The Green Party Has Great Ambitions on Climate, But Can’t Stop Fighting Itself

The Greens are hoping to build on their two seats in Parliament, but they’re heading into this election after months of party infighting. Here’s what you need to know about voting for Annamie Paul.
August 24, 2021, 3:32pm
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul
The Greens may be in turmoil, but Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is ready for a fight. Photo by Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

Last in a series of political party profiles for the 2021 Canadian federal election. Read about the Liberals herethe Conservatives here, and the NDP here.

The Green Party is facing a major uphill battle heading into the fall election. The party has been in turmoil over internal conflicts that have threatened Annamie Paul’s leadership in recent months, leading to a cancelled non-confidence vote, costly legal battles (they could not afford), and a general sense that the Greens are not a threat going into this election.

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Though the Greens secured three seats in Parliament in 2019 under former leader Elizabeth May—marking their best election result to date—their MP in Fredericton, Jenica Atwin, crossed the floor to the Liberals in June after criticizing Paul’s statement about the Israel-Palestine conflict in which she called for de-escalation and a return to dialogue. Atwin accused Israel of pursuing a policy of “apartheid,” though she later walked back her comments, while Paul’s political adviser at the time accused Green MPs and other politicians of displaying antisemitism.

Though an arbitrator called off the non-confidence vote, Paul will still have to undergo an automatic leadership review following the election. Still, she has made it clear she is ready for a fight and won’t be deterred by party drama.

A notable lack of funds poses yet another obstacle for the Greens. Interim executive director Dana Taylor recently reported the party had less than $300,000 in the bank, but he confirmed to the Toronto Star last week that the Greens had secured a loan of just under $2 million. Though he said it would be “enough” for the party to get through the election, it’s peanuts compared to the tens of millions other parties have budgeted.

Paul also faces a serious challenge when it comes to unseating Liberal Marci Ien in her Liberal fortress home riding of Toronto Centre, but she says she believes Canadians are prepared to usher in a period of much-needed change amid an unprecedented global pandemic and climate crisis. 

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Economy and jobs

The Greens’ main goal when it comes to the economy is to eliminate poverty. They plan to do this by converting CERB—the $2,000 monthly emergency payments distributed to Canadians whose employment situation was affected by COVID-19—to a “guaranteed livable income,” which would be a universal payment set by a “Council of Canadian Governments” at a level that fits each region’s specific cost of living. Like the Liberals, they also pledge to establish a fair, national minimum wage. 

Creating a more sustainable economy is another main priority for the party, and they promise to introduce the Just Transition Act to protect oil and gas workers as they move to other jobs and careers. They want to launch a massive program in building retrofits, which they say would employ millions of skilled tradespeople. 

The Greens also pledge to completely reform Canada’s tax system, starting by instituting taxes on wealth and not just income. They say they’ll guarantee a good job for anyone who wants one, provide shortened work weeks, encourage people who wish to work from home to do so, and support unions in a wider variety of workspaces.

Ultimately, the Greens want to “abandon unending economic growth as a goal and replace it with a goal of maximizing human and environmental health and well-being.”

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Climate change and environment

On the first day of the election, Paul said in a speech the Greens don't support fracking, any new oil explorations, or the construction of a single new pipeline. Emphasizing Canada’s failure to meet even one of its greenhouse gas emissions targets in the six years the current government has been in power, Paul said the Greens are the only party to come out as entirely opposed to all three practices. 

The Greens promise to pass legislation committing Canada to reaching net zero carbon by 2050 and to ensure that 100 per cent of Canadian electricity is from renewable sources by 2030. They also pledge to cancel the Trans Mountain pipeline and invest those funds in a national electricity grid. 

The Green Party believes the climate crisis should not be politicized and that scientific advice is not negotiable, so they say the country needs a “Chief Climate Science Officer” to whom political leaders defer—just as they have to chief health officers throughout the pandemic. They say Canada also needs an all-party Climate Cabinet that can work together on solutions, some of which include planting billions of ecologically appropriate and fire-resistant trees, transitioning to a low-waste economy to reduce the use of finite resources, and reducing or banning single-use plastics other than those required for public health protection.

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Indigenous affairs

The Greens say truth, justice, and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples must be at the core of Canada’s post-pandemic recovery, which they plan to ensure by introducing ​​specific health care supports and food security programs to help communities rebuild. 

The Greens promise to fund the programs Indigenous groups identify as essential post-COVID-19, increase government support to Indigenous people living off reserve, recognize the sovereignty of remote and fly-in Indigenous communities over who can enter their communities, and make air travel an essential and accessible service to the many communities that rely on air transport for all their supplies.

