This past week, I reached out to Justice Greens, an independent advocacy group in Canada “committed to a principled Green Party which embraces leftist principles of complete democracy in government” (justicegreens.com). As such, they have been vocal in their support for eco-socialist candidates and policies.

Annamie Paul’s win of the Green Party of Canada’s leadership race at the beginning of this month, is observed by some as a continuation of the centrist position the Green Party has taken under Elizabeth May’s leadership.

Connor Kelly is the Communications Officer, and Keifer Furtak is a Policy Analyst for Justice Greens. I was curious of their response to Annamie Paul’s win, their thoughts on the outlook of eco-socialism in Canada, and upcoming items on their advocacy agenda.  

On Annamie Paul as the newly elected leader, on your website during the leadership race you say Paul is among the candidates that are “establishment backed” and “oppose a transparent dialogue with those they serve”.

What is your response to Paul’s win as the elected national leader of the Green Party? Does she have the support of Justice Greens, or do you have plans to apply pressure to her leadership moving forward?

C.K. “We’re a little disappointed, but not surprised, considering how much effort the establishment put into supporting Paul’s campaign while impeding Lascaris and Haddad’s. The Justice Greens is far more policy- than candidate- or even party-oriented, so we’ll likely support Paul only if her policies are in line with our values.”

K.F. “The core issue [with] Annamie Paul is that her and the Green Party’s current environmental and economic policy is not good enough to save us from climate change. We will continue to push Annamie Paul towards progressive policy that will give my children’s generation a shot at a decent quality of life. Considering that Justice Greens has […] a much larger audience than thought […] we will continue to push for progressive policy.”

Started in August 2020, Justice Greens now has around 2000 followers on its social media.

With a BIPOC woman as the new face of the Green Party at the federal level, is it a reflection of changes within the party’s members at this time in history? How do you see Paul’s identity influencing support and votership for the Green Party and the landscape of Canadian politics?

K.F. “I do not believe there was that much of a change in the Green Party though many new young and diverse voices have joined. Unfortunately I think that a big part of Annamie Paul’s success came from the banking of Elizabeth May early on. Because of that I don’t necessarily see a drastic change in the party wanting to be more diverse, rather that many people wanted Glen Murray and Courtney Howard before Annamie Paul. There is still much to be done to make the party a more diverse and inclusive space especially for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people. I see Annamie Paul being popular with Canadians who care a lot about identity politics but not necessarily as much about progressive policy.”

C.K. “I imagine Paul’s identity might pull some liberals to the Greens, but other than that I don’t see a significant shift in support. Canada’s a really racist country, and we’ll probably be seeing that become clearer now that Paul’s a relatively major public figure.”

Compared to other nations with more Green party representation in their legislature, in your opinion, what is the biggest barrier preventing the Green Party of Canada from having a stronger presence in Canadian politics?

C.K. “The biggest barrier for the Canadian Greens is that they’re trying to do what the NDP and Liberals are already doing: centrist fanfare and hollow policy. The Greens have some good stuff, like BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and universal post-secondary education, but even on climate action, the current platform still supports maintaining a capitalist economic system. As a result, voting for the Greens is the electoral equivalent of buying organic vegetables at Sobeys. So long as there’s no really exciting, transformative, material change being proposed by the Greens, they’re going to be a little fish in Canadian politics.”

K.F. “To me, the biggest barrier is FPTP (First-past-the-post electoral system) and the Green Party’s struggles with French Canada. Under a proportional representation system, the Greens would be able to achieve quite a few seats. Also if they had a larger presence in Quebec (which does have a more environmentally friendly attitude than a province like Alberta).”

“Another barrier for the Greens is their policy as they are not left-wing enough to court socialist and leftist support, so they are forced to try and get votes from the Liberals and the NDP, which results in the majority of Green voters throwing away their vote except for in 3 ridings this past election. The Greens need to have a more clear political ideology and develop a new political culture […].”

What are barriers preventing eco-socialist approaches, which you advocate for, from full adoption by the Green Party itself?

K.F. “The barriers are a hostile centrist elite in the party that use anti-democratic measures to stop any kind of grassroots eco-socialist movement. The party attempted to expel Meryam Haddad and Dimitri Lascaris. The party refused to give free youth memberships to youth who could not afford it.”

“In many areas of the world Green parties tend to be the furthest left mainstream party like in New Zealand. But that isn’t the case in Canada. Though a large portion of Green members voted for an eco-socialist candidate, the centrist members still outweigh the eco-socialist ones by a small margin. Until this changes, this is a large barrier stopping eco-socialism.”

What opportunities are there in the era of Covid-19 for the Green Party and for eco-socialism to gain traction and grow in influence at the table of Canadian politics?

K.F. “The pandemic is likely the largest significant event since WW2 in Canada which means that there is a fork in the road for where the country goes next. Using path dependency theory, we can either address climate change and systemic inequality with progressive policy, or we can continue the status quo with centrist neoliberal responses to the next decade. As the government has racked up a large deficit, [there] will likely be austerity in the near future, meaning budget cuts and a lack of focus on environmental policies as a priority. The coming 2021 and the recovery years will be pivotal for eco-socialism given the deadlines climate change sets.”

What is up next on your advocacy agenda in the coming months?

C.K. “Our parent group, the International Department of Citizenship, is currently in talks to build a trans-partisan coalition between progressive sections of the country. That includes electoral parties, but also activist groups, unions, youth, students, and so on. We’ve also started the Lobster Revolution campaign to try and provide media support to the Mik’maq in Nova Scotia, which can be followed at https://www.reddit.com/r/lobsterrevolution/ or on the IDC’s twitter, @JoinIDC.”

“For Justice Greens specifically, we’ll probably do a bit of policy proposal support within the Green Party. Electoralism is just one part of creating systemic change […].”

Sarah Cui

Sarah Cui is in her fourth year of undergraduate studies in Environment, Resources and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo. Her background is intercultural, having grown up in both Ottawa and northwestern China. Her areas of interest include environmental politics, conservation and food sustainability. In her free time, Sarah enjoys connecting with friends, hiking, identifying plants and learning a new language.

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