2004 is a good year to be Green. It hasnt always been that way.
The idea of voting Green hit me like a bolt of lightning in 1988. Before then I had always voted NDP, considering myself left-wing. I had no other involvement in politics because I was not convinced that the union-dominated NDP could balance the interests of the environment and large industrial corporations that provided most union members. The years have proved me right NDP governments have been environmental disasters just as much as the more right wing parties that they occasionally displaced.
All that changed when I saw Norman Conrad listed as the Green Party candidate for the 1988 federal election in the Calgary Centre riding my riding, fortuitously. I knew then that I was always going to vote Green from that day forwards, even if I had to run for office myself, something that I have had the pleasure of doing twice.
I actually phoned Norman up to offer my support and found my joining a small band of supporters. I have no recollection of what I did during his campaign, but I do know that the conclusion of our discussions was that Alberta deserved, needed a provincial Green Party. That was a simple process, just collect a few signatures of Alberta voters and it was a slam dunk. Well, maybe more than a few signatures, 6000 actually. You realize what a big number 6000 is when you go door to door for an evening and come home with 20 signatures! There was a time limit too, and we were in danger of failing when someone had the brilliant idea of showing up for University of Calgary lectures a few minutes early and passing the sheets around.
On April 6th 1990 the Alberta Greens (aka Green Party of Alberta) was registered. I remember the day of the birth of the party because I was attending the birth of my daughter Erica on the same day.
The party has had its ups and downs since then but a core of people have always managed to keep it going even when it wasnt growing. The low point was probably 1999. We ran very few candidates in the 1997 provincial election and the general public no longer seemed to see the environment as a hot button issue.
Things turned around in 2000 when Ralph Nader ran for office in a spectacularly successful campaign (so successful that some blame him for Bush becoming President, although its important to note that an electoral system that can choose a president with clearly defective (or corrupt) voting machines and less than 50% of the popular vote has problems bigger than the entry of a third party). This, along with the anti-globalization movement, seemed to awaken many people, youth in particular, that there were alternatives, and apathy wasnt one of them (nor were the hidebound power structures of traditional political parties).
In the 1990s Green candidates received between 1% and 5% of the popular vote. In the early 2000s Greens were polling at 20% in British Columbia at some times, and election to a seat is so close that we can almost taste it. Even in Canadas oil capital, Alberta, the Greens are polling at the previously unthinkable level of 8%. It is almost certain that if Canadas obsolete First Past ThePost electoral system was replaced by Proportional Representation, not only would the Greens have about 5% of the seats in parliament, but more people would support the party, and it would eventually form part of a minority government and be able to influence some legislation. In fact, that is already happening, the bigger parties are seeing the Greens rising in the polls and know that the only way to stall the growth is to co-opt their policies.
In my years with the Greens I have been a provincial candidate in Calgary Bow twice, chief agent for a federal candidate twice (Michael Alvarez-Toye and Danielle Roberts) and chief agent for provincial candidates twice. I have been the editor of the Alberta Greens newsletter since 1992 and host an archive of back issues on this website.