April 29, 2011

Why I’m Voting for the Green Party of Canada. ~ Linda Lewis

Photo: Shaun Merritt

Throughout much of my life, both in the States and Canada, I have voted “strategically.”

Rather than voting for the candidate I thought would be best, I opted for he or she who stood a chance of defeating the one I considered worse. So many of my friends and colleagues have done the same. Our usual “choices” have thus been only slightly better than that of Tweedle Dee versus Tweedle Dum. In the U.S., this has translated into decades of voting for the Democratic candidate over the Republican one. In Canada, it has meant choosing the Liberal over the Conservative.

All that changed a few years ago, however, when I started voting for the New Democratic Party (NDP)—the party responsible for providing free medical care to all Canadians.

This year, however, I was so outraged by the “old boys’ club” for their refusal to allow Elizabeth May of the Green Party to debate with them that I am voting Green!

May’s exclusion was driven by the claim that her party’s lack of a seat in Parliament indicates her inability to represent Canada. Bah hum bug! Why, then, during the previous election, was she allowed to debate? Not only that, she shined as the candidate who was most informed with facts and figures, sustainable policies and the budget to implement those policies. Furthermore, Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois, who represents Quebec only (clearly not all of Canada), is always allowed to debate!

Their logic is not defensible and the precedent that was set by May’s previous inclusion in the debate should have been continued.

During the previous election when Elizabeth May was allowed to debate, she was the most factual and persuasive of the five debaters. Unlike her rivals, she did not gloss over the issues. In regard to immigration, for example, while the Liberals said vaguely that Canada “must do a better job,” Elizabeth May clearly stated (and continues to clearly state) that Canada should “establish realistic criteria for immigrants based on existing job opportunities.”

Photo: Aunt Owwee

On the present issue of a national transit strategy, Gilles Duceppe is “in favor of discussion.” And how much time and money will go into that? While both Jack Layton of the NDP and Elizabeth May of the Green Party say “Yes,” May goes a step further. She says we must strengthen our rail network and public transit systems and be “committed to providing cities with the resources to create public transit systems that reduce congestions.” Plus, she is all for high-speed, low carbon emitting long-distance travel.

On the issue of crime, our present Conservative PM, Stephen Harper, thinks bigger prisons and longer sentences are the answer. He is basically afflicted with Bush’s mentality on all issues. His government has spent $9 billion on new prisons!

Elizabeth May’s response is more comprehensive:

“We are committed to further reducing crime through better programs in youth activity and early childhood education. We are committed to addressing underlying causes of crime such as poverty, racism and inequality.”

In regard to cities that struggle with infrastructure, policing, housing and governmental services, the Harper government did nothing to expand those services, and even allowed the housing programs to expire!

Photo: TVA Web Team

Both the NDP and the Green Party pledge to invest in new affordable housing and community-controlled renewable energy development. Elizabeth May and the Greens, however, are more specific in that they want a national solar roof program and energy retrofits for municipal buildings, schools, universities and hospitals.

Even though 80% of Canadians (more than 25 million) currently live in urban areas, the Conservatives and Liberals only offer platitudes of, “Cities are vitally important to Canada’s economic success,” (Duh!) and, “We view the cities as equal partners.” (Huh?)

May’s Green Party says:

“We believe that cities form a pillar of the green economy. When municipalities set out to build and repair infrastructure, retrofit and rebuild affordable housing, and modernize our aging public transit over decades, it’s a decades-long commitment… We hope to work with our cities to lead Canada to a sustainable future.”

She goes on to say that by traveling within the cities by transit, bike and foot we reduce our dependency on fuel and cars.  Heating homes with solar panels and urban farming in home gardens with drip irrigation systems will work anywhere in Canada that has at least four hours of sunlight a day.

Photo: Loren Javier

Forty years after the first Earth Day, it is certainly time to implement such sustainable measures.

Our present consumption of resources is not sustainable. National Geographic’s annual Greendex survey ranks Canadian citizens among the only people in the world who consider the environment a higher priority than the economy, yet Canada ranks second-to-last among Greendex nations in the sustainability of its housing, transportation and food consumption.

Why elect candidates who do not represent the things we care about?

We need to do more than just plant a few trees and pick up some plastic garbage on Earth Day. Canadians need to vote Green so the environment and sustainable policy become legislative priorities. Even getting one candidate elected to Parliament would give voice to the animals and habitats at risk.

At that point, even if we fail, we can continue to vote with our purchasing power.

This includes reducing the amount of things we buy, consuming local foods from low-impact farmers and choosing fair trade products to reduce exploitation and help support sane local economies.

Right now, amazingly, the NDP is second only to the Conservative Party, which is still in the lead. The Liberals have fallen to third place. This is a huge shift. The Greens have risen from negligible to almost 5%.

Regardless of political affiliation, the main point is that Canadians get out and vote on May 2…and that they vote from the heart.


Linda Lewis met the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1972 and, following Rinpoche’s invitation, immediately moved to Boulder, Colorado to be a part of his young and vital sangha.

The predominant themes in her life have been teaching in contemplative schools–Vidya, Naropa, and the Shambhala School in Halifax, Nova Scotia–and studying, practicing, or teaching his Shambhala Buddhadharma wherever she finds herself.

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