan. Not even the Greens are willing to recognize the most serious threat facing Canada due to climate change.
Green Party of Saskatchewan increases vote in 2007 election
In the November 7, 2007 election the Green Party of Saskatchewan ran 48 candidates, an increase from 27 in the 2003 election. Where they ran candidates they won 2.4% of the vote on average. In the 2003 election they only won 1.2% of the vote where they ran candidates. The party was formed in 1998 and ran only 16 candidates in the 1999 election. The highest percentage was won by Harold Johnson in the northern seat of Cumberland. The Greens are starting to build links with the Aboriginal community. Edna Daigneault ran for the Greens in the other northern seat, Athabasca. Only 60% of eligible voters (18 and older) went to the polls. Why is this happening?
Green Party of Saskatchewan
2007 Election Platform Highlights
* A New Energy Policy - Gaining control of our oil and gas reserves, oppose nuclear power and uranium refining, phase out electrical power from burning coal.
* Climate Change - Support for Kyoto Protocol through energy conservation, demand management, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and small hydro.
* Agriculture and Food - Support for ecological agriculture, marketing boards, co-ops, food security, and local processing and distribution. We will end subsidies to corporate agribusiness and support a move to organic agriculture.
* Electoral Reform - Introduce proportional representation, limit campaign contributions to individuals, and limit size of individual contributions.
* Taxation for Social Justice - Re-introduce a progressive tax system based on ability to pay, increase resource royalties, restore grants to municipalities, reduce property taxes, and move to eliminate user fees for public services.
* A New and Different Health Policy - A policy based on prevention of illness, support for the five principles of Medicare, and the right of all to healthy food, clean water, clean air, good housing and a just standard of living
* A New Approach to Resource Development - Emphasis on local and Canadian ownership and control, sustainable development, sharing with Aboriginal communities, and ending subsidies to large transnational corporations.
* Education Policy - Restore provincial funding to school districts, support and fund pre-school programs, restore funding to post- secondary institutions, and reduce tuition for higher education to levels of the past, the lowest in Canada.
See the complete platform and policies of the Green Party of Saskatchewan:
Greens Split in Greek Election
On September 18, 2007 a general election was held in Greece. The conservative New Democracy won re-election with 41.8% of the vote. The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) received 38.1% of the vote, slightly down from the 2004 election. Under the unusual Greek electoral system, a party receiving over 41% of the vote is granted additional seats up to 152, giving it an absolute majority of the seats. The remainder of the seats are then distributed according to a system of proportional representation.
The Communist Party won 8.15% (22 seats), the Coalition of the Radical Left 5.04% (14 seats) and the right wing Popular Orthodox Party 3.80% (10 seats). On the basis of popular vote, the broad left could have formed a coalition government, as they had a majority of the votes, but this was blocked by the electoral system.
The Greens were split along ideological lines. The conservative Greens are found in the Ecological Greens, the party which is recognized by the European Federation of Green Parties. It won 1.05% of the vote and no seats. The left Greens are found among the 10 parties and groups which form the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA)., which includes pacifists, feminists, and independent socialists. The two largest Green groups in the coalition are Ecological Intervention, the largest environmental organization, and Renewing Communist Ecological Left. SYRIZA has formed the Greek Social Forum and is affiliated with the European Social Forum.
German Greens Swing to the Right on Military Role in Afghanistan
Several public opnion polls in August 2007 reveal that around two-thirds of Germans want the government to withdraw from a military role in Afghanistan. Among supporters of the political parties the level of opposition consists of 82% of the Left Party, 66% of the social democratic SPD, 55% of the conservative CDU, 53% of the Green Party and 43% of the liberal FDP.
In the face of this opposition, the leaders of the ruling coalition government (CDU-SPD) have taken a strong stand in favour of expanding Germany's military role, including an active military role in the Southern zone where the insurgent operations are the most extensive. This policy has been pushed by the U.S. administration and NATO's military leaders.
The Green Party leadership in the German parliament takes a similar position. Within the party there is strong opposition to a military role in AFghanistan, and forty-four local Green organizations have petitioned to have a general emergency meeting on the issue, now scheduled for September 15. Jurgen Trittin, the Green spokesperson in the parliament for external affairs, is confident that the leadership of the party can override the dissention. In the past where special congresses have been called by the grass roots, the leadership has been able to prevail.
Green Party of Canada Fails Test on Afghanistan
On July 18, 2007 the Globe and Mail published the results of a public opinion poll on Canada and Afghanistan. The poll was done by Strategic Council, the regular pollster for the Globe. It revealed that in eight polls done between July 2006 and July 2007, the majority of those Canadians polled opposed Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. Opposition ranged from a low of 53% to a high of 61%.
When asked, “Which leader would Canadians trust the most to make the right decisions about Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan?” only one percent chose Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada.
The same poll asked Canadians how they would vote if an election were called today. The results were: Liberal, 31%; Conservative, 31%; NDP, 17%; Bloc Quebecois, 10%; and Greens, 10%. They also broke down support for each party by gender. The front page story was the strong support for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives by male voters and the strong support for Stephane Dion’s Liberals by female voters.
