You have to feel for Green Party of Canada Leader Annamie Paul. Last week’s English language federal leaders’ debate was her biggest and best opportunity to introduce herself to the millions of Canadians who didn’t know her yet, and she probably performed better in it than the other four participants.

But that performance was buried beneath the mountain of criticisms about the debate’s format and moderation, and only 14 per cent of Canadians actually stuck around to the end.

For Paul, this first impression may have also been her last chance to salvage her leadership of the Green Party. Her tenure has been marked by internal strife and conflict over everything from her choice to run in the riding of Toronto Centre in an October 2020 byelection (where she came in second) to her decision to stand behind an adviser who criticized her own MPs of discrimination and anti-Semitism earlier this year.

During a recent interview, Paul even says she considered resigning multiple times after Green MP Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals in June. “There had been times that I thought about stepping down,” she told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton.

Those internal disagreements that have defined her time as party leader have now broken out into the open during this election campaign, and it includes some of the national Green movement’s highest-profile supporters. Andrew Weaver, the former leader of the B.C. Green Party, came out earlier in the campaign with his enthusiastic support for the Liberal climate plan, snubbing the Greens. And in the riding of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, a group of high-profile environmentalists including David Suzuki formed a group called “Greens4Avi” in order to support NDP candidate Avi Lewis.

Paul probably didn’t help herself here with the decision to run for a third time in the riding of Toronto Centre, a longtime Liberal stronghold, rather than somewhere safer. And where the party once ran a full slate of candidates and planned to do so again in 2021, it fell short by nearly 100 — the lowest total it has fielded since 2000.

Now, as the Greens fight for their survival, some of the party’s candidates don’t even want their leader to visit their riding. It seems increasingly likely that their first elected MP, Elizabeth May, could also be the last federal Green MP standing — and that the three seats they won in 2019 could be the party’s electoral high-water mark.

But while the Greens are staring down a major setback in this election, the cause it was founded to serve back in 1983 could still emerge as the biggest winner of all. Depending on who you ask, climate change is either a defining issue or the defining issue in this election, and all three major parties have platforms that actually take it seriously. And while the Green Party has received some poor marks from economists and academics for its climate plan, the very fact that other parties are competing with and beating them in this space is a victory in itself.

So, too, is the fact that the Liberal Party of Canada seems most determined to win this competition. Borrowing ideas and policies from progressive parties is a key part of its brand, and a big reason for its continued electoral success, and the Liberals have done it on everything from health care in the 1960s to same-sex marriage in the 2000s. And while they can ask the federal NDP how it feels to get outflanked on an issue it spent years pushing, the reality is that environmentalism and climate change have moved from the fringes to centre stage in our politics.

Opinion: Annamie Paul will almost certainly go down to defeat on Sept. 20, and she will probably be joined by all but one of her party’s candidates. But in a way, #elxn44 will be the Green Party of Canada’s biggest victory yet, writes @maxfawcett.

Paul will almost certainly go down to defeat on Sept. 20, and she will probably be joined by all but one of her party’s candidates. But in a way, the 2021 election will be the Green Party of Canada’s biggest victory yet. As its members consider the prospect of yet another leadership race, they may want to ask themselves whether Canada still needs a Green Party. After all, in many important respects, the battle it was created to fight has already been won.

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What's missing from this analysis is that the Green Party tries to keep the other major parties honest when it comes to climate and environment issues. Just ask BC environmentalists. John Horgan's NDP government has been a huge disappointment with the continued construction of the Site C dam and the northern BC Coastal GasLink pipeline, the bad faith agreement with the Wet'suwet'en people, and now the Fairy Creek old growth clearcutting debacle with over 1000 people arrested! "The fight has already been won." You've got to be kidding!?! In the political world where economic interests always seem to trump environmental needs, it's barely begun.

really great points. We need people like Elizabeth and more like her to keep the fight going until we win the battle of putting climate change, peoples rights and the environment top priorities. This can be done with a vibrant economy based on new technologies. The fight goes on and we must keep electing more people like her.

I am generally an NDP supporter but I cannot disagree with these points about Horgan. His administration has frankly been pretty terrible on the environment and I have been very disappointed.

I've got to wonder if National Observer columnists read each other. In the same newsletter that brings me Max Fawcett's cheerful assessment of all three parties' climate plans, John Woodside informs us that "The independent Climate Action Tracker (CAT) has crunched the numbers on countries' updated 2030 Paris Agreement targets and found Canada’s 'highly insufficient,' pouring cold water on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign emphasis on expert endorsements."
“Highly insufficient,” by the way, means that as it stands, Canada is on track for 4 C warming.

Although Max has correctly followed the borrowing of Green policies by other parties, he is entirely wrong that the Greens have won the war in attacking climate change. In fact, when this election is over, no matter which of the other three main parties wins, they will only have won an almost meaningless skirmish, because of the completely inadequate policies of all other policies re controlling the climate change fight. In fact, as is pointedk, out their policies, at best, will allow this beautiful blue dot's average temperature to soar to an increase of 4*. We are just completing a year of horrific climate devastation at about 1* increase. What the heck will happen at 4*? It takes almost zero imagination to figure that out!
Nope, even if the Greens disappear we will have to reestablish policies of the Greens in order to continue this most important fight the human race has ever faced outside of a collision with some massive asteroid. It's not the party that is important, it's their policies. And clearly the only person who has manifested and fought hard for those policies in the past is Elizabeth May. Go figure.

