Time for Greens to Think Big!

By Jason Menard

Many of out there would dream of supporting a political party that’s fiscally conservative, socially progressive, and committed to improving our environment. Yet, even though one party professes to have those issues at the forefront of its platform, they are no more than an afterthought for Canadian voters.

And while the Green Party of Canada can blame voter apathy and the tendency to fall back to the tried and tested when push comes to shove, the fact remains that they have only themselves to blame. In the words of the immortal Elvis Gratton, it’s time for the party – and prospective voters – to “Think Big, ‘sti!”

For many Canadian voters, the Green Party is thought of as nothing more than a novelty act – akin to the old Rhino Party. And, while they’re not advocating the concept of flying naked to reduce the risk of terrorism or turning Montreal’s Rue Ste-Catherine into the world’s longest bowling alley, they get lumped into the same fringe candidate stew as the Marxist-Leninist, Marijuana, and Communist Parties of Canada.

Yet, last election, over four per cent of Canadians cast a ballot for this party’s candidates. Despite being lumped in with the so-called fringe, they did, in fact, receive over three times as many votes as the seven other registered fringe parties, independents, and non-affiliated candidates combined!

In fact, the New Democratic Party of Canada received just 3.7 times as many votes, and the Bloc only garnered 2.9 times as many votes, yet they’re recognized as legitimate contenders, earning 19 and 54 seats in the House of Commons respectively. Yet, this is not intended to be an argument for a more representative democracy – that’s another argument for another day. But it does bring up the question as to why are some parties regarded as legitimate contenders to the throne, while others are amusing afterthoughts.

The answer? Credibility, and the Green Party to date has blown it. In fact, one could suggest that their one true chance to make a mark on the Canadian political landscape is in serious danger of being wasted.

In the last federal election, the Green Party of Canada was able to win the votes of over four per cent of the Canadian population, which entitled them to federal funding as a party. They received $1.1 million from the feds but what have they done with it?

I’m sure they’ve put the money to good use, but they’ve failed to penetrate into the social conscious. Forget being in the leaders’ debates, how about having a significant number of Canadians knowing who your party leader is?

In a recent e-mail conversation with a local Green representative, this person apologized for their lack of polish, as they are a volunteer-driven, grass roots organization. But the time is now to reach for the sky. As they say, one must strike while the iron is hot, and with the funding received from their impressive showing, the Green Party needs to get the message out to the voters.

The perception remains that the Green Party is a one-issue party. Even worse, there is still the perception that these people are nothing more than raving tree-huggers chucking their fair-trade hats into the political ring only to further their own far-left-wing causes.

Yet, when you look at the platform, you realize that, despite an overriding goal of social and environmental responsibility, there is no clear definition of “sides.” They are neither left-wing nor right-wing, but rather searching for the right answers to each and every topic as it arises.

While other parties, such as the Marijuana and Christian Heritage parties, are defined and motivated by one issue, one would be hard-pressed to look at today’s Greens and think the same thing. Perhaps in the past the accusations were fair, but the party appears to have grown up and may, in fact, be a legitimate voice for a number of Canadians. The only problem is that they don’t seem to be getting their message heard.

And that’s a pity, because it’s a message that many Canadians would take to heart. Unfortunately, the game of politics isn’t won on ideas alone – reputation, consistency, and proven ability to lead all factor into the decision, and the Green Party has yet to prove that it’s ready to make the jump from the minor leagues.

So should anybody vote Green? Well, that’s a decision we all have to make based upon policy, the local candidate, and your personal beliefs. But at least they should be in consideration as a legitimate option – not just left on the fringe, stuck on the outside looking in.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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