Green Party of Canada

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Template:Infobox Canada Political Party

The Green Party of Canada is a minor federal political party in Canada. It has no members in the Canadian House of Commons.


Current status

In the 2004 federal election, the Green Party fielded candidates in all 308 of the nation's ridings and received 4.3% of the popular vote. In the 2000 election, it fielded candidates in 111 (one third) of the then 301 ridings.

For 2005, the party began to rely heavily on its Living Platform [1] ( to develop policy and to recruit new members and candidates.

Due in part to the country's first past the post electoral system, no Green Party has ever elected a candidate at the federal or provincial level in Canada. It has, however, grown faster proportionally than other parties, and on occasion, it has polled as high as 19% in British Columbia, 9% in Ontario and as high as 10% federally (Strategic Counsel poll published on front page of the Globe and Mail on April 29, 2005). Such figures are roughly on par with those of successful Green Parties in other countries, including New Zealand and Germany. The Green Party of Canada is at the highest levels ever. Four polls on the week of April 29, 2005 saw the party with an average support of 8% (6%, 8%, 8%, 10%).

The current leader of the Green Party of Canada (GPC) is Jim Harris. He was first elected to the office with over 80% of the vote and the support of the leaders of all of the provincial parties. He was re-elected on the first ballot by 56% of the membership in a leadership challenge vote in August 2004. Tom Manley placed second with over 30% of the vote. A few months after the 2004 convention, Tom Manley was appointed Deputy Leader.

The party has elected dozens of municipal officials including mayors, reeves and municipal councilors all across Canada, including the mayor of North Vancouver; Rob Strang, a town councillor in Orangeville, Ontario; Richard Thomas, reeve of a township near Parry Sound, Ontario.

In the 2004 election, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and CTV Television Network refused to invite the Green Party to their televised leaders debates. This sparked legal actions by the party, a petition by its supporters to have it included, and strong statements by non-supporters who believed it should be included on principle.

Nevertheless, the party secured enough votes in the 2004 election to qualify for federal funding that is available to parties that receive over 2% of the vote. It will receive $1.75 per vote it won in the 2004 election each year until the next general election. There has however been internal controversy over the distribution and allocation of these funds. There are several active groups trying to organize "a new party" to replace the GPC.

There are also proposals to ally the underfunded provincial parties, in "a federation of regional parties, with strong support for building upwards from the bottom" (see below), and municipal ties, so as to create a power balance to the federal party.

Relation to provincial parties


The federal party was founded and originally promoted mostly by members of the largest provincial green party, the Green Party of British Columbia. There are now Green Parties registered in seven of the ten Canadian provinces, and nascent groups planning registration in two more.

While no joint memberships are issued, many officials and candidates in the federal party have positions in the provincial affiliates. The Green Party of Canada has its headquarters in Ottawa.


About one month before the 1980 federal election, eleven candidates, mostly from ridings in the Atlantic provinces, issued a joint press release declaring that they were running on a common platform. It called for a transition to a non-nuclear, conserver society. Although they ran as independents, they unofficially used the name "Small Party" as part of their declaration of unity—a reference to the "small is beautiful" philosophy of E. F. Schumacher. This was the most substantial early attempt to answer the call for an ecologically-oriented Canadian political party. A key organizer was Elizabeth May who now runs the Sierra Club of Canada.

Three years later, North America's first Green Party was born in British Columbia, and later that same year the Ontario Greens were formed. The BC Greens ran Canada's first Green candidate. Later that year, the founding conference of the Canadian Greens was held in Ontario. Close to 200 people from 55 communities attended, coming from every province except Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.

The birthing process was difficult, with deep divisions between those arguing for a national structure, and those in favour of a process that would build from the regions following the bioregional democracy structure.

Trevor Hancock was the party's first registered leader. Party members chose a radically decentralized party structure, and for several years a kind of green anarchism prevailed. Eventually, an uneasy agreement was reached for a federation of regional parties, with strong support for building upwards from the bottom. The question arose: "Is the priority to redefine politics from the ground up, or to play the electoral game according to the present rules? Or both?"

Many members saw the party as a way to protest Canada's political system, and not much more. Nonetheless it did run candidates.

The Green Party of Canada contested its first federal election in September 1984. A little over 1% of Canadians voted Green. Unfortunately, the ongoing discussions about the party's modus operandi became so exhausting that, at one point in the mid-1980's, there was a near collapse of the party. It was kept alive—if not particularly active—for almost a decade under the stewardship of the BC Greens.

In the 1988 federal election, the Green spotlight was on Quebec, where le Parti Vert (not the same as the current Parti Vert du Quebec) ran 29 candidates, up from just 4 in the previous election. Les Verts received higher results than Green candidates anywhere else in Canada, polling an average of 2.4% of the vote. The Quebec wing hosted the 1990 Canadian Greens conference in Montreal. But soon after that, Canada's constitutional problems interfered, and many Quebec candidates abandoned the Greens in favour of a Quebec sovereigntist party, the Bloc Québécois. There were only six Green candidates from Quebec in the 1993 election.

