Blue & Green Are a Natural Pairing

Many, many commentators lump the Green Party in as part of the Canadian “Left”. They — and the NDP — consider the Greens to be a competitor of the NDP, appealing to the same voters. The left-hand side of the Liberal Party, in turn, worries about both of these other parties siphoning off votes. There have been calls to “unite the left” (just as, a few years ago, there were repeated calls to “unite the right”). But … wait. Is Green policy necessarily leftist?

There’s no question but that there are individual Greens who are clearly on the left-hand side of the Canadian spectrum, including (judging by her many public statements), the current leader, Elizabeth May. But the previous Green leader, Jim Harris, wasn’t: he had previously been a Progressive Conservative. Much of the stated policy platform of the Green party reflects a centre-right bent.

Now, the Green platform also contains a commitment to work within the global Green framework. In other words, here is a party with extra-Canadian links. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the “Kyoto Chant” will be a prominent part of Green politics. Kyoto “the treaty” is — in the Canadian context — a convenient symbol. But that symbol can work two ways: as a symbol that some problems require international co-operation to make action effective there’s nothing wrong with it. After all, preserving fish stocks and fisheries requires the same. How many Canadians, for instance, know that lessened water supplies in the Western United States has the US thinking of banning — entirely — the salmon fishery in the Western states (excepting Alaska)? Should Canada be thinking along the same lines with the BC fishery: intervening at the tenth hour (before the stocks completely collapse) rather than at the eleventh hour (as with the Newfoundland cod fishery)? In other words, a gaze that goes beyond one’s own borders and some international thinking isn’t necessarily amiss — or wrong.

But why would I say the most natural pairing are those of us who tend toward the “blue” end of the spectrum and those of “green” inclinations?

Part of this is my Toryism. I did not hold with Reform, am not a social conservative, nor am I a neoconservative (all three of these are really neo-liberals of the right). But indigenous Canadian Tories start from the notion that the reason for the state is a bond between past and future generations: to transmit, preserve and protect traditions, and to be good stewards of the country and its bounty so that future generations will prosper. How, may I ask, is that different from such Green notions as sustainability, a clean environment, transforming the economy to waste less, etc.? Aren’t these all acts of stewardship for the future? What about Green notions of including all of Canada’s communities in Canadian life? Isn’t that the preservation of tradition coupled with our tradition of opportunity?

Certainly the Greens stand for things we Tories might not want to stand for. They stand for a more pacifist and less activist approach to world affairs; we value our international commitments, which occasionally require us to fight, perhaps for years, in defence of Western values that are at the core of Canadian tradition going back before Samuel de Champlain ever started building moats and battlements on a cliff-top and beside a river in Québec. Green ideas pay less attention than perhaps Tories would to the Confederal nature of Canada and the essential role of its provinces. But these are points on which to agree to disagree. Much of what we do believe in, however, overlaps greatly — once we get past the rhetoric.

It is the rhetoric that keeps us apart. When the Harper Government introduced its Clean Air Act, for instance, the “Kyoto Chant” shouted it down. True, no Green MPs were involved in this, there being none in the House. But it was certainly heard from outside. Yet Greens stand for cleaning up the environment, requiring both businesses and consumers to stop treating our air, land and water as a free dumping ground, and for developing businesses that turn today’s waste into tomorrow’s goods, creating exports of green technology and good sustainable jobs for Canadians. Simply setting the mantra of “Kyoto or nothing” aside would have shown this remarkable degree of overlap — a degree of overlap not shared by the Opposition MPs (Liberal, NDP or Bloc) all of whom were more concerned with “keeping lumber communities going” or “preserving smokestack jobs” or “handouts for industry” (as well as doing the “Kyoto shuffle”, conga-line fashion, up and down the well of the House) and therefore opposed to the attempt to provide some stewardship for the environment and our children’s children’s future by the Government on multiple counts, not just one.

Unfortunately, such blindness affects the Conservative Party of Canada no less than it does the Green Party of Canada under its current leader, Ms. May, who lets her leftist leanings bind her to the media/pundit meme of being on the left, competing with the Liberals against any Conservative, and engaged, with the Liberals, in replacing the NDP. Meanwhile, the neoliberal elements in the CPC try to deny the Tory ideas of fidelity to the past coupled with stewardship for the future and argue against doing anything on the file, including seeking common cause with anyone.

I look at the Green candidate in Vancouver-Quadra (who, it has been suggested, may actually be polling second heading into Monday’s tilt at the ballot box — although frankly any single riding poll should be taken with a heavy grain of salt). Ms. May didn’t want Dan Grice to be the candidate. He won the nomination against her opposition. He has approached his attempt to win election as a Green MP by stressing areas of common cause and concern, avoiding internecine war “on the left” and emphasising a fair number of Tory values — all within careful fidelity to the platform of his party. He is, in other words, living what I’m talking about. (The local Conservative candidate, Deborah Meredith, on the other hand, equally opposed by the Prime Minister as the nominee [and not helped in any way — Harper even avoiding visiting the riding while in Vancouver during this campaign] nevertheless is toeing the party line, slapping “anti-crime” stickers on her signs. One more neoliberal seeking office. It is to weep.)

