Trying to resurrect the Green Party

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Former NDP executive member says N.L. Greens would be pro-seal hunt

A former NDP executive member, Chris Bruce, is aiming to found the Green Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Bruce, who is collecting the 1,000 signatures necessary for the group to be recognized as a political party in the province, is hoping to overcome local perceptions of the Green Party and put distance between his group and its counterparts across Canada.

The Green Party of Canada is a grassroots political party that is primarily concerned with environmental issues. Its history in Newfoundland and Labrador, however,  has been one of conflict and failure since the party adopted a stance opposing the seal hunt.

“There is the very major and likely incredibly real barrier of the potentially irrevocable damage that the federal Green Party has done in opposing the seal hunt,” Bruce said.

“If people aren’t willing to listen to anything that follows ‘I’m in the Green Party,’ then that would be a big problem, so one of the things I’ve been focusing on pretty heavily is making it very clear that the Green Party of Newfoundland and Labrador will be pro-hunting.”

Robert Miller, a former Green Party of Canada candidate for St. John’s East in 2011, has a slightly more bleak perspective on the matter.

“Potentially, if you find someone who was a supporter of the NDP in the past and they find themselves without a party and choosing, there is that potential,” said Miller.

“However, it would become quickly apparent that the organization as a whole feels very strongly towards certain issues and they don’t live up to their own standards, and I think a lot of people would reject them.”

That doesn’t deter Bruce, however, who sees the formation of his party-in-waiting as offering a break from the stifling party structures that have formed the core of the province’s politics in the past.

“The inspiring line for the average citizen would be this opportunity to build a house out of wood that’s not rotten, whereas the other parties have a little bit of rot in the foundation,” said Bruce, who refers to the old money and connections that dominate the political life of Newfoundland as baggage.

“There is the slightest of possibilities that an institution could be developed that would have the public good front and centre, would operate within the public, and would not have that institutional contempt for public dialogue that our (mainstream) parties have.”

The fate of the Green Party may rest with the perceptions of disaffected former members of the three mainstream parties.

John Riche, an NDP candidate in the 2011 provincial election, does not see the Green Party as being a viable home for former members of other parties because of the damage done to the party’s brand by the federal Greens.

“Getting elected in the Green party in Newfoundland is going to be impossible because they’re going to forever be saddled with ... the Green party’s anti-seal hunt campaign — even though that’s not part of the provincial platform — and the tree-hugger mentality that people see them as having from the outside,” said Riche.

“If you can’t sell it, you can’t sell it and that’s the thing about politics: you can stand on your ground and not win, but what are you accomplishing then?”

Stephen Harris, a former Green Party of Canada candidate who ran in 2006, is more optimistic than Miller and Riche when it comes to the Green Party of Newfoundland and Labrador’s fate.

“I think it could work out,” said Harris. “Newfoundlanders are natural environmentalists because we’re surrounded by it, especially in Labrador and rural Newfoundland communities.”

Bruce concedes that building the party into a contender will be difficult, but is convinced that the branding problems can be overcome.

“There are lots of examples of name similarity just not lining up; even here in Newfoundland, the Progressive Conservatives are associated in no way with the Conservative Party of Canada,” he said.

“Convincing people that we are pro-hunt will be difficult, so I think framing it in the centrepiece of the party will be important in letting people know that we are different than what people think we are.

“I think that the system needs to be started fresh here to say, let’s develop a grassroots system, but one that is built by Newfoundlanders for Newfoundlanders, with our own unique interpretation of things.”  

Twitter: @Rssllcochrane

Organizations: Green Party, NDP

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Recent comments

  • Rick Austin
    April 28, 2015 - 03:48

    The local Greens are not only not against the seal hunt but will tell you proud stories about their own families at the hunt. Being a Green Party member in NL is like trying to live with an otherwise well-meaning but ill-informed cousin.

  • Priscilla Feral
    February 20, 2014 - 16:00

    Send in the clowns. Battering baby and other seals for skins no one wants isn't a ~green~ idea, nor is it moral conduct. Residents need to grow up and wise up. The seal slaughter each year brings shame on a nation that has a better record of human rights. It's a pity Canada's wildlife is treated like snow removal.

  • Dave Shishkoff
    February 20, 2014 - 15:55

    What insanity is this! The Green Party is one of the few who defends animals, and the majority of members (as is representative of Canada) opposes this annual slaughter of seals. It's disrespectful, and even demented to take the name, and befoul it with opposing policies. Imagine starting a NL Conservatives party promoting social benefits, a smaller military, unions, increasing minimum wage, capping maximum salaries and promoting more government programs. It's crazy. As another reader pointed out, pick another name, rather than be divisive and disruptive and an embarrassment to actual Greens. Clearly fundamental Green principles aren't appreciated, and another party name should be chosen to represent yourselves. Furthermore, there actually ARE people in Newfoundland who oppose shooting seals, and the Green Party is their only option - why are you taking away their only chance to get this platform elevated? How very brave: you've bought into the lies of a dying industry -- for nothing more than perceived popularity. Pick another name that actually represents your interests, and leave the well-meaning alone. Dave Shishkoff Canadian Correspondent Friends of Animals

  • JJ
    February 20, 2014 - 08:46

    Yea sure, just what is needed, another lunatic fringe party, and to make matters worse for their chances, they want a carbon tax. Good luck with that.

  • Carey Campbell
    February 18, 2014 - 22:04

    Thank you for the Green Party story. Every reason to be optimistic for the Green Party alternatives.

  • Andrew Clarke
    February 18, 2014 - 14:51

    In response to Jon Riche's comment. The provincial conservatives aimed a campaign against the federal conseratives in the 2008 election, which resulted with no federal conservatives winning seats in Newfoundland or Labrador. So with the right branding, a provincial party can and has successfully seperated itself and image from it's federal counterpart.

  • DK
    February 18, 2014 - 07:24

    I understand and support the "build a house out of wood that isn't rotten" argument, but if that is what you are trying to do why use the Green Party name at all? It seems to defeat the purpose. I can see a new grassroots political party working in Newfoundland and Labrador, but this is not the way to go about it, using that name will make an already difficult task even harder than it has to be.

    • Chris Bruce
      February 18, 2014 - 08:36

      This is a fair objection, and the one I have heard most often. So, thank you for the question, and the chance to answer it. The answer has a couple of parts. First, I think we should have a tax on carbon, which is one of the green policies that kind of sets us off-side already. The policies will be green, the principles will be green, so, might as well call a spade a spade. Second, I think we need to change our fundraising, nomination, and accountability process for all the parties. The Green Party does have a model for accountability that is worth defendng and modeling our selves after. Lastly, economic diversification away from oil should be the central conversation our province should be having. Having Green in the name forces the issue in a very specific way (at least, I hope that it will!). Thanks again for your question!

    • Chris Bruce
      February 18, 2014 - 08:58

      That is an excellent question, and one I have been asked many times. The answer is simple; calling the party anything else would be less than honest. The central goal of the party is to help diversify our economy away from oil. Through taxing pollution and cutting subsidies, we will be fighting a green fight. We should be able to call a spade a spade, and to stand by our convictions. Thanks again for the question, though!