In the summer of 1988, the BC Greens tried to get the Green Party of Canada onto its feet by hosting a conference—the first federal gathering since the founding meeting in 1983. The main accomplishment of that conference was the acceptance, after five years as a registered party, of a constitution. The party continued to field candidates at the federal level, and provincial parties were organized in a few other provinces, led by consistently strong efforts in British Columbia.

In the spring of 1996, although the hopes of electing a representative to the BC legislature proved premature, one candidate in the interior of the province received over 11% of the vote. Overall, the party's proportion of the popular vote surged to a new high.

At the party's 6th annual gathering in Castlegar, British Columbia, in August, 1996, major constitutional amendments were passed, and policy was agreed to in a wide variety of areas. An important step forward was the structuring of a Shadow Cabinet, whose mandate was to create a platform for the next election in 1997.

The Castlegar gathering marked the beginning of a new era in Canadian Green history, and a somewhat uneasy one at that. In spite of a concern about the nature of leadership in a decentralized party, the Greens' first leadership campaign had been underway for the previous six months. Four candidates contested the leadership. A mail-in ballot was held: Wendy Priesnitz (from Ontario) beat Don Francis (Quebec), Jason Crummey (Newfoundland and Labrador), and Harry Garfinkle (Alberta) to become the Registered Leader of the Green Party of Canada.

In January 1997, Wendy Priesnitz resigned. Harry Garfinkle stepped in to be the Interim Registered Leader of the Green Party of Canada, and a leadership convention by mail-in ballot was held.

British Columbia's Joan Russow became leader of the Green Party of Canada on April 13, 1997. Russow won 52% of the ballots cast in the 1997 leadership race, surpassing Ontario's Jim Harris (39%) and Rachelle Small (8%).

In the 2000 election, the party nominated 111 candidates, in nine out of ten provinces—all but Newfoundland and Labrador—and in one of three territories (Nunavut). These candidates collected 0.81% of the total popular vote.

Candidates were not run in Newfoundland and Labrador, as a result of ongoing divisions over Joan Russow's refusal to endorse the Green candidate in an earlier St. John's West by-election. (The candidate in question supported the seal hunt and mining development, as most locals did.) This caused much uncertainty and friction between Newfoundland's Terra Nova Green Party Association and the Green Party Leader, and again highlighted the regional disparities and differences.

In the 2001 Quebec City protest against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, Russow was the first person incarcerated in a jail built specially for protesters, for taking a photograph of it from outside. Joan Russow promoted the Green Party as a leader in the anti-globalization movement, in particular the anti-corporatist and pro-peace movement, but felt undermined when the German Greens supported the bombing of Belgrade. As other members of her party had supported military intervention, Russow's leadership was called into question. She stepped down as party leader in 2001 and left the party to join the New Democratic Party. Because the NDP's federal and provincial wings are integrated, this also entailed joining the New Democratic Party of British Columbia.

Volunteer efforts were substantially absorbed in provincial campaigns between 2001 and 2003, and the federal party became dormant between elections, as was typical in the past. Chris Bradshaw served the party as interim leader from 2001 to February 2003.

In February 2003, Jim Harris, in his second bid for leader, defeated John Grogan of Valemount, British Columbia, and Jason Crummey. Crummey was originally from Newfoundland and involved with Newfoundland and Labrador Terra Nova Greens. Harris, an author and public speaker and member since 1987, though not active in several previous elections, had the support of all provincial Green Party leaders. His election was taken by many as reflecting a desire among the members to "become serious" in achieving electoral progress, and to steer away from any explicit anti-political ideas.

Full slate

In 2003, the Green Party then initiated a successful fundraising campaign in order to realize Harris's goal of running a full slate in the upcoming election. This initiative included borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars against the $1.75/vote expected to accrue to the party after the election. The party began organizing vigorously in all provinces and territories with paid staff.

The candidates, however, were necessarily volunteers, and the goodwill to recruit people who would represent the Green message accurately was essential to this plan.

Internet innovation

While the organizing and election planning was centralized, policy development was decentralized. In February 2004, the Green Party of Canada Living Platform was initiated by the Party's former Head of Platform and Research, Michael Pilling, to open the party's participatory democracy to the public to help validate its policies against broad public input. It also made it easy for candidates to share their answers to public interest group questionnaires, find the best answers to policy questions, and for even rural and remote users, and Canadians abroad, to contribute to Party policy intelligence. Its innovative Rank a Plank system let net users "rank planks" in the 2004 platform, and this gathered some 60,000 online votes (on which planks were key) by election day.

Policy direction

The direction of the 2004 platform, while retaining similar ecological themes, shifted in other aspects from a radical-left to a centrist or even right-of-centre stance. An emphasis on a green tax shift which favoured reducing income and corporate taxes while increasing taxes on polluters and energy consumers created questions as to whether the Green Party was still on the left of the political spectrum, or was taking a more eco-capitalist approach.

