The Green Party of Canada has long benefited from a giddy media bias keeping it far more front-of-mind than its meager electoral success justifies. Journalists largely analyze the party on its own terms — the peppy upstarts of Canadian politics led by a wise and principled leader! — and downplay what it is in practice: a coalition of cranks, radicals and more than a few virulent anti-Semites.
Small wonder then that scant pushback has greeted the party’s breathtakingly dishonest slogan for October’s general election: “Not Left. Not Right. Forward Together.”
“Our round peg does not fit well in the old 19th Century square hole of ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing,’” explained Green leader Elizabeth May. “The real divide of the 21st Century is not left versus right, but insiders (the one percent) versus the rest of us.”
This is an old chestnut the Greens have been rolling out since their reemergence in the early 2000s: They are a new kind of party that transcends all ideological classification, motivated only by earnestness to do good.
The press enjoys this narrative because it can be used to rationalize giving May fawning coverage without feeling compromised — no one can accuse you of being partisan when you’re boosting the party that supersedes partisanship. Progressive backers of the Liberal and New Democratic parties like it too: If the Greens overtly reject the “left” label, it’s that much easier to persuade leftists not to vote for them.
And yet by any objective standard, the Greens are not only a leftist party, but the party most comfortable with left-wing extremism in people, policy and rhetoric. Pick any issue where left and right have a known cleavage, and May’s views will reliably embody the most predictable left-wing stereotype.
Take the environment, an issue that May’s party, by definition, elevates above all others. Canadian progressives are broadly antagonistic to the country’s oil industry for climate reasons, but leaders like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will still allow a pipeline here or there in the name of striking a balance with economic development.
May, however, sees no need for balance. As the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid put it, May’s platform — which is explicitly inspired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)’s Green New Deal — “rejects any new pipeline, all fracking, a single additional oil well or increase in heavy oil production,” as part of an impossible plan to end all carbon emissions in just 30 years.
If May believes it is possible to go too left on this front, she’s never given any indication. She’s never seen an environmental activist she wasn’t prepared to endorse and excuse — as when she mused that weapons found on radical anti-fracking protesters in New Brunswick were possibly planted. May herself would be arrested and fined $1,500 after joining a far-left anti-pipeline protest in British Columbia and deliberately crossing into a legally protected construction zone. At a time when Canada’s right is almost exclusively defined by a zeal for oil, the idea that May’s antics are somehow ideologically unaligned insults anyone with eyes.
Admittedly, May’s standard for being “not left” has never shown much interest in the Conservative Party’s definition. Her first term in Parliament, under the final term of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was consumed by a fanatic, and often viciously personal, loathing of the man. She referred to his election as the sort of thing that would make a person want to “spend all of your time tearing your hair out and wanting to slit your wrists” due to his “right-wing agenda” and once wrote a column headlined “10 Reasons Why Harper Isn’t Really Canadian.” May’s leading theory centered around a bizarre allegation that Harper had been brainwashed to hate his own country at a “Young Republican summer camp south of the border” while in college. This is “not left,” for those keeping track.
May is herself an emigre from “south of the border” and routinely displays the anti-Americanism common to American expats, positing the United States as the world’s imperialist aggressor. She claimed the United States directly recruited Osama bin Laden to “create al Qaeda,” a popular belief among undergrads but hardly taken seriously by actual experts. She accused the United States of supporting the Islamic State — “We saw U.S. Republicans posing with ISIS fighters” — and was forced to apologize to Parliament. In 2014, she read a 9/11 truther petition to the House of Commons, supposedly due to misunderstanding her obligations as a parliamentarian, but perfectly consistent with her party’s pattern of coziness with the truther community.
Even on bland economic issues she’s displayed little nuance. May voted against every budget of the Harper years (“none of them were good”), often filibustering and grandstanding to prevent their passage. In 2015, she wrote an editorial for the Globe and Mail decrying Harper’s “superficial fixation on the deficit,” and calling for massive spending hikes to spur green energy initiatives and other centrally planned initiatives more to her ideological tastes. When the federal government proposed building a monument to victims of communism, May snarked that what was really needed was a memorial to “victims of capitalism.”
Though her PR machine pitches her as Ottawa’s sensible sage, in real life May is everything about the fringe left moderate voters hate and fear — dogmatic, conspiratorial and gratingly self-righteous.
May’s slogan promises an end to ideological politics. Her 13-year political career should instruct anyone seeking that to keep looking.