Until recently, it was difficult to take the Green Party or Elizabeth May seriously. Only Mrs May was elected to parliament as a green, and the party's share of the popular vote dropped to a creepy 3 percent in 2015 from a high 7 percent in the 2008 election.
But things are changing. The Greens are a provincial force in British Columbia and Prince Edward Island. Nanos Research, which publishes polls for The Globe and Mail, currently holds 8 percent. The NDP under Jagmeet Singh fought to find candidates or raise money. With tied liberals and conservatives, even a small squeeze of green seats could have a huge impact in the next parliament.
So what do the Greens stand for? What would you expect from the ruling party in exchange for their support? We found out the answer on Monday, with the publication of the party's election manifesto.
The platform is breathtaking in its ambition. To respond to what many consider the climate warming hit of global warming, Canada, led by the Greens, would shut down oil in the sand of Alberta in the next 10 to 15 years. All fracking would stop. "By 2030, 100 percent of Canada's electricity is from renewable sources."
Natural Resources Canada estimates that the energy sector directly employs 270,000 people, accounting for 11 percent of Canada's GDP, and that carbon sources account for about 60 percent of primary energy production. Even if some workers move into the renewable energy sector, we are talking about huge job losses.
Under the Green Plan, the federal government would put some of these people to work on remodeling buildings to be more energy efficient or in other jobs; some would receive increased pensions, allowing them to retire. In terms of impact on GDP, the Greens would replace that metric with budgets that focus on "well-being."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister May would implement a national pharmaceutical program, dental care for low-income people and a guaranteed income. Also, high-speed rail and free schooling. There is more on the 82-page platform, but those priorities would keep any government occupied over a four-year term.
The Greens are unveiling the platform as liberals target families with a proposal for childcare
The Green Platform proposes to help energy workers displaced under an aggressive climate plan
Ms May said the green government would also balance the budget within five years. The obvious question is: How would the government implement the most radical social and environmental program in the history of this country without running a deficit?
Greens answer: Close loopholes in taxes; eliminate subsidies on fossil fuels; increase the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 15 percent; tax financial transactions, along with revenues parked at sea, profits from banks and foreign e-commerce companies, such as Google and Netflix; introduce existing support programs into the guaranteed basic income.
The Parliamentary Budget Office will release its analysis of the platform soon, Greens say. But with these weary eyes, the proposed tax measures would not provide the revenue needed to implement the Green Program, while maintaining balanced budgets.
But as Ms May acknowledged on Monday at a news conference, she will not be prime minister after the next election. Thus, this manifesto should be viewed as a priority list of a possible liberal or conservative minority government seeking green support.
None of those priorities would be acceptable to conservatives. So, does this mean that liberals can count on the Greens? Not really. Another green priority is electoral reform, which means moving away from the first term and towards some form of proportional representation. Justin Trudeau promised electoral reform, and then he broke that promise. Would Andrew Scheer agree to PR for the Greens to support his throne speech?
The political coalitions that dominated the 20th century are threatening in the 21st century. In the United States, the Republican Party was captured by a narcissistic populist. Anti-immigration parties are on the rise in Europe. Opposing them, the Green and Movement parties are launching established left-wing parties for progressive voting.
Things come late to our quiet dominance. But there is excitement in this country. Maxime Bernier, leader of the right-wing populist People's Party, has been allowed to engage in official debates against leaders, despite his hateful tweets against environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Neither the Liberals, nor the Conservatives, nor the NDP seem like exciting voters.
If the radical right comes to Canada, then a powerful Green Party can be created to oppose it. Maybe not in this election, with this leader or with this platform, but one day, somehow, and soon.