It’s getting hard to tell who’s a New Democrat and who’s a Green in Canada these days. There has been so much fraternization and so much defection across the lines between the two parties that the leaders may be unable to keep the two movements distinct.
The fluidity was most evident this week in the Montreal-area district of Longueuil-St-Hubert, where Pierre Nantel, twice elected to Parliament with the NDP, decided to run for the Green party in this year’s election. Mr. Nantel had noticed the precipitous decline in public support for the NDP in Quebec this year and thought he might stand a better chance under the Green banner.
The NDP responded by appointing Eric Ferland as their candidate. He was leader of the Quebec Green party from 1994-96. So as things stood this week, the Greens were running a New Democrat and the New Democrats were running a Green.
To confuse things even further in Longueuil-St-Hubert, the Liberals are running Réjean Hébert, who was health minister in Pauline Marois’s Parti Québécois government. It’s not the first time a separatist decided to be a federalist, but it keeps the electors on their toes figuring out who’s on which side.
The fluidity between the Greens and the NDP was evident earlier in New Brunswick when Jonathan Richardson, a member of the federal NDP executive, announced that he and 14 other New Democrats were switching to the Greens. This came as a surprise to a few of the 14, but others were clearly dissatisfied with Jagmeet Singh’s failure to visit the province since becoming NDP leader. And apparently, some didn’t much like the look of his turban.
Recent countrywide polling has found around 10 per cent support for the Greens and 14 per cent for the NDP, with the Greens on the upswing and the NDP in decline. The recent defections in Quebec and New Brunswick show that some of the people involved see little to choose between the two parties.
Both Mr. Singh and Green party Leader Elizabeth May were caught off-guard by these events and took several days to figure out what, if anything, had happened. But it was clear some NDP activists thought they could slide easily from one party into the other.
In British Columbia, Canada’s Green-est province and the only one governed by an NDP premier, the two parties have for a couple of years been clinging to each other in a governing coalition. The 2017 election produced a legislature with 43 Liberals, 41 New Democrats and three Greens.
As long as Premier John Horgan’s NDP and Andrew Weaver’s Greens stick together, they hold power. The moment they quarrel with each other, they are out of power. As a result, they speak with one voice and are gradually becoming indistinguishable from each other.
Recent countrywide polling has found around 10 per cent support for the Greens and 14 per cent for the NDP, with the Greens on the upswing and the NDP in decline. The recent defections in Quebec and New Brunswick show that some of the people involved see little to choose between the two parties. The coalition experience in B.C. shows the two parties can agree on a single policy when the prospect of holding power beckons.
The leaders of the two parties have powerful and important reasons for resisting a merger. The NDP is mainly about class struggle, while the Greens are mainly about saving the planet. The differences, however, are not so evident to the foot soldiers in the ranks. If the generals are not careful, they may find the two armies have merged without waiting for orders from on high.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.