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Jonathon Brown and Adam Denny are working toward a political first: the Green Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.
On May 9, the pair started a Facebook group to gauge interest on whether or not there’s interest for a Green Party at the provincial level. The group now has 240 members and has started circulating a petition to officially register the party in the province.
Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province without a Green Party.
Brown says he started the group to test the waters, but he and co-founder Denny were surprised at how quickly support came together online.
Brown says he wants to help dispel the notion that the environment and the economy are opposing forces on opposite sides of the political spectrum.
“Everyone sees the Green Party as being a tree-hugging party and saying you can’t kill that animal or cut this tree, but it couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Brown.
“I think everybody’s worried about jobs in the province, everyone is worried about the economy, and everyone kind of sees caring about the environment as a hindrance to that, which is so lacking in any kind of creativity or any type of thinking outside the box. It’s kind of baffling, actually.”
Brown says he initially wanted to get involved with the provincial New Democratic Party, but decided to try to start a new party instead.
“My ideals didn’t really completely align with the NDP, but they’re probably the closest in the province because I don’t really trust the other two parties, regardless of what they say their ideals are,” he said.
On the federal level, the Green Party has run candidates in this province with a small amount of support. In 2015, the party ran candidates in six of the seven federal ridings, with 2.66 per cent support in Long Range Mountains as the high-water mark in that election.
Codco legend Greg Malone recently announced his candidacy for the Green Party in Avalon for the coming federal election.
The Green Party of Prince Edward Island recently became the official opposition in that province’s minority government.
The biggest obstacle for the Green Party in Newfoundland and Labrador is the party’s anti-seal hunt policy on the federal level. The federal party policy states it will “end federal assistance to the commercial seal hunt and support an end to the seal hunt,” while offering buyouts for sealers affected by a halt to the hunt.
Marlene Wells, Atlantic organizer for the federal Green Party and niece of former premier Clyde Wells, says the seal hunt issue has been sticky for the party, but there’s more to the federal party than an anti-seal hunt stance.
“We do support a local, sustainable, humane harvest. We do support aboriginal, Indigenous rights to a seal hunt. It’s not like we’re saying no seal hunt, never,” she said.
“It is a controversial subject for sure, but the provincial party can certainly develop its own policy that works for Newfoundland and Labrador. While the federal policy is in place for the federal party, one thing that makes the Green Party completely different from any other party is that there is no whipped vote.”
Wells says that means a Green MP from this province is under no obligation from above to support the party’s stance on the seal hunt.
Wells looks to the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance as inspiration for getting the party off the ground.
“It’s amazing what they pulled off in six months.”
For now, the party has to get 1,000 signatures to submit to Elections Newfoundland and Labrador in order to become a party.
If the Greens are successful, voters in Newfoundland and Labrador will have gone from three to five registered parties to choose from in less than a year.