The big surprise in this poll is that there was no difference in supporters for the Greens between men and women. In all other countries support for the Greens is much higher among women than among men. Why the difference in Canada? Historically the Greens have a strong commitment to peace and non violence, one of the Four Pillars of the international Green movement. The Greens in all the industrialized countries except Germany have expressed strong opposition to the US/UK wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But not in Canada. The Greens under Jim Harris and Elizabeth May have remained silent on war policy - even when the war in Afghanistan is listed as one of the top political issues for Canadians. This is a major policy shift from the historic Green Party policy of strong opposition to militarism and military alliances.
Ecosocialists To Launch New International
by Derek Wall
Derek Wall is the Green Party of England and Wales Principal Speaker.
In what promises to be a milestone event, ecosocialists are preparing to meet in Paris to launch a new international. Michael Lowy and Joel Kovel, authors of the ecosocialist manifesto, have called the meeting on October 7, 2007 in Paris to bring ecosocialists together.
The manifesto is symbolic of the way that socialists are increasingly acknowledging the green roots of Marxism. Greens, meanwhile, are realising that capitalism is the cause of climate change and other ecological ills. Climate change is an urgent concern for the political mainstream. But the economic roots of environmental problems in the short term pursuit of profit are pushed to the sidelines.
Rather the emphasis is on individual consumer action and on .solutions. via carbon trading and pollution quotas. Equally Marxists in the 20th century largely treated environmental questions as of secondary importance and often were tempted to interpret Marxism in a narrowly productivist form.
However there is a growing awareness that Marx and Engels were ecologists, concerned centrally with problems of deforestation, soil erosion, food additives and air pollution. Engels' famous Condition of the English Working Class looked at how pollution wrecked the health of the proleteriat. Marx.s first political journalism showed how peasants were excluded from the woods where they collected fallen branches for fuel. Today capitalism still throws peasants off the land, encloses resources and makes profit from the exploitation of the working class and the environment.
The Paris meeting will bring supporters of the ecosocialist manifesto together on a non sectarian basis to look at practical ways of building a sustainable, socialist and democratic future.
Green Left, the ecosocialist and anti-capitalist platform in the Green Party; Socialist Resistance and Green Left Weekly will be sending representatives. Ecosocialists from Venezuela will also be involved in the project.
The socialist climate change blogger Ian Angus is one of the organisers. He notes: "This meeting is a very preliminary first step. We will get to know each other, establish a provisional organising committee, and begin discussions of projects and activities." The main goal, he added, would be to set a time, place and preliminary agenda for a larger meeting in 2008. There it was hoped to have broad participation from green-left activists around the world.
The aim in Paris is to allow groups and individuals from different political affiliations to network so as to deepen understanding of ecosocialist ideas and to further common projects. This will be neither a talking shop nor a top-down monolith but a means of creating an ecosocialist politics that has real bite.
Marx summed up the objective in Capital III: "Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations." The point, as always, is to make Marx’s statement real.
For more details cheque out the web site: Climate and Capitalism.
French Greens Crushed in 2007 Elections
The Green Party of France suffered a dramatric blow in the presidential and legislative elections in June 2007. In the presidential election, Green candidate Dominique Voynet received only 1.57 percent of the vote. The Trotskyst candidates receive together 5.7 percent. In the elections for the national legislature, the Green party candidates received 3.25% in the first round and only 0.45% in the second, reduced to four seats in the legislature. It takes 20 seats to be recognized as an official party. The Greens are now negotiating with the Communist Party (15 seats) and the Left Radical Party (7 seats) to try to form a coalition which would grant them party status. Around 40 percent of the electorate abstained from the election.
In the May 2005 referendum on the constitution of the European Union, the leadership of the Greens joined with the mainstream parties in the "yes" campaign. But the rank and file of the Greens strongly supported the "no" side, which won with 55 percent of the vote case. Voynet, Minister of the Environment in the broad left coalition government, campaigned vigorously for the "yes" campaign as was widely criticized by the party membership. There was a 70% turnout for the referendum.
Green Party Struggles in Manitoba and PEI Provincial Elections
Two provincial elections were held in May 2007, and they both reveal the problems which come from having a highly centralized Green Party of Canada structure, with the preponderance of the party finances and staff members held in Ottawa. In Prince Edward Island, the Greens ran for the first time and received 2,482 votes or 3.0% of the total. But they managed to outpoll the NDP, which received only 1,597 votes or 2% of the total. In one riding the Green candidate received 8.5% of the vote and in another 6.8%. But the party was only able to find 18 candidates for the 27 ridings. In the Manitoba election the Greens raised their vote from 0.9% in 2003 to 1.3% in 2007. But they were able to field only 15 candidates, up just one from the 2003 election. There are 57 seats in the Manitoba legislature.
Without a full time organizer, the new Green parties at the provincial level are greatly handicapped. In large provinces it is extremely difficult to get organized, find candidates, and get them on the ballot. In Saskatchewan in the 2003 provincial election, the New Green Alliance (now the Green Party of Saskatchewan) had 42 candidates, but only 27 managed to get all their papers in on time, find business agents, establish bank accounts, find a campaign manager, and get on the ballot. With a full time organizer all 42 of these candidates would have been on the ballot.
The Green Party of Canada (post 2004) is unique among Green parties in federal states. In all the other federal states, the national Green Party is a confederations of provincial/state Green parties. This is good practical politics, building a strong base, and it is consistent with the traditional Green commitment to decentralization and grass roots participatory democracy. This is no longer the case in Canada, and it provides another major barrier to building the party.
