FEATURES

REAPING THE WHIRLWIND

Mary Janigan July 1 2004
FEATURES

REAPING THE WHIRLWIND

Mary Janigan July 1 2004

WILL THE VOTE GET GREENER?

Campaign 2004

WHILE THE POLLS are promising, it still isn’t easy being the Green Party of Canada. In the 2000 federal election, the Greens garnered a paltry 0.8 per cent of the vote. This time around, some pollsters have them at a much improved six, even seven per cent. That still didn’t get Jim Harris, the party’s leader, invited to the big dance, where the frontmen for the four mainstream parties duked it out in the Englishand French-language television debates. “Canadian broadcasters knocked out democracy,” says Harris. “Five unelected, unaccountable executives made a decision on behalf of 22 million voters that the Green party’s voice would not be heard.”

Harris, a 43-year-old motivational speaker and a one-time Progressive Conservative, says the party’s own internal polling shows three-quarters of Canadians-the great majority of them committed to voting for another party-wanted the Greens included in the leaders’ verbal fisticuffs. Maybe next time. The Greens have fielded candidates-a quarter of them under 30 years old-in all 308 ridings and have a chance of winning one, maybe two seats.

Both of those would be out West. Despite the party’s emphasis on the environment, it is in some respects surprisingly conservative, with an emphasis on fiscal responsibility and small government. Among its other

Harris says there’s some satisfaction in seeing others filch parts of his platform

platform planks: a $3.5-billion tax cut for individuals, paid for by a 10-cent-a-litre “pollution tax” on gasoline, and “greencollar” jobs to be created by encouraging, for example, auto manufacturers to build fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. The party spins itself as “neither right nor left-we are in front.”

While a seat or two in the Commons might be nice, money would be welcome, too. Thanks to recent electoral reforms, parties that attract at least two per cent of the vote are eligible for $1.75 each year for each ballot they pull in. “What that means is that each vote, over a 4V2-year Parliament, is now worth about $8,” says Harris. Or about $8 million if the Greens crack the million-vote mark, as their leader predicts they will.

Harris himself doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in the Amazon of winning his Toronto-Danforth riding. He’s up against NDP Leader Jack Layton, who one poll suggested has 53 per cent of the vote, followed by Liberal incumbent Dennis Mills at 33 per cent, Conservative Loftus Cuddy with 10, and Harris at just four per cent. Still, Harris says he takes a measure of satisfaction in seeing the other parties filch parts of the Greens’ platform. “The central message here is we are being effective,” he says. Other longshot parties must be green with envy.

DANYLO HAWALESHKA