A true Green shift? What surging Green Party popularity across Canada could mean for the Saskatchewan NDP
Recent election results across Canada confirm something that’s been bubbling beneath the surface: the Green Party is definitely relevant.
With the Nanaimo federal by-election going Green in early May, and the Green Party of PEI nearly pulling off a victory and obtaining opposition party status in late-May, there is no question that the Greens are becoming more popular in Canada by the day.
Federally, the Greens are picking up steam. Their leader, Elizabeth May, is generally well-liked (even by her political opponents) and has been committed to the Green Party and its causes for ages now. Anecdotal and electoral improvements in support have also been confirmed by impressive fundraising in 2018, where the Greens raised $3.1 million for the year, not far behind the NDP’s abysmal $5 million — a devastating amount for the NDP compared to the Conservative and Liberal totals and for a party that only four years ago was thought to be a government-in-waiting.
On the provincial side in British Columbia — admittedly an especially friendly place for their kind of politics — the Greens have wielded tremendous influence after winning three seats in the 2017 BC election and helped the NDP form a coalition government. On several policy issues the Greens have held what amounts to a veto, and the future of the BC government continues to lie in the hands of the Green Party leader Andrew Weaver.
So, what could all this Green success mean for a party like the Saskatchewan NDP?
To start, there’s no question that the NDP in Saskatchewan are fragmented. The party’s old power base of blue-collar union, fiscally-responsible supporters now seems to be grappling with (or even overtaken by) an insurgent young, free-spending, social justice warrior (SJW) crowd who are, to quote Tracey Ulman, so woke they can’t have any fun at all.
Frustrated by the old way of doing things and seeing little to no movement on what they call real progress, young people appear to be leaving the Saskatchewan NDP and turning to the Greens. This could be due in large part to the fact that the Saskatchewan NDP have pledged near ambivalence (read: silence) on policy issues most important to these young voters: uncertainty on pipeline development, the federal carbon tax, and are struggling to handle issues like #MeToo — issues that should be the bread and butter for that party (read more about that here.).
To put it another way, it’s not surprising at all to learn that the Saskatchewan NDP is divided when the environmentally-focused, young activist crowd clashes with the union workers who are employed in the very sectors that the young activists oppose, like jobs at Regina’s Evraz steel plant and the Co-op Refinery, and most other carbon-intensive, unionized jobs across Saskatchewan.
These young folks want the Saskatchewan NDP to be against pipelines, to support a carbon tax, make a lot of stuff free that isn’t already (post-secondary education seems to be the big one), and force the most wealthy in Saskatchewan to pay for it all.
In Saskatchewan, however, where 90% of residents don’t like the carbon tax, support for pipelines is substantial, and want LOWER taxes, taking these policies stances would mean the NDP hanging out in the political wilderness for years to come.
Because the Saskatchewan NDP doesn’t even know where they stand on many of these issues themselves, or refuse to support those issues because it will be damaging electorally, it should be no shock that young supporters are looking elsewhere (i.e. the Greens).
Combine all of this with the fact that Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili has struggled since he was elected to gain footing on any issues and isn’t exactly the most electric or charismatic leader that party — or any other party in Saskatchewan — has ever seen (Saskatchewan media commentators have pointed this out), it could mean the NDP are in an especially precarious situation here in the birthplace of Tommy Douglas.
It’s very possible the Saskatchewan NDP are looking over their shoulder at the Green Party and will be fighting them for official opposition status in the 2020 provincial election.