According to the world’s best scientists, we have less than a decade to tackle the climate emergency. Yet, despite lofty promises from Justin Trudeau, Canada’s emissions continue to rise. So, why is the Green Party — our supposed “party of climate action”— building its election strategy around “stealing votes that went to Jagmeet Singh’s New Democratic Party in the 2019 general election”?
By pinning its electoral hopes and dreams on flipping orange ridings, the Green Party all but guarantees Canada will fail to address the climate emergency. But if the NDP and Greens were to work together, putting the bold climate ambition that Canadians want — and the world needs — above partisanship, we could meet this crisis at the speed and scale required.
The two parties don’t agree on everything, but when we’re facing an existential threat like climate change, partisan divides must be overcome in service of preserving a livable planet.
Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have a credible plan to address climate change. Trudeau talks a big game but, time and again, fails to deliver at the scale we need. His recently announced climate plan replaces Stephen Harper’s 30 per cent by 2030 target with a plan to reduce emissions 32 per cent by 2030.
We can’t afford four more years of delay or denial. That’s why the NDP and Greens have a moral and strategic imperative to work together in the next election.
The NDP and Greens agree on far more than they disagree. Both parties oppose some of the biggest new fossil fuel projects. They both think we need stronger climate targets, and that we’re behind on creating green jobs. Their combined platforms from 2019 provide a compelling plan to reduce inequality while tackling the climate emergency.
But it’s not just that they can find common ground on policy. If they work together, they could win more seats and shift the balance of power in Parliament.
Doing the math on Elections Canada’s 2019 results, Liberals won by less than the combined NDP and Green vote share in six ridings — Burnaby North-Seymour, Halifax, Kitchener Centre, Kenora, Windsor-Tecumseh and Toronto’s Davenport. In another 14 ridings, the NDP and Green vote share came close to the Liberal vote. The numbers were similar in 2015. And that doesn’t account for the way strategic voting to stop Conservatives hurts both parties. In 2019, 45 per cent of Liberal voters considered voting NDP and 29 per cent considered voting Green. Most Canadians don’t identify strongly with any party, and climate voters would be better able to vote their conscience if presented with a plan to win.
Take Burnaby North-Seymour, where the Trans Mountain pipeline ends. In 2019, incumbent Liberal MP Terry Beech beat the NDP candidate by 1,585 votes. The Green candidate won 4,801 votes. Even assuming that some Green voters wouldn’t switch their vote to the NDP, a margin of this size in a riding where the pipeline and climate action were key issues would have likely meant that enough Green votes could have gone to the NDP to swing the riding. Even more so if that was based on a clear NDP-Green alliance to tackle those issues.
Green Leader Annamie Paul has announced she plans to run in Toronto Centre, a Liberal stronghold where her best chance would be the NDP standing down. When Paul ran in a 2020 byelection, she lost the race by 2,331 votes. The NDP candidate won 4,280 votes. The NDP could offer to stand down in Toronto Centre in exchange for the Greens standing down in Burnaby North-Seymour.
And that’s just one pair of ridings. If the NDP and Greens worked together under a climate emergency accord, they could both increase their seat counts. Combined with the Bloc Québécois — which remains strong in Quebec and has a stronger position on climate than the Liberals — they could swing the balance of power in Parliament in favour of a more ambitious climate agenda.
This has worked before. In 2019, Michael Kalmanovitch, the Green Party candidate in Edmonton Strathcona, realized he couldn’t win and that his votes might be the difference between an NDP and a Conservative victory. He dropped out of the race and threw his support behind Heather McPherson, who won the seat.
Why is the Green Party — our supposed “party of climate action”— building its election strategy around "stealing votes" that went to the NDP in the 2019 general election? asks @amarapossian #climatechange #cdnpoli
The simple truth is we have a very short window to tackle the climate emergency. We need political leadership, and the Liberals and Conservatives have proven they aren’t up for the job. Our best chance to preserve a livable planet is for the NDP and Greens to do something unthinkable: Put the common good ahead of their partisan ambitions.
Editor's note: In identifying the author, we should have made it clear that Amara Possian also ran as an Ontario NDP candidate in the 2018 Provincial Election.