Canadian newspapers over the past 15 years have been replete with endless giddy predictions that the Greens may soon, in the words of the National Post, “really, finally, truly” enter the political mainstream. Though Canada possesses more than a dozen minor parties desperate for attention, at some point the Canadian media seems to have arbitrarily decided it’s the plucky Greens the nation must collectively back, cheering their every toddle with the excitement of an anxious stage parent.
The oblivious naivete powering this phenomenon is clear enough: a mix of writerly class conventional wisdom that “the environment” deserves a more prominent place in national politics, coupled with deference at the exceptional self-promotional skills of the Greens’ leader-for-life Elizabeth May. In her 13 years as party boss, May has put tremendous effort into building a personal brand as Canada’s kindest, noblest, wisest, most ethical and hardest-working politician — a mythology of cartoonish vanity Canadian journalists nevertheless obediently regurgitate.
Virtually all reporting on the Greens in the May era has consisted of repeating the same credulous cliches in slightly different order. Every federal election (and even most by-elections) earns stories saying things like May’s party is eyeing a breakthrough and “could make history.” Voters are said to be giving the Greens a serious second look this time, and the other parties are instructed to worry. Some hallucinate scenarios in which May winds up “kingmaker” of the next parliament. Everyone agrees she must be included in the prime ministerial debates. Such coverage is supplemented with soft-focus profiles of some aspect of May’s apparently fascinating personal life — her divorce, her daughter, her faith, her engagement, her “low carbon” second wedding, and so on.
In return for this unceasing torrent of propaganda, May has delivered little. In her first decade as party boss, she presided over the election of precisely one member of parliament (herself) and saw the Greens’ share of the national popular vote dwindle to 3.5 percent — an even lower figure than was achieved by her forgotten predecessor in 2004.
That May and her party have remained so stubbornly unpersuasive to voters despite a tremendous media slant in her favor says something about just how repulsive she has made Canada’s Greens. Far from broadening her fringe party’s appeal, her leadership has simply made it a more efficient alliance of conspiracy theorists, faith healers and obsessive anti-Israel cranks — with the latter constantly on the brink of an outright takeover.
Much effort has been exerted lately to link Canada’s Conservatives and upstart People’s Party to the white nationalist fringe. Yet the only party that has truly struggled with clear and overt anti-Semitism within its ranks are May’s Greens.
In 2016, the Green Party’s national conference tried to make it party policy to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund. May intervened to prevent that, but the party did successfully pass a resolution endorsing the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which many Jews consider anti-Semitic. The motion was sponsored by Green Party Justice Critic (and 2015 candidate) Dimitri Lascaris, whom Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accused of spreading “vile anti-Semitic smears” against Liberal politicians. The ensuing backlash saw the policy amended into a softer anti-Israel position that B’nai Brith Canada still called “loaded with factual inaccuracies.” In 2014, the Jewish president of the Greens quit over what he called his party’s constant “abuse and unbalance” toward the Jewish state.
In this context, it’s worth noting that May’s new seatmate in parliament, Manly, is a former member of the New Democratic Party who was booted from that party in 2014 for reasons he himself believed had to do with the ferocity of his views on Israel.
This sort of thing is not all that’s wrong with the Greens, but it is a valuable case study in how it has become an enthusiastic receptacle for Canada’s political runoff. The Greens may continue to profess environmentalism as their core creed, but no serious Canadian turns to the party for policy wisdom on climate change. It merely fear-mongers about the environment in the same way it fear-mongers about WiFi, genetically engineered products, carcinogens, Fukushima radiation, “chronic Lyme disease,” Zionists, etc.
It’s a party of ignorant and sinister populism of the sort the Western world is supposed to be exercising vigilance against. It is a grotesque faction of Canadian politics that deserves honest exposure, not cheerleading.