However, as early as 2000, the party had published platform comparisons indicating the reasons why supporters of any of the five other Canadian federal political parties should consider voting Green. The centrist view was not new and had always been advocated by those in the party who measured their success by forcing other parties to adopt Green Party policies.

TThis is currently occurring as the Liberal Party, under specific pressure from Greens lobbying it, and its own key figures stating sympathies, has adopted much of the Green program, notably, accelerated Capital Cost Allowance deductions restricted to sustainable technology only, and, the adoption of ecological and social indicators and green procurement rules Greens have long advocated.

2004 election and aftermath

In the 2004 election, the party received a significant increase in media coverage on the strength of its 308 candidates, the platform, and a national leaders' tour. The party began to be included in almost all national political polls. It's popular support peaked at 7% during the campaign, and the party finished with 4.3% of the vote. The party's strongest candidate, Andrew Lewis in the riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands, won over 10,000 votes, the first Green Party candidate to do so. Lewis still finished fourth in the riding, however.

In August of 2004 at the national convention near Calgary, Alberta, Jim Harris was re-elected, with a reduced majority of only 56%. Rival Tom Manley polled nearly 37%.

Most conference debate centred around significant constitutional reform proposals, and the role of membership in ruling on matters of policy and the constitution. The conference ended with a re-affirmation of a hybrid that was developed during the campaign: a centralized executive with decentralized policy and constitutional development.

Politicians from different political backgrounds have expressed interest in the party. Former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps on March 2, 2005, spoke publicly to a group of Greens in Toronto, advising the party on its electoral strategy. Former Progressive Conservative leadership candidate David Orchard not only attended but met with members of the GPC Council. It was also rumoured in the media in 2004 that David Anderson, the former Minister of the Environment in Chretien's government, was considering joining the party. Anderson, however, successfully ran for re-election as a Liberal.

During a council retreat in Toronto on March 5 and 6, 2005, GPC Council approved a day-to-day management committee consisting mostly of paid staff in a move towards a new governance structure. This replaced a previous and highly controversial and conflict-ridden structure that had both Council and staff members on it, confusing political and administrative roles. This has been blamed for a great deal of conflict in the party.


The GPC had originally adopted a form of the Ten Key Values originally authored by the United States Green Party.

The August 2002 Convention adopted the Six Principles of the Charter of the Global Greens, as stated by the Global Greens Conference held in Canberra, Australia in 2001. These principles are the only ones included in the GPC constitution.

Membership exclusions

At the same time, the party adopted a rule that forbids membership in any other federal political party. This was intended to prevent the party from being taken over -- as some claim happened with the "take over" of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada by the Canadian Alliance. Alliance members joined the PC party to vote for the merger into the Conservative Party of Canada in late 2003, just before the 2004 election.

Green Party members are comfortable openly working with members of other political parties. For instance, GPC members Peter Bevan-Baker and Mike Nickerson, worked with Liberal MP Joe Jordan to develop the Canada Well Being Measurement Act which calls upon the goverment to implement Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI). This motion passed in the 37th Canadian Parliament.

Some Green parties, notably Ontario, have specific rules that require candidates to work to find common policy grounds and advocate solutions through other parties. Many Greens who advocate this approach object to the new rule not to hold cross-memberships, a tool they sometimes employed.

Because Elections Canada and Canadian privacy law now forbids exchange of political party membership data, however, this rule is moot, and can only be enforced in a mutual and selective fashion on those who agree to let a party release their membership status. This means that only those members who honestly admit their membership in other parties will in fact be vulnerable to removal over it, while those who conceal this fact will remain. Accordingly policy to forbid only officer posts to those holding such cross-memberships has been considered.

Current policy debates

The policy platform for the 2004 federal election can be found on the internet on the platform website (

As of March 2005, the Green Party of Canada Living Platform had began trying to build momentum for new URLs at [2] ( Different policy authors seem now to be involved, to judge by the recent changes visible there.

Election results

Election # of candidates nominated # of seats won # of total votes % of popular vote
<center> 0 <center> 26,921 <center> 0.21%
1988 <center> 68 <center> 0 <center> 47,228 <center> 0.36%
1993 <center> 79 <center> 0 <center> 33,049 <center> 0.24%
1997 <center> 79 <center> 0 <center> 55,583 <center> 0.43%
2000 <center> 111 <center> 0 <center> 104,502 <center> 0.81%
2004 <center> 308 <center> 0 <center> 582,247 <center> 4.31%

Although the party did not succeed in winning any seats in the 2004 election, its result (4.31% of ballots cast) was a significant breakthrough for the party, and the party now qualifies for federal funds as it surpassed two per cent. This amounts to about Cdn $1.1 million per year.



The GPC is a member of the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas and recognized by the Global Greens as representing Canadian Greens federally.

Provincial Green Parties

See also

External links

Federal Political Parties of Canada
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Bloc Québécois
Not represented in the House of Commons
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PC Party
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