IT’S NOT EASY being Green. First there’s the problem of the name. Corporations are using it whenever it fits a marketing concept. It’s an irony that Green has become synonymous in the public’s mind with a grocery store’s line of“environmentally friendly” products rather than with a party of environmentally friendly people.
The Green Party is a social and spiritual movement. Its members are diverse both in where they live and in their backgrounds, although most have a high level of education or are students. The party is decentralized but members agree on major peace and environmental issues.
They believe Canada should have no heavy weapons capable of crossing borders. The Greens want Canada out of all military alliances. They believe we should neither import nor export weaponry or military components. The core of their philosophy is a conviction that our society over produces, over consumes and is destroying the planet with our refuse.
Public opinion polls show the environment to be the most important “issue” among Canadians. Yet members of the Green Party aren’t shopping for apartments in Ottawa yet. They see the electoral system stacked against them.
Co-founder Rolf Bramann says its money that makes the difference.
“We don’t have a lot of money to throw around. The Liberals talk about raising $7 million, while we have to struggle to raise $7,000.”
“All three parties are against us. Right now, we’re minor players.We’re growing, but we have modest aims.”
The Greens polled 5 per cent of the vote in the last Quebec provincial election, coming third. In a European country with proportional representation, the Greens would have been entitled to six seats in the National Assembly. However, under the British parliamentary riding system, small parties rarely elect a candidate.
The Greens are far stronger in Britain than in Canada, yet they have not elected a Member of Parliament there, either. The Greens are well represented at the European Parliament in Strasbourg because that body uses proportional representation.
They have also elected members to several parliaments in Eastern and Western Europe. There are Green members in the governing coalitions in Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
A political party should be examined both for what it says and what it does. Canadian Greens have often shown great personal courage fighting for the environment.
Recently, Green-led environmentalists stopped a stainless steel mill from being built on an ecologically sensitive estuary on Vancouver Island. They are now fighting to save the last virgin forest on the island.
In Ontario, Greens have often been arrested for protests that embarrassed the government. Their punishments have not always fitted their “crimes.”
The Greens have been a registered political party in Canada for only seven years, yet many of its founding members experience burnout, rather than jubilation, from their growing influence on the public’s thinking.
Frank de Jong, a Toronto Green organizer, is one of the optimistic Greens. He believes the party is about to surprise the skeptics who label it as a fringe movement. He says the response to Green-led demonstrations proves to him that the “party is growing exponentially.”
“In November, we did a provincial action against McDonald’s restaurants. we went to 20 across the province and demanded to be served our food on plates instead of on garbage. About 500 people took part in the action, and that’s pretty good for a party that is still getting off the ground.”
The Greens were involved in creating a human chain around the Ontario Hydro Building in late April.
Mark Bourrie is a Toronto writer.