The Green Party of Canada is not ready for an election.
No matter what is going on behind the scenes — reports of which keep leaking out to the media — the stark, obvious fact is that the Greens are not in good shape for a federal election that could occur within a month or two.
Here is what we do know:
- Green party Leader Annamie Paul is facing a vote of confidence in two weeks, on July 20.
- The party is not holding its big, biennial convention until the end of August. If Paul does not pass the confidence vote, that convention will be all about how to get some kind of leadership in place for a looming federal campaign. That is, if the campaign hasn’t started already.
- A proposal is on the table to cut the Green party staff in half, at a time when other parties ordinarily would be adding to their election-readiness team.
- As of this week, fewer than 40 out of 338 candidates are nominated to run in the next election, whenever that comes.
How the Greens devolved into this mess is obviously the subject of much of the squabbling that is now consuming the party from the inside out. While it’s fascinating to watch — Star readers were flocking on Wednesday to a report on a heated battle behind closed doors in the party — it is also disturbing, on a number of levels.
Two years ago, as another, previous federal election loomed, the Greens looked like they were on the verge of a breakthrough. Provincially, Greens were getting elected to legislatures in Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces where they had never been considered serious contenders before. Greens were thriving in British Columbia, helping NDP Premier John Horgan stay in power.
Pundits such as this writer were speculating (always dangerous) about a Green party caucus in the double digits in Ottawa; possibly official party status in the Commons.
Instead, Greens only managed to gain three seats in the Commons in October 2019 — now reduced to two after Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin’s defection to the Liberals last month. The Green party leader blamed this on a plot by Justin Trudeau to destabilize her party, but it’s looking like the Greens are more than capable of pulling that off all by themselves.
Twice this week, the Greens’ official Twitter account has served up reminders of the party’s values and social media guidelines. Nowhere in these guidelines could I find policies on when to mute a party leader during a virtual meeting, but according to the Star and other reports, this did indeed happen when Greens convened on June 30 to talk about those staff cuts.
That’s right — staff cuts. This, and leadership drama, is what is taking up all the Green Party of Canada’s attention right now. Not election readiness. Not climate change, either.
As my colleague Heather Scoffield observed in a conversation this week, it’s an odd time for the Greens to be missing in action on the climate conversation. Trudeau’s Liberals are promising to make it a centrepiece of the campaign and are currently rolling out a flurry of environment-related measures. With Joe Biden now in the White House, as well, Canada is in a position to work with a powerful ally for international action on climate change.
It is indeed odd — a little like Catherine McKenna’s announcement last week that she was leaving government and a cabinet post to pursue her passion for climate change. Wait — isn’t that exactly what we will be talking about in the weeks and months ahead?
Canada may be a long way off from ever electing a Green party government, federally, but a healthy Green party is a good thing, for the climate discussion and politics in general. Greens, at their best, hold the other, more mainstream parties to account on all things climate-related. They also give voters a powerful, none-of-the-above option on the ballot box; for those who want to register disapproval of the status quo in politics.
Small, vital parties such as the Greens also prevent politics from descending into the stark, red-blue polarization that threatens to make nations ungovernable. Canada has been insulated from this — so far — largely because voters have more than two choices at election time.
But right now, the Greens do not have their act together. The irony is striking — a party that stands squarely against waste of all kinds is wasting precious time this summer in internal dysfunction. Greens used to worry about leaking oil pipelines; now they’re struggling with leaks of their internal discussions.
Two years ago, the Greens had to grapple with how they had missed a moment for a breakthrough in the election. Today, that conversation is taking place before the campaign has even begun.