This opinion piece is part of a broader week-long MJPS Online series on voting intentions. Check here for other components of the series. The views expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the position of the editor, the McGill Journal of Political Studies, or the Political Science Students’ Association.
I was just old enough to vote in 2015. Having started my political science degree, I knew an informed choice was important. When the day came, I voted for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. They had impressed me. The Liberals owned their plans to run in the red and made compelling arguments for why investing in the future was necessary. Rather than running candidates toeing a top-down party line, they had a strong suit of qualified candidates from outside of politics, many of them women.
Four years and a degree later, aggressive populism has risen due to a feeling that conventional politics have failed. Meanwhile, the climate crisis has increased in urgency: heat records have been shattered, our cities have flooded, and entire nations – especially those that contribute the least to the problem – debate their future.
Rather than take serious action on our future, the current government has waffled, at a massive price tag, on how to advance. Meanwhile, some of the very candidates who attracted me to the Liberals have been unceremoniously booted for disagreeing on matters of conscience with the prime minister and his staff.
Blaming indecision and intolerance on one party is a mistake. Our entire culture is complacent, more concerned with horse races and choosing the “least bad option” than the serious stakes of our future.
Representative democracy needs to be about bringing different perspectives forward and harnessing collective knowledge and concerns rather than sniping at those also interested in the common good.
Treating elections as a game where you yell at others and protect your turf leaves the majority who are concerned and living the often-complicated consequences of issues dejected from the system rather than contributing to better solutions.
Where does the Green Party fit into this? Well, it’s hard not to approve of a party whose core issue is preserving and bettering the world around us. Having a leader willing to put herself personally on the line for her principles is endearing. Although candidates of all parties have been dismissed amid controversies, I respect the Greens’ willingness to own their mistakes, cooperate across party lines, and their belief that once candidates are approved, parties should be internally democratic rather than dictatorial.
In a first-past-the-post system, voting Green has always felt like a wasted vote, regardless of the fact that I have respected their ethics and desire to listen to others.
However, as I watched the climate crisis worsen and no concrete action occur, I realized the buck has to stop. In a context where a decade is all that remains until the point of no return, and even less remains to take the steps necessary, kicking the ball down the line on serious issues and giving a pass on ingrained bad behaviour is not good enough. In times of crisis, what was once solidly adequate becomes a risk to the future.
To keep warming below the target set by the Paris Climate Accords, our emissions have to be cut by 45% in 2030 and down to net zero in 2050. The Green’s plan is the only one that ambitiously devotes itself to meeting those targets. I personally find it to be concrete and comprehensive. I appreciate that it was not announced by tweet after large scale public protests and that it directs money right to the issues. I also respect that it acknowledges the roles of other parties and layers of government.
The fact is, unlike Americans, we live in what is technically a multi-party democracy. As a result, there are multiple options, and amazing things have been achieved under minority governments. Considering the climate crisis is not one that we can snap our fingers and fix, negotiation and strong voices gain crucial importance.
Piecemeal policy platforms don’t address complex interrelated issues. My degree enhanced my belief that we must have the ambition to look past four years, acknowledge that the issues are broad and intersect, and lay a vision for the next thirty years. The election is only the first step in democracy; the real negotiated action happens after we send strong, representative, and diverse voices to Ottawa on our behalf.
We have more power over our world’s future today than any generation prior. This election, arguably the most important to date, needs to ensure Ottawa has the full weight of collective decision making.
Conventional political attitudes are not working. If they were, we would have acted long ago. Elections shouldn’t be about voting for the “winning” team; they should be about using one’s vote to win a better future for all of us. If now isn’t the right time to vote for strong voices with vision befitting the scale of the challenges, when will it be?
By voting Green in 2019, I’ll know I’m voting for a voice of conscience and demanding serious action, ethical behaviour, and working alongside others to rework our world beyond just a four-year timeframe. In demanding accountability, vision, and cooperation, I can hopefully do my part among many to support the solutions required by equity and science.
Edited by Evelyne Goulet.
This opinion piece is part of a broader week-long MJPS Online series on voting intentions. Check here for other components of the series. For general information on how to vote in this month’s federal election, see this resource from Elections Canada. If you’re a university student, you can vote on campus. Find out how here.
The views expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the position of the editor, the McGill Journal of Political Studies, or the Political Science Students’ Association. Questions regarding this series can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo of Green Party poster by John Weston