That said, I'm not convinced that the Green party, if somehow elected, would actually do such an awesome job on the environment or climate change as one expects from the "Green" label. I mean, maybe if someone waved a magic wand and brought them instantly to power, although even then I think they'd generally be "Yes, Prime Minister"ed to death. But if they build gradually to gain power, by the time they got there they would, like European Green parties, have more or less sold out. I saw signs of the Greens taking baby steps towards selling out before they even got a seat, and there has always been a significant portion of the Greens that was about "Let's do environmental-seeming things without upsetting any applecarts, and let's not look too closely at whether that can actually work". Just imagine what they'd turn into if they got serious about fundraising and appeasing the media.

I think what really holds parties' feet to the fire is popular movements.

The IPCC special report of 2018 and the IPCC working group 1 report of 2021 both indicate that the minimum ambition required to address the climate crisis is a worldwide emissions reduction of 45 to 50% by 2030. And in signing the Paris agreement we agreed to the basic moral and practical reality that wealthy industrialised countries have to go further and faster than that global average. Anything less than about 60% is selling us all short - and a report commissioned by Climate Action Network finds a fair target to be 60% domestically PLUS targeted aid to countries in the global south amounting to another 80%.
So, with the Cons targeting 30%, the Libs 40 to 45%, and the NDP 50%, and apparently none of them talking in more than the most superficial terms about our international responsibilities, I find it difficult to see how "parties have platforms that actually take [the climate crisis] seriously".

That said, it genuinely is an advance that the NDP are prepared to run climate-serious candidates like Avi Lewis, Anjali Appadurai, Claire Card and Tria Donaldson, and that they have significantly increased their ambition. It is an advance that the Libs have moved beyond the Harper target and have something of a plan. And it is an advance that the Cons are prepared to put forward several pages of closely-typed greenwash. But there is a long way to go, and we're running out of time. We need the Green Party more than ever, and even more so we need a strong civil society climate justice movement.

The Liberals plan to fail on climate. Hard to take this greenwashing of Corporate Canada's agenda and non-stop Liberal cheerleading seriously.

Fawcett: "Depending on who you ask, climate change is either a defining issue or the defining issue in this election"

Fawcett provides no evidence to support this claim. It simply isn't true. For millions of ordinary Canadians, climate change is not top of mind — or anywhere near it.

Climate action is not a priority for corporate Canada either — especially the Big Banks, key investors in oil & gas. Our wealthy elites support the Liberals' oilsands and LNG expansion agenda, and subsidies to protect fossil fuel profits. The powers that be pay mere lip service to the science.
Hence, the two major parties refuse to commit to real action; roll out distant aspirational emission targets they have no hope or intention of meeting; and pour billions into fossil fuel subsidies.

Fawcett: "all three major parties have platforms that actually take it seriously"

Again, no evidence.
On Jun. 17, 2019, the Liberal Govt declared a climate emergency. On Jun. 18, 2019 — the next day — the same Liberal Govt re-approved the TMX pipeline expansion project.
That's taking our climate emergency seriously?
PM Trudeau (2016): "There is growth to be had in the oilsands. They will be developing more fossil fuels while there's a market for it, while we transition off fossil fuels."
Trudeau (2017): "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."
"Where They Stand: The Parties on Climate Change"
"In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. But between 2015 and 2019, subsidies increased by 40%, which is the second-worst progress in all the G20, according to a BloombergNEF report."
Ottawa announced a "minimum of almost $18 billion to the oil and gas sector in 2020. In contrast, the Government’s new climate plan commits $15 billion to climate initiatives – spread over ten years."
"Paying Polluters: How much Canada gave in federal financial support for oil and gas in 2020" (Environmental Defence, April 15, 2021)
Climate Action Tracker's 2021 report rates Canada's efforts overall as "highly insufficient". Same rating since 2011 -- in every year but one in the last decade.

Fawcett: "And while the Green Party has received some poor marks from economists and academics for its climate plan, the very fact that other parties are competing with and beating them in this space is a victory in itself."

Ratings that rank Liberal and Conservative climate campaign policy above the Greens' are highly suspect. Endorsements of the Liberals' plan to fail are irresponsible.
Only three years ago, SFU's Mark Jaccard called Trudeau's climate response Orwellian. Now the Liberals top his list for "climate sincerity". TMX and oilsands expansion no longer figure in his analysis. Who twisted his arm?
Fawcett: "After all, in many important respects, the battle it was created to fight has already been won."
Yes, Canadians can all go back to sleep now.

Why does Canada need a Green Party? Can individuals not work with existing parties that can get members elected [Rather than in opposition]? Would not infiltration be a better strategy than confrontation?
Is there not enough work to be done at the grass roots without wasting efforts on doctrinaire politics?
Take Burnaby for example, where the NDP MP crossed the injunction line to protest against TMX - why run against him? Or take municipal politics in Burnaby, where the mayor is rabidly anti-TMX, but where it is the hardest [in the LM] to get planning permission to instal solar panels - could Green members pressure him on solar panels maybe?
And so on.

Because the other parties whip their votes and,in the end, will vote the way their party tells them. This has been quite clear with the BC Provincial parties.....and with the broken Trudeau promises of the last two elections. "campaign left; govern right".

Rather than giving Annamie Paul or the Green Party credit for having driven climate change well up the agenda in the 2021 federal election, it is far more likely it was the extreme weather event and its effects in western Canada this summer that woke up Canadians: the unprecedented and enduring heat wave, and the resulting wildfires that saw the destruction of forests and the entire community of Lytton, and left many of us with an apocalyptic sort of summer of smoke-choked skies. It had the up-close and personal impact that all the increasingly ominous extreme temperatures, floods, hurricanes and wildfires around the world have, but which were still not in our backyard. Suddenly, Canadians were feeling the pain. Which is much different than the tempest in a teapot that Annamie Paul has been preoccupied with for the last six months.