With the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial elections right around the corner, to be held on February 13, 2021, Newfoundland and Labrador remains the only province in Canada without a formal Green Party.

Under Newfoundland and Labrador’s fixed election date law, the vote was scheduled for October 10, 2023. However, a caveat in the law mandates that an election must be held within 12 months of a new Premier being sworn in to office. Premier Furey assumed the role on August 19, 2020.

Although the Green Party is not an officially registered party in the province, many concerned Newfoundlanders and Labradorians came together in 2019 to start the process of founding the Green Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

According to their platform, they are working together to develop Green policies that are “effective and supportable” and to build the “nuts and bolts of a formal party organization.”

On May 9, 2019, Jonathon Brown and Adam Denny launched a Facebook group to gauge interest for a Green Party at the provincial level. “The group now has 240 members and has started circulating a petition to officially register the party in the province” (The Telegram 2019).

Brown, in an interview with The Telegram, says he started the group to test the waters, but he and co-founder Denny were “surprised at how quickly support came together online.”

If citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador are “natural environmentalists” according to former Green Party of Canada candidate Stephen Harris and the new Facebook group received such immediate support, why, in 2021, has the Green Party of Newfoundland and Labrador yet to become a formal party?

Since the federal Green Party adopted a stance opposing the seal hunt, its history in Newfoundland and Labrador has been one of “conflict and failure.” In fact, the largest barrier for the Green Party in Newfoundland and Labrador is the party’s anti-seal hunt policy on the federal level.

Chris Bruce, a former NDP executive member aiming to make the Greens recognized as a political party, says that the federal Green Party, in opposing the seal hunt, has done “potentially irrevocable damage.”

“If people aren’t willing to listen to anything that follows ‘I’m in the Green Party,’ then that would be a big problem, so one of the things I’ve been focusing on pretty heavily is making it very clear that the Green Party of Newfoundland and Labrador will be pro-hunting,” says Bruce.

Marlene Wells, Atlantic organizer for the federal Green Party, says “we do support a local, sustainable, humane harvest. We do support aboriginal, Indigenous rights to a seal hunt.”  

“It is a controversial subject for sure, but the provincial party can certainly develop its own policy that works for Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Marlene Wells, Atlantic organizer for the federal Green Party

Although Bruce sees the federal party’s anti-seal hunting policy as a very real barrier, he remains optimistic because he also sees the formation of the Greens as offering a break from the “stifling party structures” that have been at the foundation of the province’s politics.

On the other hand, John Riche, an NDP candidate in the 2011 provincial election, takes a more pessimistic stance on the subject because of “the damage done to the party’s brand” by the federal Greens.

“Getting elected in the Green party in Newfoundland is going to be impossible because they’re going to forever be saddled with … the Green party’s anti-seal hunt campaign— even though that’s not part of the provincial platform—and the tree-hugger mentality that people see them as having from the outside,” said Riche.

Stephen Harris, a former Green Party of Canada candidate who ran in 2006, is more optimistic than Riche. “I think it could work out,” said Harris. “Newfoundlanders are natural environmentalists because we’re surrounded by it, especially in Labrador and rural Newfoundland communities.”

Bruce concedes that building the party into a contender will be difficult, but is convinced that the branding problems can be overcome.

“I think that the system needs to be started fresh… let’s develop a grassroots system, but one that is built by Newfoundlanders for Newfoundlanders, with our own unique interpretation of things.”

Chris Bruce, Former NDP Executive

Since the Green Party of Newfoundland and Labrador emerged in 2019, where does it stand now?

Regarding this subject, Jo-Ann Roberts interviewed Lucas Knill on her podcast, The Atlantic Bubble. Knill is involved in Green politics both federally and provincially, as the federal councillor who represents Newfoundland and Labrador, and as a Green Party candidate in the riding of the Long Range Mountains in 2019.

According to Knill, the Greens’ biggest mission is still to collect the necessary 1 000 signatures. However, since the pandemic, Knill says it has been challenging to “get close to anyone with a pen.”

Furthermore, Knill claims that as a Green Party of Canada member in Newfoundland and Labrador, you can’t have a conversation with anyone without them bringing up the seal hunt. “The seal hunt is culturally and historically significant to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” he says.

However, the nice thing about the Green Party of Canada, Knill adds, is that “we’re allowed to diverge from some of those policies as we see fit.”

In his campaign for Federal Council, Knill emphasizes that not only is now the time for the Green Party to propel forward, but it is also critical that Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans have a “strong and caring voice on the political scene.”

Margaret Saville

Margaret Saville studies psychology and political science at McGill University in Montreal, and would like to pursue political journalism. She was born in Toronto, Ontario and grew up in Nelson, British Columbia. Her passions include environmentalism, literature and writing, and down-hill skiing. Margaret is committed to addressing social issues such as the climate change crisis, racial and gender inequality, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ+ rights, and advocating for mental health awareness.

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