More Bad News for the NDP
The new public opinion poll done by Sigma Analytics for the Leader-Post in April 2007 has more bad news for the provincial NDP government. Leaving aside the 30% who said that they were undecided, the results are as follows.
Saskatchewan Party 54.7%
These results are consistent with other indications of the collapse in support for the NDP. The last poll was 48% for the Sask Party and 31% for the NDP. In the Weyburn Big Muddy bye election, the NDP actually fell to third place in a riding they used to win. In the recent Martensville bye election the NDP vote fell from 27% in 2003 to 10%. All this indicates that in the election which Lorne Calvert says will be called in fall 2007, we can expect a landslide victory for the Saskatchewan Party. If they get anywhere around 50% of the vote, the NDP, like in 1982, will be reduced to around 10 seats in the legislature.
But there was more bad news in the poll for the NDP. When asked which party leader would make the best premier, 47% chose Brad Wall of the Sask Party and only 34% chose Lorne Calvert. When asked who you would not want as premier, 24% said Brad Wall and 62% said Lorne Calvert.
What issues are important to Saskatchewan voters?
The Sigma poll also asked participants which issues were the most important. Health care topped the list. Then came the state of the economy, several government issues, and then loss of population. Environmental issues were well down the list.
The NDP government released its most recent poll on the same day (Leader-Post, April 28, A-11). They asked respondents which were the five most important issues. The response was health care (16.6%), population loss (15%), the economy (10.9%), employment (6.8%) and agriculture (6.8%). Again the environment and environmental issues were far down the list. This is consistent with federal polls which report that concern over global warming and climate change is lowest in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
There is a message here for the Greens. Many people view the party as a single issue party. Many of the leaders of the Green party – including Jim Harris, Adriane Carr, Frank de Jong, and Elizabeth May – rarely speak on any other issues. If the Green Party of Saskatchewan limits its campaign to environmental issues, there will be no increase in votes. In 1999 where the New Green Alliance ran candidates, they averaged 5% of the vote.
Here are a couple of basic facts about Saskatchewan to keep in mind. They are from the 2005 Economic Review put out by the SK Bureau of Statistics:
(1) Income distribution. Canada Revenue Agency reports that of the 716,880 Saskatchewan tax filers:
Only 15% report incomes over $50,000
65% report incomes less than $30,000
34% do not earn enough income to pay taxes
(2) Shift in income distribution. The shift in the distribution of income in Saskatchewan over the period of the NDP government reflects the desired effects of their taxation policies – cuts in corporate taxes, cuts in taxes on smaller businesses, major reductions in the royalties and taxes on the resource corporations, and cuts to the income taxes paid by those with the highest incomes:
In 1994 wages and salaries accounted for 60.5% of provincial domestic income;
In 2004 wages and salaries accounted for 55.4% of provincial domestic income;
In 1994 corporation profits accounted for 14.7% of provincial domestic income;
In 2004 corporation profits accounted for 23.7% of provincial domestic income.
This may suggest why people are shifting their support away from the NDP or increasingly refusing to vote. The Sigma poll reports that “negativity [toward the NDP government] was strongest among those with the lowest household incomes and the least education.”
Elections in Quebec and New South Wales
Two elections were held on March 26, 2007. In Quebec, the unpopular Liberal Party suffered a major setback and was reduced to a minority government. But the Parti Quebecois also did poorly, as traditional supporters were angry at its policy shift to the right and many voters were turned off by their emphasis on holding a referendum on sovereignty. The protest vote went to Mario Dumont and the Action Democratique du Quebec, a free market quasi-nationalist party.
Many were watching to see how the new left feminist party would do. Quebec Solidaire won 3.7% of the vote and the Greens won 3.9%. The Greens did best in the Liberal-English speaking ridings, and the QS did best in the working class Quebecois ridings. In spite of the publicity surrounding the election, and the three way competition among the major parties, 30% of eligible voters stayed home on election day.
There was an election in the Australian state of New South Wales on the same day. The governing Labour Party was returned. However, polls showed popular dissatisfaction with both Labour and the opposition Liberal-National Party coalition. Twenty-five percent of voters went for alternate parties. The Greens, the third largest party, won 9% of the vote, and took over 30% in two ridings. They increased their standing in the upper house (chosen by proporational representation) to four seats. While the Greens give their second preferences on their ballots to Labour as the "lesser evil," the Labour Party has been making second preference alliances with the right wing fundamentalist Christian Democratuic Party and Family Values Party, to try to block the growth of the Greens. These parties are anti-feminist and strongly oppose gay rights.
NDP Government Faces Rout in the Next Saskatchewan Election
All the available evidence suggests that Lorne Calvert's NDP government is facing a major defeat in the next provincial election, which is expected in October 2007. The NDP was routed in the Weyburn-Big Muddy by election, falling to third place behind even the Liberals. The most recent public opinion poll put support for the oppostion Saskatchewan Party at 48% and the NDP at 31%. Then there was the Martensville by election in early March 2007. The results were grim news:
Martensville: by election 2007 Martensville: general election 2003
Saskatchewan Party 3,557 77.0% 3,778 55.0%
New Democratic Party 485 10.5% 1,836 27.0%
Liberals 347 7.5% 1,135 17.0%
Greens 104 2.3% no candidate
Greens Rise in the Polls – NDP Drops
Over the first few months of 2007 various public opinion polls report that electoral support for the Green Party has risen to between 8% and 13% while support for the NDP has fallen from 18% in the recent election to only 13% to 15%. Several polls taken at the end of February 2007 put the Greens and the NDP tied at 13%.
