Green Vote Splitting Myth: or Why the NDP “hate” the Greens

There has been much screams of frustration and gnashing of teeth directed at the Greens in the most recent, and historic, election in British Columbia. Some of it was a smear campaign directed to Andrew Weaver, the leader of the BC Greens, personally, and some was to the party itself for “vote splitting” or that they “don’t protect the bears” or other nonsense. Even spewed by people I usually respect, unfortunately… It has been proven, time and again, that in the absence of a Green candidate, all those votes do not in fact go automatically to the New Democrats, but that is the narrative they are maintaining for this attack to have any legs.

The main accusation was that the BC Liberals, who rule much more like neocons currently, would take a majority of the seats if the Greens did not step aside. That Greens are just selfish power mongers. That it is *their fault* if the Liberals regain power. And no one else’s. Not the Liberals for getting votes. Not the NDP for not stepping aside. Nope. Literally the party with the smallest number of MLA’s at the time – one – is to blame for Clark’s power. Said like that, it sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it? But the trolls were eating it up and spreading it everywhere. Even the actual proof of a real smear campaign by the NDP didn’t seem to phase anyone. “Why would the NDP do that?” was the cry.  And so it was largely dismissed. But it really happened, and it’s still happening. Instead of uniting the Left, as they urged their supporters to do, what they always meant was “get rid of the Greens”.

This just keeps happening, in every single election, federal or provincial, and people keep falling for it. It smacks of Concern Troll. “Gee, we’d LOVE to help, but those evil Greens just keep ensuring that we don’t have enough power, so the left can never be strong enough. How sad for you working folks…” BC, however, has had the strongest inclination to vote Green of any province in Canada, and this time, it didn’t work quite as well as the NDP hoped. There were many ridings in BC that were neck and neck with Greens, but the NDP didn’t even consider stepping aside to ensure that the “left” won. Why is that?

One of our math nerds, Craig Hubley, wrote on FB afterwards:

“Notice that had NDP supporters in West Vancouver agreed to swap their votes one for one with Green supporters in several close NDP ridings, they could have had a much larger NDP minority or even majority. With an official Green party. NDPers should ask if they would have liked that result better. Greens might like the balance of power a bit better than having official party status, but, any slim majority is fragile and its easier for an official party to attract floor-crossers.”

Surely the NDP have their own mathematicians, and yet, nothing like this was even hinted at. Did they know? Are they incompetent? Or maybe there is something else going on there *other* than their stated desire to push for left policies.

Greens now hold the balance of power in the province. While the NDP have led BC before, and governed more like Conservatives, it is their traditional role to be the third party nationally. It is exactly how the federal NDP have gotten some of the most progressive legislation in Canada created, like Medicate and the Canada Pension Fund. *By working with the government in power*. Instead of major congrats, though, the Greens are getting just as much vitriol. Weaver is accused of not being a “real” progressive because he is willing to work with the Liberals. No, seriously. More than one troll actually accused him of not being a true progressive because he *voted on Liberal budgets*. As a legislator! Doing his job! Gasp! The monster… Weaver, one of the only actual *climate scientists elected to office in the world* is somehow not committed enough to progressive change for the planet and for the people on it, enough for the NDP smear mongers at least. Riiiiighhhhttt….

Spreading nasty, insinuating rumours about Green leaders and party policies has become an NDP trademark. I remember being at a Solidarity concert where a Dipper kept actually screaming at me that Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, wasn’t even a real Canadian. She was American! I’m like “Dude, chill. She’s been here since she was 17. That’s called immigration.” Where did he get that from, because it wasn’t the first time I heard that from NDP members that year… After I ran as a candidate a few times, a good friend of mine became an provincial ND candidate in Alberta. (That’s not the first time that’s happened. I seem to inspire alot of my circle. You’re welcome…) Being a reasonable person as well as good friend, he made an official policy proposal to the Alberta ND’s that we work together from all parties to create bridges and push for progressive polices, in a time of harsh neocon rule in the province. Jack Layton,  federal leader of the NDP, the Mustachioed hero himself, literally flew from Ottawa to tell him to shut that crap down. For a provincial party! Where he isn’t supposed to have any jurisdiction at all! Which is why my friend is no longer a candidate.

Now, legally, our provincial and federal parties are actually supposed to be separate entities, and there can be be serious consequences for overlap: ties, policies, funding or donations in kind, etc. Therefore, a party that governs one province or the country, theoretically, can’t really be representative of how that party will govern elsewhere. The smack that happens in one province is easier to contain, therefore, though there is spillage. In part because memberships between federal and provincial parties hugely overlap. The Alberta Greens for example had 75% of their provincial membership also being federal Greens. However, the bigger parties tend to ignore these rules anyway, and will often shift resources and volunteers around. Despite our overlapping membership, however, Greens don’t even get their provincial leaders together, much less with the federal ones. We take this stuff very seriously. We do however, all share in the glory of Green success anywhere, because the Global Greens is a real international movement! A Green here is much the same as a Green in Brasil or Germany or NZ. I know. I’ve talked to some of them. So although we are very strict about our separateness, as we are supposed to be, we are also united in our goals.

 

Statistically, our presence even helps the NDP.

 

“The NDP would have done worse in this election if it were not for the Green vote” From another Green commentator, Chris George.”The reality is different than your narrative. Greens pulled 60,000 votes from the BC Liberals and inspired another 90,000 people to come out and vote, something no other party has been able to do here over the past four elections. If there was a split at all, it was between the Greens and the BC Liberals, helping the BCNDP to victory in a number of ridings they would have otherwise lost.”

