Green Party big on recycling faux-progressive status quo

As the House finishes up its final weeks before campaign season kicks off, the Green Party is crossing every extremity in the hope that they are, indeed, starting to ride a wave. This is especially true as the Conservatives and Liberals drag each other in the media for attention—and eventual votes—and the NDP continues to ghost Canadians like a bad date; the Greens have risen up from the ashes to snatch victory from the status quo—or at least try to reach official party status. They’re basically Ben Affleck’s horrible phoenix back tattoo.

But the question remains: are they ready? Not Elizabeth May; to be clear, she’s proven herself to be a strong and capable representative in the House, given that she has been the lone Green Party Member of Parliament for much of the last eight years. Her patience and resilience has paid off though, as the Green Party of Canada gained a second seat in the House following the election of Paul Manly in the recent Nanaimo-Ladysmith, B.C., byelection, and having an extremely strong showing in the P.E.I. provincial election while also holding the balance of power in the B.C. legislature.

When we think about the Greens, we think of a progressive party with fresh ideas—the upstarts. But, how progressive can you be if your party is hesitant or unable to deviate from the ingrained power structures that uphold whiteness and maleness? If you consider yourself radical and fighting against the man (literally and figuratively), how can you expect to tear down power if you are supporting the underlying structures? Answer: you can’t.

The power structure in this country rewards white, cis-male actors disproportionately for their effort, while women, Indigenous, people of colour, Muslims, LGBTQ2+ folks, the differently abled, and others fight to be recognized and valued for ours. This is what white supremacy is: systems of power that work to ensure white men are visible, represented, valued, deferred to, and rewarded over and above everyone else in order to keep the fruits of labour concentrated within that demographic. It is more than just Nazis in the streets, it is the fundamental way Canada has operated before, and since, Confederation and we are all actors within this socio-economic construct.

Canadian progressive politics, while allowing people from marginalized communities into the tent, create policies and engage in political strategies that continue to centre whiteness, and men in particular, as the default, with everyone else viewed as a function of that default. So, when your party consists of mostly white men in positions of power and prestige (also known as candidates), one can only assume that this approach will continue to be the default, even if the leader of the party is a white woman.

The Greens’ platform, which has all the bells and whistles of progressive policies—from climate change to implementing the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to proportional representation—nearly erases marginalized communities. Their policies attributed to the reduction of inequality only recognize gender as a basis upon which to oppose discrimination—not race, religion, sexual orientation, or ability. Creating policies for those traversing multiple identities of marginalization is what intersectionality is all about. Instead, for the Green Party, the approach to social justice is focused only on poverty and housing.

But that doesn’t matter, right? Well, a recent Ekos poll, which measured attitudes towards visible minority immigrants by party, asked: of all those who immigrate to Canada, are there too many, the right amount, or not enough visible minorities? While we rightly assume that the Conservative answer to this question is an enthusiastic “yes” (71 per cent think there are too many), the Greens had the next-highest proportion that think there are too many people entering the country who are darker than a No. 2 pencil, at 34 per cent (the national response in the affirmative is 42 per cent because… Conservatives). Guess who experiences poverty and housing issues at a disproportionate rate? People of colour.

So, while these figures may seem innocuous, especially to those who don’t think race is an issue, guess what? It’s an issue. This is a red flag, especially when half of the country will be an immigrant or children of immigrants by 2036, according to Statistics Canada. With tectonic demographic shifts already afoot, how can the Greens truly represent a changing Canada with personnel that mirrors the status quo?

A lesson for the boys in short pants: the war on data hurts us all in the end

In a few short months Canadians will head to the polls to elect our next government. But before they do, voters need to appreciate that their ballots will have lasting effects for years to come—well beyond a single government’s mandate, and in ways exceeding the imaginations of election platforms.

Following nearly 10 years of Conservative government, we are finally feeling the effects of the Harper government’s attack on evidence-based decision-making, which continues to notably hamstring our ability to combat the most dire policy issues of our time.

The most central of these issues is climate change: an increase in the frequency and severity of flooding, wildfires, and tornadoes are evidence of the volatile weather patterns as a consequence of our changing climate. The most important weapons we have in this battle are data and the scientific research it supports.

The collection and analysis of data is necessary for effective policy development and decision-making. Credible and reliable information in an increasingly anti-intellectual world not only serves up good policy, but access to complete data neutralizes the propensity to rely on ideology as the foundation of “research.” Currently, ideological bias against believing in the existence of climate change is preventing action to reverse its impending effects.

This anti-intellectual stance started with Budget 2011, where the Conservatives introduced what would come to be known as the Deficit Reduction Action Plan (with among the most awful sounding acronyms: DRAP). Among the casualties of these cost-cutting measures was the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, whose mandate was to research how government policies and business would contribute to sustainable development. Environment Canada also fell victim to the Conservatives’ ruthless strategy to reduce government.

From there, the war on data moved to Statistics Canada, whose long-form census was on the chopping block, replacing it with a voluntary alternative, thereby opting not to collect demographic data that would inform major policy decisions, but also missing a crucial time period when Canada’s demographics were changing. If you can’t count the brown people, they don’t exist and you can further marginalize them in the absence of policy. These cuts were so Draconian that the then-chief statistician and head of Statistics Canada, Dr. Munir Sheikh, resigned in protest.

This decade-long assault on Canada’s ability to collect important data and research related to climate change is being felt now. In the Ottawa-Gatineau area, we are under states of emergency as our cities experience the worst flooding in a generation, only after suffering from these same generational floods two years ago. Hundreds of people have registered as flood victims in order to receive support from the Red Cross and provincial governments. Their homes are destroyed, their lives in tatters, and their prospects for financial stability dimmed while various levels of government bean count over liabilities.

While data wouldn’t have prevented the floods from happening (because nature), greater data stores would have allowed policy-makers to develop better policy options to mitigate the impacts of this event and others like it. In missing a decade’s worth of information, we are left vulnerable to the effects of climate change and our understanding of how it impacts a swath of other federal policy areas, including defence, immigration, fisheries, agriculture, and Indigenous peoples.

Without data, we might as well close our eyes, cross our fingers and throw darts at the wall, hoping we hit the bullseye. When we can’t create effective policies, use predictive analytics to track the next environmental crisis or inform those who may be affected, we can’t act or plan to act.

The irony of it all? While cutting programs and services may make sense in the short term, those costs will come back to bite governments in the ass because when push comes to shove, it’s always more cost-effective to invest the money up front in the planning phase than it is to react to a given situation. The boys in short pants should know that.