The Conservative Party of Canada’s principles are not at all at odds with Green Party principles. The platforms of both point out numerous tensions — but on both sides an appeal to principles would show the high degree of common cause and overlap that is already there, waiting to be put to work. For this is the future of politics: not the stale debate of warmed over leftist/rightist thinking but those who would compel action into pathways that their betters think up — the neo-Marxist musings of Liberal, NDP and Bloc policy — and those who engage in that inter-generational bond and create openings for a free and industrious people to work within limits that preserve, protect and defend the best of Canada for its future citizens for generations to come.

I know where I stand. I welcome any “Green Tory” candidate who knocks on my door, regardless of their party affiliation. I’d like them, of course, to carry a blue sign — Canada needs its deep roots in the Conservative tradition, too. But I don’t do neoliberals and social conservatives. If I need a Green to get a Green Tory, so be it.

6 responses to “Blue & Green Are a Natural Pairing

  1. Bruce McCulloch

    I agree with your thoughts and it is so nice to see them enunciated so well. I joined the Green Party when Jim Harris was at the helm – because in some ways I felt the Green party had a principled approach that was neither “left” or “right”. My natural leanings are toward small “c” conservative but I do not trust Stephen Harper. Although I continue to support the Green Party in principle, I think Ms. May is a little too left for my liking. We live in interesting times.

  2. Hi, Bruce: Yes, the times are interesting (in the sense of the traditional curse for such things).

    Eventually I expect the traditional breakdown of Canadian politics — small “c” conservative and small “l” liberal (the old Clear Grit strain from Ontario, the Rouges of Québec, etc.) — to reassert itself as the distortions in all our current parties are worked out of the system.

    But that will take a while — and how that fits into the story in Alberta and BC will be interesting, indeed.

  3. Elizabeth May was always fully behind my candidacy once I was nominated. The by-election was announced mid nomination and the membership was given the option to extend the period according to party rules, which they chose to decline.

  4. Thanks, I enjoyed your writeup as it holds a lot of food for thought. There are two points, however, on which I disagree.

    The first is that you seem to feel that the new Conservatives have anything left of the old Progressive Conservatives.

    I would say they do not. The PC party which we all knew is gone, and what we have now is Reform-Alliance by a more politically expedient name. I used to vote PC quite often before finding that the Green Party reflected my mix of values better than any other. But now, if I didn’t have the Greens, I’d vote Liberal or even NDP before I’d throw support behind the new Conservatives. Despite a few policies on which I might agree, the social conservative bent is a deal breaker for me. I have always been, and always will be, socially liberal.

    The second point is about Kyoto and why the Greens did not support the Conservatives Clean Air Act.

    Primarily it is because, regardless of what you think of the actual mechanism of the agreement, we all understood our Kyoto targets to be a small first step in what is necessary as Canada’s obligation to the worlds fight against climate change. So any plan by any party which is not at least as aggressive would be denounced as being too little too late. In addition, we feel honour bound by the international agreement that Canada has made, regardless of who was in power at the time.

  5. Dan: Thanks for the correction. You’ve done a good job with your campaign — I hope you are rewarded for it tomorrow.

    Glenn: Points taken. I went NDP for a while once I moved from Ontario to BC — the PC candidate was still coming in a solid (+30%) #2 back there, but was nowhere out here. I was surprised to see that the old PC “17 principles” were identical to the CPC’s “17 principles”, so I’ve given them a chance. But it’s not an easy fit and certainly some reconsideration may be in order.

    As for Kyoto, there is a real question in my mind as to whether we can (or could) have made those targets having done no preparation for them — and a second question as to whether this was the right set of conditions to have signed onto in the first place. I think we ought to be working hard toward converging on where we need to be — my complaint about the Campbell Government’s tax strategy, for instance, is that it is not being aggressive enough from a decision-making point of view — and not simply carrying on blithely, as Stelmach and Baird would seem to be doing.

  6. Blue and Green- – a natural pairing? Sounds more like a varicose vein.

    But you could be right. They say that despite the green leanings of Quebecers the Green Party will never be elected here, in part because of the labour movement and in part because of the You-Know-Who-Party that doesn’t want to talk about a greener Canada but a greener Quebec, and then we have the liberals and their Kyoto. Green leaning Quebecers may have to marry into the Tory to see any sensible envirnomental policy action. And that is a rocky marriage indeed.

    Kathleen Molloy, author – Dining with Death

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