For those of us who would like to see the Green Party hold the balance of power in Ottawa, Robin Sears turns to recent history and offers a cautionary tale:
Forty years ago this spring, an eloquent, passionate, young American-educated German named Petra Kelly helped to launch the Green movement that swept first West Germany and then much of Western Europe. Kelly was one of those naturally charismatic politicians who drew supporters from a broad sweep of German voters: left and right, young and old.
Before her death the rapidly growing Green Party was fraught with fierce internal debates between those who wanted to govern, and those who refused to compromise on an agenda that was fiscally and politically impossible. The two camps, one dubbed the “fundamentalists” and the other the “realists” broke the momentum of their early years. Petra Kelly was a “fundi” herself, and became estranged from the party she helped to found, as the “realos” gradually took over.
Navigating the tensions in any political party is not easy -- as Justin Trudeau can attest. May could find herself trying to keep the different camps in her party happy:
It is easy to envision an adroit squeeze play by a shakily re-elected Justin Trudeau, or Andrew Scheer as the prime minister of any minority government. . . Set up a vote of confidence early in the new Parliament based on a decades long, sharply rising carbon pricing agenda, locked in combination with setting the first shovels in the ground on TMX. If the Greens vote yes they will enrage their base. Vote no, and they defeat the government, and they are into a snap election which threatens annihilation.
The climate crisis is a painful irritation for an already wobbly federal government. But they have a short-term trump: “A Green vote means a Scheer government.” For the NDP the threat is more existential. Most European social democratic parties, bobbing and weaving, co-operated with or tried to clobber the Greens. Both strategies lead to more fragmentation of political loyalties, and a steady weakening of the traditional parties’ dominance.
For Elizabeth May to continue to push herself and her party into ever more dismissive and hard-edged rejection of any compromise with the resource sector may be great politics in the short term. But most Canadians know that theirs is a nation built on those industries. Weaning them off their massive carbon emission loads is a project of decades not days.
And that is the dilemma we all face. People move slowly. And the clock is ticking relentlessly. Something's got to give.
Image: Rogers-Long Team