Jim Harris, when he was leader of the GPC, once crunched the numbers, being that kind of guy, and wrote that the national Green Party membership was made up of 1/3 Left leaning, 1/3 Right leaning, and 1/3 simply “wouldn’t vote for anyone else”.

The current numbers and my own experiences bear witness to that. I have had old school Reformers on my campaign team. And punk anarchists. Far more people came out and voted for this election than previous ones, and they voted Green. They did not want to vote for anyone else.

The NDP are really working hard to create the narrative that Green votes are naturally theirs, but they aren’t. We are different, and quite frankly, our answer is better.

So why do the NDP keep claiming in every election that it is the Greens who are splitting the left, while they refuse to step aside themselves to ensure the “left” wins. Well, there is some perspective on this.

 

Historical Context

 

Okay. You probably know that the old CCF was formed by rural folks in Alberta as a response to the Great Depression as a seriously “destroy capitalism” party. I mean hard core anti-capitalists. Their history is fascinating and most untame. But to create the new NDP, they were merged with the CLC. “In 1956, after the birth of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) by a merger of two previous labour congresses, negotiations began between the CLC and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) to bring about an alliance between organized labour and the political left in Canada.” From Wikipedia. It took awhile for this to take, and Canadians weren’t terribly pleased with the new offering. Focusing on the labour part, it shifted away from its more revolutionary origins to get more power and votes.

Since our entire country has, even now, ONLY ever been ruled by the Conservative party or the Liberals, it was historic that the NDP grew so much power in such a short time, and in doing so, was able to push the debate far more to the left, to create things like Medicare.

 “The political alignment of national parties saw six years of minority governments over three elections between 1962 and 1968, and this favoured those political forces attempting to move the country in a more progressive direction. The NDP was growing and this strengthened left Liberals who argued that their party must protect their left flank. This in turn encouraged the red Tories within the Progressive Conservatives, who argued that the party must move left to remain electorally competitive. ” From Canadian Dimension Magazine “The Birth of Medicare”.

The NDP function all this time was therefore a balancing party, to push the centre more to the left. So they were very clear about speaking truth to power. I even remember when they would praise whatever side happened to be correct, and condemn those that were wrong, *regardless of ideology*. Just like the Greens do now. Because they knew they would never be the party in power, so they were free to be the party of Truth and not speak from ideology or partisan spaces. I always admired it, and it was what made me a hard core Dipper. I even ran for the party in my elections in junior high!

It was only near the end of Broadbent’s tenure when the polls began to suggest that they might actually be able to be Official Opposition one day that he started to change his tune. I remember that, too. I was shocked to hear the echo of partisan rhetoric coming out of his mouth in the last few months before he was gone, instead of the correct assessment of the government’s actions. And it was most certainly the start of a trend. The NDP, who really aren’t that old, nor is the country in its current incarnation for that matter, now saw themselves as potential and even eventual rulers of this country, and not longer the Voice of Reason balancers. They have moved the party more center and more away from revolution as they position themselves as defenders of the status quo. Which they will eventually govern. But nicer and softer, apparently. You will note that they removed their reference to “democratic” in their mission statements recently? Yeah….

They have therefore seen the Greens as their blood enemies. We are *exactly* what they used to be, only more so. We are labour, we are revolutionaries, AND we are environmentalists and social justice activists. We are practical, and work on harm reduction with provable methods to alleviate suffering, while we find ways to push the progression. We are guided by the Global Greens movement, including their Constitution and human rights declarations, and not a mere national concern. We are everything that they could have been, had they been born earlier. Layton knew it. He notoriously wouldn’t even take Elizabeth May’s calls, much less consider cooperation. He was the latest in a line to see the vision about what his party could be, and specifically gave orders to be hostile to the Greens.  Because he knew that if his party ever had a chance to rule, it will have to be before the Greens get where the NDP was in the 70’s. Because then they are toast. We will have them. Compared to us, they are irrelevant, and the leaders know that. We just aren’t there quite yet..

 

Greens aren’t allowed to personally attack other candidates.

 

It’s an actual Oath we agree to when we represent the Party, as part of “doing politics better.”  The NDP do not appear to have such a policy in place at any level. The NDP encourage vicious personal attacks during campaigns, then call for cooperation after, pretending that it’s just “personal friction between leaders”. I get pretty crabby when people are attacking my character and record, too, because that has happened to me. Then they can pretend it’s “nasty on both sides”. If I was a climate PhD elected to office being told I’m not “progressive” enough, my responses would be way less measured than Weaver’s.

As part of that oath, Greens are also *required* to work with anyone who will work with us. But that doesn’t mean capitulate. It means creating progressive programs and legislation with our input and blessing. The NDP have decided that their Party is worth more than the programs and policies that can help Canadians and people around the world. They demonstrate that almost every time they vote, and not just make noises in the House or on the campaign trail.

The calls for “joining the left” almost always blame Greens for splitting the vote or not creating a coalition. But this is really not on us.

 

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*I’m not using the word “hate” lightly, by the way. Another of my prominent ND friends in Alberta sent in a message to me that “Weaver is HATTTTED in NDP Circles”. He went on to speculate that it might be Weaver’s perceived arrogance level, though my friend acknowledged that it could just be NDP propaganda. I replied that I could sympathize. The man has a PhD and Nobel prize, managed to get elected, and still some so-called progressives treat him like crap. I might get a bit testy, too. Seriously. If you care about doing something about climate change, why not *help* the elected lawmaker with the damn Nobel?!