Staking the moral high ground – why the Green Party exists

What follows is my original piece rebutting the National Post editorial. The NP editors requested cuts and changes which I accepted. Still, on reflection, the edits lost much content, particularly in explaining my vote against bombing Libya. I offer it here, unedited, for a fuller explanation.

In a catalogue of alleged failings of the Green Party of Canada, (editorial July 30, 2014) the most absurd claim is that of moral relativism. We are the only party left in Canada to have principles and stick to them.

The Conservatives were once thought of as a party of fiscal responsibility, yet Stephen Harper has added to the national debt and expanded the size of government. His promises of accountability are buried under scandals of the culture of entitlement he once decried.

The New Democrats once championed the poor and down-trodden, but now clamor to appeal to the middle class calling not for guaranteed annual income, but for lower banking fees.

The Liberals stand less condemned, if only because their approach to principle was always pretty flexible – big tent and all. Still, the support for the Keystone and Kinder Morgan pipelines while opposing Enbridge suggests polling as a basis for position.

The Green Party of Canada, along with Green parties around the world, stand on six global green values: participatory democracy, social justice, ecological wisdom, non-violence, sustainability, and respect for diversity.

In the context of conflicts around the world, we are anything but moral relativists. The reason I was the only Member of Parliament in June 2011 to vote against the continued aerial bombardment of Libya was that Green principles of non-violence and promotion of a culture of peace made voting for bombing impossible. There were peace talks rejected as we joined the side of those calling for Gadafi’s head. It was clear when Parliament voted to keep up the bombing that the side we supported included al-Qaida-linked extremists. It was clear that warehouses full of munitions would flood into other countries and lead to greater instability, loss of life and chaos. It was clear that shifting our mission statement from Responsibility to Protect (R2P) innocent civilians to regime change would cost us down the road and remove the possibility of relying on the R2P doctrine to intervene in Syria.

In the case of the current Israel-Gaza conflict, it is critical that positions be based on international law. Pursuing peace cannot be discarded as unrealistic. It should be possible for all Canadian political parties to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization and to demand it cease its shelling of Israel. It should be possible for all other political leaders to continue to press for a two-state solution, one that defends the right of the State of Israel to exist, but equally calls for a secure Palestinian state. It is simply not credible to take the stance of all three other leaders (Messrs Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau) that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s siege of Gaza is legal and meets humanitarian standards. It does not. The death toll among Gaza’s civilians provokes the conscience of the world. Hamas is to blame for provocation, but to imagine that Israel is blameless is untenable.

We are the only party that bases our decisions on evidence. That is why we may take positions ahead of the “group-think” curve, calling for caution on newer technologies while others throw caution to the wind. We have been consistent about climate policies, while other parties treat the greatest threat to our children’s future as “flavour of the month.”

Our budgetary plans are based on a thorough examination of the sources of revenue, macro and micro-economic impact of policy. We are the only party to prepare election platforms that have been thoroughly costed over a three year horizon. We were the only party to submit our budget to the Parliamentary Budget Office to ask for verification that our numbers added up. (They did.)

We have been the most accountable in office of any MPs. I was the first MP to post all my expenses (original receipts) on line. Now Bruce Hyer, Green MP from Thunder Bay-Superior North does as well. We have pushed other parties to greater levels of accountability.

The biggest reason that Canada needs to Green Party is that we are the only party fighting to restore real democracy by reducing the power of political parties themselves. We need to tear down the bloated Prime Minister’s Office. We must reduce the unhealthy top-down control that turns good people, elected as MPs, into little more than ciphers. We are the only party that wants to eliminate the excessive hyper-partisanship of modern political debate and replace it with respectful dialogue to find common ground. We will make it a priority to replace the perverse first past the post voting system with fair proportional representation.

We will elect more Green MPs in the next federal election, forging consensus across party lines and working for the people who elected us. I appreciate that your editorialists would like it if all Canadian political parties kow-towed to “group think. We never will. And for that reason alone, more Canadians are turning to the Greens to give them reason to believe in the possibility of responsible government.

Elizabeth May, O.C., is the leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands. Her eighth book, “Who we are: Reflections on my life and Canada” (Greystone Books) will be released in October 2014.