The early polls also showed a drop in support for Stephen Harper’s right wing party and a rise in support for the Liberal Party. But Harper and the mass media then carried out a major political attack on Stephan Dion, and the Liberals are now dropping in the polls. The NDP has to decide whether it is going to continue to support Mr. Harper’s minority government in the House of Commons or join with the other parties in opposition over the lack of policy on global warming/climate change and the new federal budget to be brought in on March 19.
Under the leadership of Elizabeth May there has been no change in the Green Party’s policy direction from that of her predecessor, Jim Harris. But the fortunes of the Greens have risen because Ms. May is known across Canada, is an articulate and very intelligent woman, and to date has not shown any of the crass opportunism of Canada’s usual political leaders. She is attracting support from young people, who flock to her meetings. Many women are now supporting the Greens as they are so happy to have a top notch woman leading any political party.
But as pollster Darrell Bricker of Ipsos-Reid points out, “the Green Party traditionally does better in public opinion polling than it does on election day.” Numerous polls in Europe, and in Canada, demonstrate that the electorate which supports Green parties is on the left. As we see in Canada, voter preference is primarily shifting from the NDP to the Greens. This seems to be a concern of Elizabeth May and her team who continually stress that a growing percentage of their members are former Conservatives. But as Lawrence Martin points out in his column on Greens in the Globe and Mail (March 3, 2007), all the parties are adopting environmental policies. Moving to the right, and stressing only environmental policies, has it down side. “Why vote Green when they all are?” Martin asks.
Green Party of Saskatchewan Elects New Leader
At a general membership meeting held in Saskatoon on October 18, 2006 the Green Party of Saskatchewan elected Sandra Finley as it new leader. John Kern was forced to resign due to personal circumstances. The party also chose to focus on a number of key issues, which will form the core of the platform. The final platform of the party will be adopted at the March 2007 annual general meeting. The Saskatchewan Greens will run a candidate in the Martensville by-election to be called some time in February 2007. The June 2006 by-election in Weyburn-Big Muddy was won by the Saskatchewan Party, but their share of the vote did not increase. However, there was a very significant shift in voter support from the NDP to the Liberals. Combined with the poor showing by NDP candidates in the October 2006 municipal elections in Saskatoon and Regina, and their poor showing in recent public opinion polls, it is widely expected that the NDP will lose the next provincial election, expected in either June or October 2007. Many commentators and NDP party members believe they will be decisively defeated. For the GPS platform highlights for 2007 see: Saskatchewan Politics and Political Economy.
Poverty Rises Significantly under German SPD-Green Coalition Government
A new report in October 2006 by the Freedrich Ebert Institute-FES reveals that there has been a major increase in the percentage of the population living below the poverty line in Germany during the coalition government between the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens (1998-2005). The percentage of the population living below the poverty line increased from 11.5% to 16.5%, while the share of wealth controlled by the top ten percent of households increased from 45% to 47%. The rise of increased poverty and inequality was attributed to the labour market "reforms" introduced by the coalition government, and in particular the attack on unemployment rights and benefits represented by their Agenda 2010 program. The German Greens, lead by the realos, strongly supported these cuts to the welfare state and the rights of trade unions. During the period of the coalition government, the Greens lost their representation in almost all of the state legislatures, failing to get the required five percent of the vote to elect members through the PR list system.
Elizabeth May Elected New Leader of the Green Party of Canada
On the weekend of August 26, 2006 the Green Party of Canada elected a new leader, Elizabeth May from Cape Breton, NS, well-known former executive dcxirector of the Sierra Club of Canada. Of the 3200 votes cast by members, mostly through mail-in ballots, May was chosen by 2,145. With 65% of the voting membership behind her, she takes office with a strong mandate. Of the 9000 current members of the federal Greens, around 400 attended the convention. Over the past year the support for the Greens in national public opinion polls ranged between six and eight percent. The first national poll after her election put the Green Party at 10% and the New Democratic Party at 14%.
The Halifax Herald commented: "With the Greens perceived as being a one-issue party, focused solely on the environment, the challenge for Ms. May will be to broaden the party's agenda to make voters disillusioned with the three mainstream parties to feel at home. Her track record for attracting public attention will now be put to the test."
Saskatchewan Still Leads Canada in Boosting Greenhouse Gas Emissions
On May 26, 2006 Environment Canada released its annual report, National Inventory on Greenhouse Gases. Alberta remained the largest contributor to GHG emissions, accounting for almost one-third of the Canadian total. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Canada is pledged to reduce its emissions to six percent below the 1990 level by 2010. Alberta's emissions in 2004 were 39.4 percent above 1990 levels. This will increase as the Alberta tar sands are further developed.
But Saskatchewan leads all the provinces and territories in the increase in GHG emissions. In 2004 GHG emissions were 61.7 percent above 1990 levels. The expansion of the oil and gas industry, almost exclusively to meet U.S. demand, was the major reason for the dramatic increase. In February 2006 Premier Lorne Calvert and Industry and Resources Minister Eric Cline went to Washington to meet with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney to promise that Saskatchewan would increase even further the export of oil, natural gas and uranium. In May 2006 U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins came to Regina to praise the NDP government for helping President George W. Bush "lessen the dependency on foreign oil."
