VANCOUVER, British Columbia – As Canadians go to the polls June 28, one of the surprises of this year’s election campaign has been the emergence of the Green Party (GP) as the fourth most popular party among Canadians. They hover at around 6-7 percent in the polls. National leader Jim Harris has been able to break through the media blackout that small third parties face and regularly appears in the print and television media.

However, far from offering a left-wing alternative to Canadians, the GP under Harris – a management consultant and former Conservative Party member – has become a pro-market, “small government” party. The party’s economic and social platform borrows heavily from neoconservative thought.

While the New Democratic Party and the Communist Party of Canada are proposing that corporations pay higher taxes, the Greens are advocating tax cuts on corporate profits to stimulate employment and productivity. Reflecting the right wing’s obsession with tax cuts, the GP believes that high income taxes are the main source of unemployment. They also advocate increased property taxes, a regressive tax that hurts low-income people. The GP also suggests that it would keep inflation low by maintaining high levels of unemployment, a policy pursued by previous Liberal and Conservative Party governments since the 1980s.

Most parties – including the Liberals – say that they want to divert money from the country’s budgetary surplus to social programs, but the GP advocates using the budgetary surplus to reduce the national debt. The party is committed to so-called small government and resolutely opposes its expansion.

The Greens offer no analysis of how the market generates inequality and poverty, and make no commitment to raise abysmally low welfare rates or expand unemployment insurance coverage. During the 1990s, the Liberal Party government heavily cut the amount of money it contributed to provincially-run welfare programs and drastically reduced the number of people who could collect unemployment benefits, leading to greater poverty. The GP platform says only that they will “enhance the existing network of … school nutrition … and food bank programs” and eliminate “the gaps and tangles in the social safety net so that Canadians can find and receive the help that will reduce child poverty, while making adults self-sufficient.”

While favoring the Kyoto Accord to reverse global warming and the elimination of harmful chemicals from the environment and food production, the GP platform makes no commitment to meet these goals through government regulation. Instead, the party proposes that it will “empower [bioregional] stewards to seek intervener status in legal actions that impact the health of the ecosystem: … work with local environment groups to reduce pollution levels in the air, water and soil; promote sustainability through education; and monitor the diversity of species, the levels of pollution and the health of the ecosystem.” Furthermore, the party favors the implementation of a national emissions trading system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, instead of mandatory reductions.

The Greens also support the corporate sector’s position on self regulation by “encourag[ing] companies to attain ISO 14000 certification,” a program widely condemned by the environmental movement as ineffective.

As political analyst Murray Dobbin writes in the Toronto Globe and Mail, “A look at Green policies reveals that this party is really a conservative alternative, not a social democratic one. Its fiscal, economic and even environmental policies would be a near perfect fit for the old Progressive Conservative Party.”

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