"George Bush Sr., during his run for second term, claimed he would be 'an environmental president.' Of course, he wasn't, his policies were anything but. Yet that's how popular the environmental movement had become at the time. He had to say such things just to get elected."
~ David Suzuki, at a talk he gave to the University of Alberta a few years back (paraphrased from my own memory)
Mr. Suzuki got me thinking. With enough critical mass, or special interest pressure, politicians can be forced to bow to our collective will. If enough people demand something, successful politicians will borrow their opponents policies. It may start with empty platitudes, but if there's enough pressure, they will eventually have to do something.
I live in Alberta, Canada, and I intend to vote for the Green Party this October 14th. I'm under no delusions that a Green candidate will win my riding. There's a slim chance that a Liberal candidate may win over the Conservative candidate, but a Green candidate? In my neck of the woods? Not this election.
There are a few ridings, here and there, where a Green candidate actually stands a chance. Their chances and popular vote increases every election, so perhaps some time soon, we'll see one or two candidates elected. So what can one or two long-shot backbenchers accomplish? Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps they'll hound the government and rake them in the press making ineffectual comments about how they'd never run the country the way it's being done; still, we've got the NDP for that.
But rest assured that the other parties are watching. The more people people that vote Green, the more likely we'll see other parties strengthening their environmental positions. Conservative, Liberals and New Democrats would rather change their platforms than not get elected.
As more people vote green, it leads newspapers and journalists to ask more green-minded questions of all the candidates; questions that will incite promises. No other party wants to look bad in comparison. Promises can be broken, sure. But broken promises are a start. The Green party finally being allowed in the national debates can change the nature of political discourse in our country. Two elections ago it was a wishful dream. But with the popular vote, the last national election journalists were starting to ask the same question "why isn't the Green party included?" This election, they were actually invited and debated. Baby steps.
The Green party has its flaws, and, despite having a full slate of candidates, I doubt they could form an effective government. But who cares? Alberta will send a whole slew of Conservatives to Ottawa. Regardless of which party forms the next government, the desires of Western Canada will be ignored. Within the flaws of our current system is the freedom to vote with my heart. If enough people do the same, we can send a message to our national government, we can change the politics, slowly. But things can be better, even if no Green candidate is ever elected (thanks a lot, first-past-the-post system).
Perhaps one day every party will have a greener outlook, whether they want to or not, just to please those 5-10% of us that keep voting Green. Maybe the Progressive Conservative party that is the current default vote of the West will become the Sustainable Conservative party. Maybe.
In either case, it's worth a shot. It's worth it to hope. It's worth my vote.
"I am going to be the greenest Prime Minister"
~ Stéphane Dion, heard on CBC Oct 10 2008, 2pm