The Green Movement

The modern green movement started in Canada and around the world in the 1960s when the counter-culture movement launched the first mass rejection of consumer culture. Four decades later, the 60s values of peace, love and understanding have become the founding Green Party values of non-violence, social justice and ecological thinking.

While the end of the 60s saw the decline of many grassroots movements, their life-affirming values didn't go away. In the '70s, the green movement re-emerged in isolated, small-scale enterprises such as health food stores, women's and environmental groups, renewable energy programs and organic farms.

This time the green movement, however disparate, had structure and an economic base. Building within rather than outside communities, green groups worked to shed their reputations as short-lived, unessential enterprises. In the 1980s, many became dissatisfied with the impotence of isolated activity and opinions, and attempts were made to further organize the green movement into coalitions.

This decade saw the founding of the Canadian Environment Network, Canadian Organic Growers, Canadian Peace Alliance, Voice of Women, Solar Energy Society of Canada and many others. The scale and organizational level of these coalitions took the green movement to a new level - a pre-electoral level. The natural next step was to organize the green movement into a political party.

Green Parties Around the World

The first national green party in the world, the Values Party, was started in the early 1970s in New Zealand. The first green party in the northern hemisphere was formed in the Maritimes in the late 70s and was called the Small Party after E.F. Schumacher's book, Small is Beautiful. Coincidentally, current Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May was the founder of the Small Party as well as one of its first candidates for public office, running against Deputy Prime Minister Allan J. MacEachern on Cape Breton Island. In Britain the first green party was called the Ecology Party. When the West German green party, Die Grünen, crossed the five percent vote threshold and entered the German legislature in the late 1970s, the green political movement started in earnest.

There are now over 100 green parties worldwide, and green members of parliament have been elected in many countries including Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Italy, France, Germany, and Finland.

The Green Party of Canada

The Green Party of Canada was founded at a conference held at Carleton University in Ottawa in 1983. Under its first leader, Dr. Trevor Hancock, the party ran 60 candidates in the 1984 federal election. The Green Party of Canada is independent of other green parties around the world but remains philosophically aligned with them.

The Green Party begins with the basic premise that all life on the planet is interconnected and that humans have a responsibility to protect and preserve the natural world. The Green Party of Canada, like its provincial counterparts, supports green economics, progressive social planning and responsible and accountable governance.

Since its inception, the party has been developing as an organization, expanding its membership and improving its showing at the polls. In the 2000 federal election, the party fielded 111 candidates, up from 78 in 1997.

On June 28, 2004, the Green Party of Canada made history when it became only the fourth federal political party ever to run candidates in all 308 ridings. It also earned the more dubious distinction of being the only party running a full slate to be excluded from the televised leaders’ debate. When the ballots were counted, the Green Party secured 4.3 percent of the popular vote, thereby surpassing the 2 percent threshold required for party financing under new Elections Canada rules.

Momentum for change continued to build around this new political voice for Canadians and in the election held January 23, 2006 the Green Party again ran 308 candidates and increased its share of the popular vote to 4.5 percent, once again securing federal financing as a result. Later that year, the party’s new federal leader, Elizabeth May, made Green Party history when she finished second in a by-election in the riding of London North Centre.

On March 17, 2007, May announced that she would run in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova, in the 2008 federal election. May was initially excluded from the televised leadership debate. After intense public pressure, she was included and her performance was a breakthrough for the Green Party. Despite losing to Peter MacKay in Central Nova, May won 32% of the vote, the highest percentage ever for a Green Party candidate in Canada.

In the 2011 federal election, Elizabeth May ran in the riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands in British Columbia. Despite her exclusion from the leaders’ debate, she won her riding, defeating Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn. Elizabeth May thus became the first elected Green Party MP in Canadian history.

In 2012, she was voted Parliamentarian of the Year by her colleagues in the House of Commons.