Elizabeth May Is Running for the Leadership of the Green Party
Prominent environmentalist and political activist Elizabeth May has launched her campaign to become the new leader of the Green Party of Canada. At a press conference in Ottawa on May 9 she attacked the current Conservative government of Stephen Harper as "frightening" and critized the opposition parties for failure to mount any real criticism or present an alternative vision. "There's no party with which I'm more disillusioned than the NDP," she proclaimed. "The Green Party will have influence, will be a strong voice in Canada, and we will rock this country's politics in a way that nothing else ever has," she said.
What is her basic political philosophy? "My inspiration comes from the social justice vision of Tommy Douglas, the community empowerment economic ethic of Monsignor Moses Coady, and the environmental principles of David Suzuki."
With May as leader, the political direction of the Green Party of Canada will return to its roots.
Contact the Elizabeth May campaign at: http://elizabethmay.ca
Nova Scotia Greens on the Map
The Green Party of Nova Scotia was organized in early 2006 and almost immediately was confronted by a provincial election. Nevertheless, they managed to find candidates for all 52 ridings and despite a very limited campaign budget obtained two percent of the votes cast.
The turnout for the election was 61% of registered voters, the lowest in history. The media described it as totally boring, dreary campaign. In the televised leaders' debate (the Greens were again excluded) commentators stated that it was impossible to tell the differences between the Conservaties, the NDP and the Liberals. All put cutting taxes at the top of the list. One commentator described it "like watching the tide come in on a calm day." The Conservatives won 40% of the vote, dropped two seats to 23, but will form a minority government. The NDP increased their seats from 15 to 20. The Liberals fell from 10 to 9 seats.
Beware of the Four Western Premiers!
Over the past few years we have seen a growing consensus among the Four Western Premiers at their annual meeting. They are Gary Doer (NDP) from Manitoba, Lorne Calvert (NDP) from Saskatchewan, Ralph Klein (PC) from Alberta and Gordon Campbell (LIB) from British Columbia. In 2003 the four agreed to support President George W. Bush's call for a new continental energy pact and shipping even more energy to the United States. At the meeting at Gimli, Manitoba in early June 2006, the four agreed to abandon Canada's commitments under the Kyoto Accord and accept the alternative put forward by George W. Bush and Stephen Harper, Canada's minority Prime Minister. Whatever that may be. Furthermore, at the Gimli meeting the four premiers agreed to back agribusiness interests and urged the federal government to drop support for supply management marketing boards for farm products in Canada's negotiations with the World Trade Organization. Greens support marketing boards for farmers as one way to enhance farm income and sustain local production for local consumption. Self reliance in food and agriculture is a basic Green position.
Canadian Political Parties Dodge Issue of Afghanistan
There was a debate in the House of Commons over the role of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. All the parties, including the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party, endorsed the present Liberal-Tory policy of agressive military intervention in support of U.S. policy objectives. In spite of the fact that Green Parties around the world strongly oppose the U.S./NATO invasion of Afghanistan (except for Germany), the leadership of the Green Party of Canada has remained silent on the issue. Public opinion polls have consistently shown that at least a plurality of Canadians surveyed oppose this present policy; opposition rose to 54% in the Strategic Counsel poll in March 2006. Other polls have shown a strong majority of Canadians want the government to return to our tradition of peace keeping - not war making.
In her recent visit to Canada, U.S. anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan clearly stated the goals of the U.S. government in Afghanistan. The primary objective of U.S. National Security policy is to try to gain access to and to control the oil in the Caspian Sea area. The U.S.-imposed puppet regime supports this objective. Canada and NATO are in Afghanistan to support this puppet regime, and this allows the U.S. government to divert more of its armed forces to the Iraq war. It is a disgrace that the leadership of the Green Party of Canada will not stand with our brothers and sisters across the border in opposition to the war against Afghanistan. This stance violates the basic Green pillar of peace and non-violence and existing party policy on war and militarism.
New Leader for the Green Party of Canada
The Green Party of Canada will elect a new leader at its biennial conference in Ottawa in August 2006. Jim Harris, the current leader, has announced that he will not run for re-election. All party members have an opportunity to vote for all the elected party positions through mail-in ballots. Party membership must be renewed or taken by June 27, 2006.
As of the end of April, only two candidates have announced that they will contest the leadership position. David Cherushenko from Ottawa, Deputy Leader of the GPC, has formally announced. Elizabeth May, well known environmentalist and recent executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, has told the press that she will run as well.
During the four years that the GPC was led by Jim Harris the party put a heavy emphasis on running a full slate of candidates. Largely because of this, the vote for the Greens went up to over 4% in the 2004 election. There was a small increase in the 2006 campaign. By getting over two percent of the votes cast, the party has received substantial funding from the federal government.
However, the party has been in turmoil under Harris's leadership. His political orientation has been described as "eco-capitalist" and "blue Green." Prior to joining the Greens, Harris was active in the Ontario Conservative Party. Under Harris, the party leadership has dodged social justice issues and has not taken a stand on peace issues like the war in Iraq and Afghanistan or international justice issues like free trade v. fair trade. This has set the Canadian party off from the international Green movement.
