The gong-show has begun

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Dispatches from the 18 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 18 by Fred Ryan

One of August’s biggest eye-rolling events was Maxim Bernier’s departure from the Conservative Party and his announcement of plans to build a new party to the right of the Conservatives. While this might not impact voter intentions much in the Pontiac, given our shortage of far-right partisans, it will have some effect. We do have people scanning the internet for immigration extremes and folks who fear the
consequences of even moderate reform. But are there enough to affect our 2019 election results? 
More interesting are other effects of Bernier’s plan. A quick national poll done after his announcement suggested that Bernier’s party could garner 13% of the popular vote. This is double what the Green Party is projected to take (today). Bernier’s announcement poses this question: why haven’t the Greens gotten off the launch pad after so many years?
One would think the Green message would be popular – a cleaner environment, fewer tax-paid subsidies to foreign owned petrol corporations, genuine action on climate change, less pollution, cleaner food, more efficient autos, more support for solar and wind energy industries, even a carbon-trading system. These all seem near-motherhood issues (except to fringe partisans). Bernier himself will likely have little effect on the Green’s fortunes, but he is showing that a relatively odd-ball politician can upstage them with no platform, despite the Green’s history and years of work crafting a platform and a message to the voters. 
Why have the Greens been so smashingly unsuccessful? Must we wait for a huge environmental disaster (e.g., Chalk River’s radioactive dump wash-out, or an ice-free Arctic sea)? Or do they need more intelligent and charismatic leaders, like their one success-story, Elizabeth May? Certainly they need better-known candidates – but that lack didn’t stop the NDP in its Jack Layton sweep. The BC Greens overcame this problem last year … but that’s it.
The Greens have been able to own very few high-profile positions (which is the name of our electoral game); while other parties load up the newspaper ads and billboards with promise after promise, most of which seems purely cynical to the voters, the Greens have identified clear and attractive policies. But what we
voters remember are vague proposals, “concerns”. 
The Greens have an electoral history of being the spoiler party – taking votes away from progressive candidates, largely, and that’s not a voter-mobilizing image.
The Greens are also seen as almost a single-issue party, like Christian Heritage or the (former) Marijuana Party. That’s not an advantage.
Specific Green platforms
of the past have mixed environmental, progressive, and pro-business policies together. What does this mix stand for? In Mexico, the Green Party there is considered a pro-business Trojan Horse because of this melange. It makes the Greens into a UFO party – unidentifiable. Add to that an association with protestors and “anti” campaigns. The electorate, were told, is strikingly simplistic – and cautious.
I suppose, too, the Greens lack the big corporate backers who fund the big parties. And, major point, Greens lack backers within the corporate media. From TV debates to simple daily coverage, the Greens have to expend energy and money just to get to the table with the big guys who are already wall-to-wall.
Not getting the message out simply, clearly, and convincingly is deadly; this, combined with uneven candidate quality, makes it a target for all the other parties. This probably explains why such a light-weight, Mr Bernier, can upstage their efforts and results.
I know voters who have voted Green, and they come from all of the big parties. So the party does have an ability to draw support from all parties (Bernier seems to draw support only from his old party). Most of the sexiest political issues on today’s agenda, around the world, are Green issues, and, as climate change becomes more and more obviously our big challenge, it’s difficult to see why the Greens will stay stalled. You decide.
Maybe their time is coming, and, besides offering solutions to so many
problems, all it will take is the emergence of a Bernier gong-show to suddenly make the Green message clear to all. Maybe it’s the Greens who need Bernier most of all.