The party also vows to enact the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which includes a clause that calls for “free, prior and informed consent” of Indigenous communities in all matters that affect them—including but not limited to pipeline projects—and ensure compliance with it throughout Canadian legislation and policy-making. The Greens likewise plan to implement findings from the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

They also promise to establish a nation-to-nation relationship via the Council of Canadian Governments, and they say they will “continue to work towards the needs that have already been raised, so Indigenous services in health care, education, housing and water are equivalent to similar services for non-Indigenous Canadians.” 

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COVID and health care

Paul has repeatedly said she and her party are extremely pro-vaccination, though she has refrained from throwing her support behind the Liberals' vaccine mandate for all federal workers. She has accused Trudeau and the media of politicizing vaccines, and said there are communities with valid reasons to mistrust the health system who shouldn’t be forced to get vaccinated. 

The Greens believe strongly in improving senior care in Canada by developing and enforcing national standards for them. They are also in favour of abolishing private ownership of long-term care homes.

The Greens also want to implement national universal pharmacare, and they vow to prioritize mental health by implementing national mental health standards and immediately investing in both community-based organizations and government-run mental health services to help people “cope with the trauma and anxiety the pandemic is leaving in its wake.” They also say Canada needs a national suicide prevention plan.

Crime and security

Spending money on strengthening communities, not police departments, is a priority for the Greens. They say there’s a strong need for race-based and gender-based data on all policing actions taken during the pandemic, and they support provinces reorganizing their budgets to put money into community-developed and community-led support systems.

Overall, they believe eradicating poverty, improving the social safety net, and eliminating structural bias are the keys to reducing crime and creating a safer and more just society.

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Housing

The Greens say “safe, affordable housing is a human right,” so they promise to introduce a national moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. They also want to create a residential arrears assistance program to protect those who risk being evicted into homelessness. 

They say they will encourage provinces to continue the eviction freeze even once the threat of COVID-19 has subsided by not allowing rent to be hiked for at least a year post-pandemic. They also promise to operate based on a “housing first” policy and vow to build more affordable housing while increasing funding for cooperative and supportive housing. 

Drugs

The Greens say decriminalization of drug possession and safe supply are crucial to getting Canada’s opioid crisis under control. 

The party promises to introduce a national safe supply program to reduce harm at a time when there are 17 opioid-related deaths per day on average in Canada, and Paul has criticized the Liberals’ handling of “what has now become an epidemic of opioid and drug-related toxic poisonings that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Greens see the opioid crisis as a health care issue rather than a criminal one, and Paul has said that “by addressing it as such we can begin to address the underlying causes and stop this national tragedy from getting even worse.”

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Student issues

The Greens are in favour of eliminating all tuition fees and cancelling existing student debt above $10,000 in an effort to increase all Canadians’ access to quality education. 

They also promise to remove taxes on the sales of textbooks, and ensure all students have access to tablets or computers in the home and high-speed internet at every school. 

Foreign policy and immigration 

Last week, Paul called on Gov. Gen. Mary Simon to recall Parliament so there can be an emergency debate on the emerging situation in Afghanistan. 

“We cannot abandon those who helped us (in Afghanistan),” she said.

The leader said the Green Party believes this is legally possible, citing Section 46.3 of the federal Emergencies Act, though Paul later clarified that she meant Section 58.3 as Section 46.3 does not exist. Despite this claim, constitutional experts have said this is not possible and that once Parliament is dissolved, it cannot be recalled until it is reconstituted by the election.

Women

Addressing the ongoing and worsening issue of domestic abuse and gender-based violence is a priority for the Green Party. It has committed to fighting misogyny and allocating greater funding for community resources working on this issue, especially those that serve the most marginalized women. 

They also promise to introduce federally funded and mandated universal child care.

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The Greens say we must “protect, listen to, and amplify the voices of women, including trans women, girls, femme-identified and non-binary people, racialized women and women of colour, Indigenous women and immigrant women.”

Miscellaneous

A recent poll shows that the Greens currently have 7.9 percent of ballot support in Canada, which is lower than the 10 to 12 percent they were polling in 2019. That level of support never actually materialized in the previous election, and the Greens have an even tougher road ahead this time around thanks to internal disputes. While Elizabeth May and Paul Manley could easily hold onto their seats, significant growth for the party isn’t likely.

Best-case scenario

The Greens hold onto their two current seats in Parliament and, thanks to the urgency of the climate crisis, manage to gain a handful of seats this September—including Paul’s in Toronto Centre. This would mark a landmark achievement for the party.

Worst-case scenario

Questions about intraparty conflict take a front seat in interviews and debates throughout the election, taking away from the Greens’ ability to focus on their platform.

Singh successfully positions the NDP as the party with the strongest platform on climate change and Indigenous issues, while Paul fights just to prove the Greens are a cohesive party.

The sitting Greens, May and Manley, lose their federal seats to the NDP, leaving the party with no presence in Parliament.

Follow Mira Miller on Twitter.