In addition, there has been an intense division over the party's structure and constitution and the distribution of the funds from the federal government. Harris and his supporters have stressed a highly centralized party with a very large paid staff in Ottawa. The original Green Party of Canada was a decentralized confederation of provincial parties, similar to the structure of the Greens in Australia and the United States. Manhy party members feel that the present structure defies the Green commitment to decentralization and participatory democracy. Quite a few prominent members who have opposed Harris have quit or been expelled from the party. Women in the party have been particularly critical of the patriarchal nature of the leadership. It is hoped that these issues will be resolved with the election of a new leadership.
Green Vote Rises but Election Results a Disappointment
The Canadian federal election of January 23, 2006 resulted in a miniority government headed by the Conservatives under Stephen Harper. The Tories received 36% of the vote (124 seats), the Liberals 30% (103 seats) , the New Democratic Party 17% (29 seats), and the Bloc Quebecois, running only in Quebec, received 11% (51 seats).
The Green Party of Canada received around 585,000 votes, over 4%, up slightly from the 2004 election. The results were disappointing. The party continued its slide in British Columbia, where it received only 5% of the vote compared to 12.5% of the vote in a recent provincial election. Over 2005 public opinion polls showed the federal Greens to have the support of around 8% of potential voters. Turnout was again low, just over 60% of registered voters.
In Saskatchewan the Greens increased their share of the vote from 2.4% to 3.5%. Matt Smith, running in Souris Moose Mountain, received 5.2%, the highest vote of any Green candidate. There was tremendous pressure put on Greens to vote strategically for the NDP.
Polls Show Rise in Support for Greens in Saskatchewan; Swing to New Tories
Memo to Saskatchewan Greens
January 20, 2006
The Leader-Post (Regina) today (January 20, 2006) carried its second poll done by Sigma Analytics. This one was for the Regina riding of Wascana:
2004 election results 2006 Sigma survey
Liberals 57% 44%
Conservatives 24% 38%
NDP 16% 14%
Greens 2.4% 3.5%
In the previous week, they ran a poll for the Regina riding of Palliser:
Conservatives 35.9% 42.5%
NDP 35.5% 30.2%
Liberals 24.9% 22.5%
Greens 2.4% 4.8%
These polls are consistent with others which show the support for the new Conservatives (Reform, Canadian Alliance) up across the prairies. Depending on the turnout, it looks like Stephen Harper's crew will fairly easily win the seats in Regina which were close last time. Local Conservatives say that is why Harper has not bothered to come to Saskatchewan. I expect the Liberals will regain their seat in Churchill River, now that there is no strong independent candidate running, and they have a well known First Nations' man running, Gary Merasty, strongly backed by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN).
One of the key issues should be the low level of turnout in recent elections, particularly in Saskatchewan. But no one wants to look at that or try to figure out why this is happening. No doubt when the NDP is again shut out in this province, many of their activists will again try to blame this on the Greens. In anticipation of this attack, look at the statistics from recent federal elections, Saskatchewan results:
Year Total votes % voting NDP votes % total
1984 524,566 77.9% 201,433 38.4%
1988 525,219 77.8% 232,147 44.2%
1993 486,872 69.4% 129,649 26.6%
1997 444,004 65.3% 136,555 30.9%
2000 433,697 62.3% 113,626 26.2%
2004 427,960 59.1% 99,754 23.3%
From Elections Canada
So about 130,000 people who used to vote for the NDP have either switched to other parties or have quit voting. The problem with the NDP is that they firmly refuse to take any responsibility for the decline in their fortunes in this province. They couldn't be doing anything wrong!
Green Party Runs Strong Slate of Candidates in Saskatchewan
The Green Party of Canada is running a full slate of candidates in the January 23, 2006 federal election. Fourteen candidates have been nominated to run in Saskatchewan. In contrast to the old parties, many of the Green Party candidates are young community activists. The party in Saskatchewan is also attracting candidates who are practicing Green principles by engaging in ecological agriculture. For background on the candidates see the listing on the web site of the Green Party of Canada and the Green Party of Saskatchewan.
Federal Election Called for January 23, 2006
On Monday November 28, 2005 the opposition parties in the House of Commons passed a motion of non-confidence in the minority Liberal government headed by Paul Martin. Both the new Conservative Party and the Bloc Quebecois wanted an early election, hoping that the public outrage over the Sponsorship scandal would weaken support for the Liberal Party. Martin's Liberal government had pledged to hold an election in spring.
The key to defeating the government rested with Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party. Layton negotiated with the Liberals on the issue of support for the public health system and opposition to a two-tiered health system with private clinics. Paul Martin stated that their government would not make any concessions to the NDP and that commitment to a public health system was a key principle for the party and would be so in any campaign.
There was some concern expressed by Jack Layton's decision to join with the Tories and the Bloc and bring down the government. A Strategic Counsel poll released on November 5, 2005 found the Tories at 31% and the Liberals at 28%. This was the first poll which showed support for the Tories above that of the Liberals. In addition, a poll by Ipsos-Reid (released November 12) showed that 57% favoured a spring over a winter election.
While almost all polls indicated that the election would most likely produce the same division between the parties as the 2004 election, fears were raised over the possibility of a minority government headed by Stephen Harper of the Canadian Alliance/ Reform Party, which had swallowed the old Progressive Conservative Party. Harper quickly announced that he would introduce a new free vote in the House of Commons hoping to repeal the rights of gays and lesbians to marriage rights.
