"Why I left the NDP and joined the Greens"

Bruce Hyer

Bruce Hyer is a biologist and forester and small business person (ecotourism) from Thunder Bay, where he was the MP from 2008-2015.

On May 6, Nanaimo-Ladysmith will go to the polls to choose a new MP. All indications suggest it’s a two-way race between the NDP and Greens. The riding has long been an NDP stronghold, but many voters seemed poised to try the Greens on for size.

I can relate. I had never belonged to any political party until 2003. That year I took Jack Layton and Olivia Chow on a wilderness canoe trip. After speaking with them about our shared plan to change the world, it was hard to refuse Jack’s request to run for federal office. I was eventually elected as an NDP MP in 2008. Working with Jack was wonderful; he was honest, kind, disciplined, smart, and highly committed to environmental protection. He asked me to update and re-introduce his Climate Change Accountability Act. I worked hard on that private member’s bill for over a year, and succeeded in gaining the support of all but the Conservative caucus in a Harper minority government. Harper ordered it killed in the Senate.

In 2011 I was re-elected and Jack was predicted by many to be the next Prime Minister. But with his tragic passing, that dream was lost. At that point the NDP changed, and not for the better. Jack was very persuasive, but he never “whipped” any of my votes. The rules under the new leadership was that if I did not vote the way they ordered 100% of the time, I would be “punished” (I was), and that they would not sign my nomination papers. In order to put my constituents and my conscience first, I became Independent. I looked at all the parties carefully, and decided to join the Green Party of Canada. I served one term as a Green MP. It was the right decision then, and now.

The Greens are the most democratic party. They don’t whip votes. Elizabeth May and I agreed on most policies and votes, but sometimes voted differently. The Greens are the only party that mandates in our constitution that MP’s must put their constituents’ wishes ahead of those of the party or Leader.

They also have a comprehensive set of policies to address the challenges and opportunities our country faces. Vision Green has bold and innovative policies on education, health, income inequality, addictions, and many more. While socially and environmentally progressive, Greens are fiscally responsible, and the only federal party that believes in balanced budgets.
Finally, the Greens are the only party that understands we must take decisive action on climate change. While the other parties are still advocating for a range of delay to half-measures, the Greens are the only party whose policies tell what scientists tell us: we must not expand fossil fuel infrastructure if we are to keep our commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement to prevent above 1.5 degrees of global warming.
I was an NDP member for quite a while. I know them well. Many NDP MP’s are fine people trying to do a good job, but in a political culture that is highly controlling, and where their MP’s are primarily customer sales representatives for the Party in their riding.

This by-election will not change the voting balance in the House. It will not empower Mr. Scheer. Voters in Nanaimo-Ladysmith can vote freely with heads and hearts for the person and party that they believe will best represent them. I have known Paul Manly for a long time. I know that he is kind, honest, and hard working. I hope that the voters will send him to Ottawa for half a year to represent them well, and show what he can do, and to strengthen Elizabeth May’s ability to get good things done for Canada.