The Greens: Green Party 101

By , on April 28, 2013

Elizabeth May with Canadian author Yann Martel, Man Booker Prize winner for the novel “Life of Pi”. Twitter photo.
Elizabeth May with Canadian author Yann Martel, Man Booker Prize winner for the novel “Life of Pi”. Twitter photo.

FOUNDED in 1983, the Green Party is, at its core, geared toward sustainability. Environmentalist, writer, lawyer, and former executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada Elizabeth May stands at the helm of this federal party. May secured a spot in the House of Commons—the first, for herself, and among the Greens—in the 2011 federal elections.

But the Greens also stand for more than the environment. They aim for a “smart economy,” “strong communities,” and a “true democracy.”

Smart economy

“A smart economy is a green economy,” states the party in their Green Book 2011, dubbed their “full and comprehensive vision” of Canada’s future.

The Greens’ “smart economy” aims to “[turn] old-industry blue-collar jobs into new-industry green-collar jobs”; it stands upon “non-polluting systems and energy sources,” hoping to jumpstart thousands of jobs by investing in renewable energy and expanding this industry.

The party seeks to build more sustainable modes of farming, fishing, and forestry and has set their sights on a revenue-neutral carbon pricing architecture.

Strong communities

“Strong communities mean creating opportunities for young Canadians,” to the Greens. To build stronger communities, they aim to: lower income taxes and introduce full income splitting for married couples and families; re-work the standard nine-to-five job by creating opportunities to work at home, share jobs, adjust working hours, and grant leeway for child care for working parents.

The Greens also plan to secure long-term funding to repair and rebuild infrastructures for recreation, transportation, water works, and arts and culture.

A strong community also means that “older Candians are active and engaged”—that they should “[live] with dignity and independence.” To this end, the Greens aim to secure pensions and programs on mental and physical health for the elderly.

True democracy

“Canadian democracy is in trouble,” warn the Greens. According to this federal party, “[p]ower is increasingly centralized” into MPs who become “more and more irrelevant.” To this end, the Greens intend to engage and debate to involve the citizen and to “[m]ove to a fairer electoral system that reflects the true will of the voters.” The voting system ought to be reformed by way of a national discussion, says the party; consider, for instance, whether the “first past the post” policy ought to be replaced.

In addition, “whatever is ‘dumbed down’ must be ‘smartened up’” in Canadian journalism, to keep corporations from controlling the media. The Greens also state that Canada should adopt the spirit of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to secure human rights. They urge as well for the country to stick to its commitments and achieve the Millennium Development Goal to make poverty history.

10 Core Principles of the Green Party of BC
  1. Sustainability—the party strongly advocates for stewardship of the Earth.
  2. Social justice—the party states that “poverty and inequity [are] unacceptable,” vying for individuals to “fulfill their potential” regardless of the color of their skin, their citizenship, gender, or sexual identity.
  3. Grass roots democracy—the party aims for further public participation and citizen involvement in the government’s decision-making processes.
  4. Non-violence—the party maintains that “violence is almost always self-defeating” and always the last choice.
  5. Community-based economy—the party believes that the economy should “provide for human needs within the natural limits of the earth.”
  6. Gender equality—the party stands against “domination and control,” opting instead for “the ethics of cooperation and understanding.”
  7. Diversity—the party welcomes the “cultural, sexual, and spiritual diversity of the human race.”
  8. Decentralization—the party states that “power must be returned to local communities” in matters that directly affect them.
  9. Personal and global responsibility—the party believes that “responsibility [should be] shared at all levels of society” for the sake of global sustainability and international justice.
  10. Ecological wisdom—ethical rootedness to and awareness of the earth and its many life forms.
Elizabeth May

May was the executive director of the Canadian faction of the Sierra Club from 1989–2006. The Sierra Club, a global volunteer-based organization, is one of the largest and oldest of its kind, dating back to 1892.

May is a steward of the environment since the early ‘80s. In 2001 she staged a 17-day hunger strike in front of Parliament Hill to urge the relocation of families affected by Canada’s biggest toxic dump, the Sydney Tar Ponds. She helped found Environmental Defence Canada (then the Canadian Environmental Defence Fund), a charity that aids against pollution of the environment and its effects to the individual’s health.

In 1986, May worked as Senior Policy Advisor to then federal Minister of Environment Tom McMillan. May had a hand in agreements to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions that lead to acid rain; May wrote new legislation, created five new national parks; contributed to the clean-up of the Great Lakes and the Sydney Tar Ponds. May also took part in the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that phased out production of substances known to deplete the ozone layer.

For more info, visit and