This prompted a number of labour leaders to endorse strategic voting, calling on members to support Liberal candidates rather than NDP candidates where they had a better chance to win. This put Jack Layton in a difficult position, as he urged support for all NDP candidates.
The Green Party of Canada plans to run a full slate of candidates in the January 2006 election. Most have been nominated. Recent polls put the support for the party at between 5% and 8%, up from the 4.2% they received in the 2004 election.
Green Party Rises in the Most Recent Poll on Political Choices
A public opinion poll released by Allan Gregg's Strategic Counsel on November 8, 2005 showed only the Green Party has increased its support since the 2004 federal election. The largest increase for the Green Party was in the four western provinces, where they went up from 4% to 12%.
Few believe this is the result of a more prominent public profile for the Greens. More likely it is a result of the widespread pubic anger over the Liberal governments' corruption in the Sponsorship scandal and the distrust for the Conservative Party and its leader, Stephen Harper. What is also notable about the poll is that there has been no shift in voter support to the New Democratic Party. Under the leadership of Jack Layton, who manages to get on television quite regularly, the party has not grown: its support remains stuck at 16%, the vote they achieved in the 2004 election. The poll actually shows a small drop in support for the NDP in the West, where it forms the government in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and is the official opposition in British Columbia. Support in the West is at only 20%.
Results for the November 7, 2005 poll: Liberals, 35%; Conservatives, 28%, NDP, 16%, Bloc Quebecois, 13% and Green Party 8%. In this poll the Green Party had the support of 6% of potential voters in Quebec and the Conservatives only 5%!
In the June 2004 federal elction the Liberals received 37%, Conservatives 30%, NDP 16%, Bloc Quebecois 12%, and Green Party 4%.
Saskatchewan Greens Debate Relationship to Federal Party
For the past year and a half Greens in Saskatchewan have been discussing the direction of the Green Party of Canada. Many believe that the federal party has been moving to the right on policy issues. The new leadership of the party, under the direction of Jim Harris and his political allies, has also been centralizing the party in Ottawa. Many believe that the party is also becoming too hierarchical. The Green party tradition, and the original Green Party of Canada constitution, calls for the creation of a decentralized federal party.
Two draft position papers have been prepared for discussion by the Green Party of Saskatchewan and the Green Party of Canada, Saskatchewan Division. These papers are posted on the web site of the Green Party of Saskatchewan, and members and supporters are encouraged to submit opinions and proposals for change. In a month the executives of the two organizations will prepare a joint statement on these issues. The two draft statements can be accessed at the provincial party web site:
Green Party of Saskatchewan -- Statements on the Green Party of Canada
New Progressive Municipal Political Party formed in Regina
On October 19, 2005 a new progressive party for Regina was formed. It will be known as the Committee for a Citizen Friendly Regina until the founding Annual General Meeting to be held in January 2006. Around 150 enthusiastic people there, all took out memberships, and they immediately began organizing. The crowd was a cross section of anti-poverty activists, progressive trade union activists, left wing members of the New Democrfatic Party, representatives from the group which fought the closing of libraries last year, and of course some key members of the Regina Greens. A broad 15-member executive committee was elected. The new president is Peter Gilmer, who works at the Regina Antipoverty ministry, and a founding member of the Saskatchewan New Green Alliance. The constitution was adopted which included the following principles (abbreviated):
In the past Regina and Moose Jaw had municipal parties, one representing the CCF-NDP, labour and progressive groups, and the other representing business interests and Tories and Liberals. They disappeared twoenty years ago as political convergence deemed them to be unnecessary. But for the past ten years or more the Regina Mayor and City Council have pursued exclusively a pro-business agenda whether the NDP or Tories have been in the majority position. The new party is committed to changing this situation.
October 23, 2005
Saskatchewan Greens Hold General Meeting
Greens from across Saskatchewan held a general meeting at Craik, SK on September 24, 2005. The primary reason for the meeting was growing concern over the political direction of the Green Party of Canada and its impact on the Green Party of Saskatchewan. The meeting confirmed and stressed that the GPS is a completely separate entity from the Green Party of Canada. Nevertheless, it was widely recognized that in the public mind Greens are Greens, and few will understand the difference between the two parties, in spite of the Canadian federal system.
The meeting resolved to produce a statement of concern over the political direction of the Green Party of Canada, circulate it across Canada, and present it to the general public in Saskatchewan. Plans were established to prepare the document.
Greens are concerned by the move to centralize the party structure in Ottawa, the hierarchical nature of the mode of operation under the leadership of Jim Harris and his allies, the loss of democratic rights for members, and the absence of any commitment to gender parity.
Since the 2004 election, Saskatchewan Greens have be concerned by the policy direction the new leadership is imposing on the GPC. Traditional policies like opposition to free trade and military alliances like NATO have been ignored. There has been little committment to the Green principles of social justice. The GPC seems to be the only Green Party in the world that has not come out against the Iraq war.
Since this was the international day of protest against the U.S. war in Iraq, the meeting unanamously adopted the following resolution:
Be it resolved that the Green Party of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Division of the Green Party of Canada:
(1) Declares our support and commitment to the establishment of a demilitarized society based on mutual co-operation and non-violent conflict resolution amongst all people and nations, and
(2) reaffirms our support for the United Nations as the only legitimate structure to intervene in national and international conflicts; and
(3) calls on the government of Canada to withdraw all support for the U.S. and British-led invasion of Iraq. October 2, 2005.
