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Green strategy puts the public interest ahead of partisanship

I am happy to have a chance to answer the question posed by Gerry Nicholls' March 29 opinion piece, Why Doesn't Elizabeth May Just Join the Liberals?

I am a member of the Green party because it is the only party that reflects my values. Global Green values link more than 80 Green parties around the world, as they do federal Greens and our provincial relations. In these six foundational principles, I found an ethical choice for my political home: social justice, grassroots democracy, respect for diversity, human rights, ecological sustainability and peace and non-violence.

There are reasons I am the only member of Parliament to have voted against bombing Libya, the only MP to publish all my expenses, and the only, along with independent MP Bruce Hyer, to attempt amendments to make the new criminal justice act Charter compliant. There is a reason the Green party does not support the whipping of votes and the muzzling of MPs. The commitment to grassroots democracy is real.

That is one of the reasons that Nicholls' opinion piece is so far off base. It is written with the misconception that the leader of the Green party is the capital "B" Boss, like other party leaders. In reality, the decision to enter into the 2008 leader's courtesy agreement with Stéphane Dion, or to choose to call for co-operation in the Labrador by-election, was not mine alone. Nicholls conveniently omitted our strong campaign in the November 2012 Calgary Centre by-election, in which Chris Turner's strong showing for Greens gained over 25 per cent of the popular vote, coming in a close third in a tight 10-point spread, leaving the Liberal candidate second to the Conservative. At that result, Liberals across Canada attacked Greens as though we had deliberately done something really nasty to the Liberal party.

Such decisions are reached through a consensus process engaging local Greens, the campaign committee and, ultimately, the federal council, made up of volunteers elected from across Canada. On that council, I have one vote. And, yes, I am often in the losing end of a vote. The highest order of governance comes from our members in general assembly. Through member-driven policy, we have a commitment to electoral co-operation, seeking a one-time only accord with other parties for the 2015 election with the goal of replacing the first past the post system.

The problem for conventional, hyper-partisan types in understanding Greens is that they simply cannot conceive of the notion we actually mean what we say and attempt to act in the public interest. Nicholls dismissed that the 2008 leader's courtesy agreement with Stéphane Dion was to highlight a shared commitment to climate action. The truth is that if Liberals had formed government in 2006, the 2005 climate plan and budget would have allowed us to come very close to Kyoto targets. By 2008, had Dion formed government, he would have brought in strong climate action to repair damage from Harper's cancellation of the 2005 plan. I do not believe that Paul Martin or Dion would have ever repudiated our targets, or legally withdrawn from Kyoto. Did Liberals squander precious years without a plan? Yes, they did. And, as executive director of Sierra Club at the time, I held them to account for that failure -- as did the Greens.

Clearly, many in conventional politics have no problem with the NDP working with Stephen Harper for years to destroy the Liberal party, in order to gain more power. Greens have a hard time with "ends justify the means" partisanship. For Greens, the climate crisis trumps partisanship.

So, no, Mr. Nicholls, Greens do not endorse the Liberal party. If the incumbent Labrador MP, losing by 79 votes in 2011, had been NDP, the Greens would now make the same decision, asking the Liberals to stand down.

However, only the most blindly partisan would think it a matter of no consequence that a man who despised Kyoto, denied climate science, pursuing an agenda of growth at any cost in the oilsands, embracing unequal investment benefits to China and eliminating decades of environmental protections in the process, has gained total control of all levers of power through the vagaries of a dysfunctional first past the post voting system.

Canada needs more Greens in the House to see what it looks like when MPs put their constituents, Canada and the planet first, with party affiliation a distant second. Canada needs the Green party as the voice for reason above partisanship.

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen.

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