Where will the Greens make a breakthrough?
Recent election results show that in general the vote for the Greens remains stuck in the range between 5 and 10%. It is now 30 years since Green parties were formed in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, and 25 years since the formation of the Green Party in German. Is this all that Green supporters can expect from electoral politics? Given the ecological and social crisis today, we must ask if there is a better road to take.
(1) Election in Norway, September 11, 2005.
The dominant Green Party in Norway is the Socialist Left Party, a left green party. There is the very small Environment Party - The Greens, but it has never gotten more than 0.2% of the vote in a national election. Prior to the recent election, the Socialist Left Party formed an electoral coalition with the Labour Party and the Centre Party and ran as the Red Green Alliance. The coalition won the election and will replace the conservative government. But the vote for the Socialist Left Party fell from the 12.5% it received in 2001 to 8.8%, and its seats in the legislature dropped from 23 to 15.
(2) Election in New Zealand, September 17, 2005.
The support for the Greens dropped from the 7% it received in 2002 to 5.1%. While the final vote is not yet in, the number of seats in the legislature has apparently dropped from 9 to 6. There was a major swing to the conservative National Party, which went from 20% up to 40% of the total, and they are in a virtual tie with the Labour Party, which received 41% of the vote. Following the 2002 election the NZ Greens took the position of qualified support for the Labour government in the parliament, declining to join in the coalition government. While a new government has not yet been formed, and negotiations are under way between the Labour Party and the smaller parties, the leadership of the Greens now says that it wants to be formally a part of the coalition government. Any agreement with the Labour Party will be first submitted to a special party convention for approval or disapproval.
(3) The election in Germany, September 18, 2005.
The German Greens had been the junior partner with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the coalition government first formed in 1998. In the recent election the vote for the SPD fell from 39% to 34%, and the support for the Greens fell from 8.6% to 8.1%. The number of seats assigned to the Greens fell from 55 to 51. According to a survey by infas-Institut, the Greens lost 370,000 votes from the 2002 election and 240,000 went to the Left Party. The recently formed Left Party, which has opposed the so-called "red-green" government's policies of neoliberalism, passed the Greens, receiving 8.7% of the vote and 54 seats. The strategy of pursuing alliance with the SPD, long the key policy of the more conservative realos wing of the Greens, has failed to produce any increased support for the Greens.
(4) New South Wales, Australia, by-elections, September 17, 2005
The New South Wales Greens did very well in two bye elections in the inner city of Sydney. In Maroubra, they received 26% of the vote and in Marrickville an historic high of 42%. They benefitted from the popular disapproval of the state Labour government's programs of neoliberalism. The Green campaign stressed support for the welfare state and spending on health, education and other social programs. In the past few years the Greens have done very well in the inner cities across Australia, often getting over 20% of the vote. They are enhancing their reputation as the only major party that stands opposed to the general move to the business agenda of the political right. September 2005
German Greens Threatened by Rise of Left Party
Since 1998 the Green Party has been the junior partner in the German government headed by the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Following Third Way politics, the SPD-Green coalition government has supported U.S. foreign policy with military intervention in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. In addition, they have pushed through a major pro-business change in labour legislation, the Hartz IV plan, and most recently Agenda 2010, which has involved broad cuts to social programs including health, pensions, and social assistance. The SPD-Green government has also introduced new tax cuts for business. These changes brought major protest demonstrations from trade unions and their allies, including rank and file Green supporters.
The strong shift to the right has led to a fall in popular support for the SPD and the Greens, and they stand to be tossed out of office in the election on September 18, 2005. In the meantime, Oskar Lafontaine, former head of the trade union movement, former minister of finance in the SPD government (and removed by Gerheart Schroeder), quit the party and formed the leftist Election Alternative for Jobs and Social Justice (WASG). This relatively small party joined with the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) in July 2005 to form the Left Party. They have declared their strong support for the continuation of the traditional Keynesian welfare state and a more non-aligned foreign policy.
Recent public opinion polls show support for the new Left Party surprisingly high. They are running at 25 - 30% in the former East Germany. Across all of Germany they stand at between 10 - 12%, which places them third, ahead of the Greens and the Free Democrats. Under the German system of proportional representation, the Greens could lose their status in the legislature if their vote falls below the 5% cut off point. In recent state and municipal elections they have been doing poorly, losing representation in several state legislatures. The SPD-Green coalition lost the election in North Rhine-Westphalia in May 2005, the last state where they formed the government. August 2005.
Where are the Greens Going?
The Greens became a force in the politics of most industrialized countries in the 1980s. But they have failed to make any real breakthrough in any country. As Sara Parkin, a prominent UK Green, asked in her book Green Parties (1989): "Where exactly is the natural constituency for the Greens beyond that 5-10% protest vote?" None of the Green Parties seem to want to look at this basic question.
One answer came from Ralph Nader, a central theme of his book Crashing the Party; How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President (2002), a very interesting account of his Green campaign in 2000. It has to come from those who are so turned off by the present political system that they have dropped out of politics and don't even vote. This begins with the marginalized population. August 2005.