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Green Party of Canada’s Leadership Contest: Climate Change Policy Promises and Defunding the Police

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

Disclaimer: Hello/Bonjour my name is Anna Huschka (she/her) and I am the author of this post. There are a few things I wanted to clarify before you start reading. I am speaking from a position of privilege as someone who is white and a settler on Treaty 13 land. I acknowledge the struggles of BIPOC and other marginalized groups, especially within Canada’s political climate. I am not speaking on behalf of the Green Party of Canada or any of the mentioned candidates, I am simply trying to keep the public informed about policy promises so we can hold these politicians and their party accountable for their platform promises. I hope to use my knowledge as a student minoring in politics to help clarify political terminology and concepts throughout my writing, as well as to use my platform to share different voices in the hopes of diversifying Canada’s political environment.

With climate change as a top priority, the Green Party of Canada is looked to by those wishing for a generation of more intense climate change federal policies. With Elizabeth May’s resignation following the 2019 federal election, the Green Party of Canada is in search of a new leader, with the leadership election set to open September 26th, and results set to be released October 3rd, 2020 (1). There are eight candidates vying to be the new Green Party of Canada Leader: Annamie Paul, David Merner, Amita Kuttner, Glen Murray, Dimitri Lascaris, Meryam Haddad, Andrew West, and Courtney Howard, each with unique platforms for tackling the climate crisis and other issues in Canadian politics (1). Due to the high number of candidates, there were two leadership debates which can be accessed here and here (Judy Green and Dylan Perceval-Maxwell, have both since exited the leadership contest following these debates).

Annamie Paul is a lawyer who as a candidate for Toronto Centre in the 2019 federal election ran against Bill Morneau and ultimately accumulated the second-best Green Party result in the Greater Toronto Area (1, 2). Some of Paul’s climate-focused campaign promises include maintenance of the Carbon Tax and a Carbon Rebate, as a cost-effective emissions reduction method that encourages citizens to transition to cleaner technologies and resources (3). Use of the Carbon Tax is set to reduce 50-60 million tonnes of carbon emissions, in accordance with the Green Party’s planned $10 annual increment increases once all provinces and territories have a carbon tax system meeting a standard set out by the federal government (3). Annamie Paul has also proposed a Carbon Border Mechanism that would see carbon pricing be applied to imports, as a way to influence other countries to take substantial steps towards fighting climate change (3). Paul has also committed to tackling systematic racism against Black and Indigenous Canadians, especially within the criminal justice system (4). In order to tackle this issue, Paul has proposed “a national database to track victims of incidents of use-of-force by police, identifying race, ethnic background and other identities” on the basis of recommendations by the United Nations (4). You can read more about Annamie Paul’s policies here.

David Merner previously volunteered for the Liberal Party and ran in the 2015 federal election as a Liberal candidate. However, after the federal government purchased the Kinder Morgan pipeline, Merner joined the Green Party of Canada (5). Included in David Merner’s platform are plans to move to a greener economy, along with transitioning to reliance on greener energy sources and greener technology, such as funding research and production of “plastics made from biological materials” (6). Merner has also committed to increasing green spaces made available to citizens, including national parks as well as collaboration to add urban green spaces in municipalities (6). Although Merner’s platform breakdown does not distinctly mention defunding of the police, it is discussed in the leadership debates, which can be accessed here. Within the debate, Merner discusses the need for change in not just policing, but the entire justice system, with the proposed use of multi-disciplinary teams to “make sure the right person is doing the right job” (7). You can access more about David Merner’s policy commitments here.

Amita Kuttner has a Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics and has volunteered as the Green Party of Canada’s Critic for Science and Innovation (8). One of Kuttner’s platform promises is action to counter systemic racism by taking action to eventually abolish the police, including phasing out the RCMP and enforcing the mandatory use of body cameras (9). Amita Kuttner’s climate change based policy promises include transitioning to a circular economy model and moving industries towards reliance on more sustainable sources, including moving funds away from fossil fuels to provide grants for renewable resource infrastructure like solar panels (9). Another promise from Amita Kuttner is to improve Canada’s climate and emergency preparedness, including the development and implementation of national strategies for prevention and recovery from different climate emergencies, including sea-level rise (9). In 2005, a mudslide in Northern Vancouver demolished Amita Kuttner’s family home, ultimately killing her mother and leaving her father with brain damage, causing the creation of national plans for the prevention of and recovery from climate emergencies to be a personally important policy plan within the campaign (8). Further breakdown of Amita Kuttner’s policy promises can be read here.

Glen Murray is a former mayor of Winnipeg and served this position for six years (10). Murray has developed a 20-year plan in which Canada will operate on a carbon-neutral circular economy (11). Using past experience as a mayor, Glen Murray emphasizes strengthening collaborations between municipalities and the federal government, with the goal of creating greener cities and towns via investments in a variety of technologies (11). Murray has also proposed that revenue collected from carbon pricing systems be used to provide support to lower-income communities by providing assistance to lower their emissions (11). Murray’s vision does not have any mention of defunding the police, but it is discussed within the leadership debate that can be accessed here. Murray’s approach to police reform focuses on the federal government providing support to the municipalities to allow the giving back of power to marginalized communities within each municipality with the creation of community-based policing programs (7). A further breakdown of Glen Murray’s vision can be accessed here.

Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer and journalist who was a Green Party of Canada candidate in the 2015 election for London West (12). Included in Lascaris’ platform are plans to lessen the use of fossil fuels by having Canada be more reliant on greener energy sources via the incentivizing of green energy use and research (13). In order to decrease Canada’s pollution, Lascaris has proposed a ban on the exportation of Canada’s waste and use of polluter payment programs as components of a “national waste management strategy” (13). Lascaris’ platform also has plans for tackling systematic racism within the justice system, including plans to reduce funding to the RCMP over the course of five years, in the hopes of creating “a society in which the police are unnecessary and can be abolished” (14). The entirety of Dimitri Lascaris’ platform can be accessed here.

Meryam Haddad is an immigrant from Syria, who was nominated by former Green Party leader Elizabeth May to be the “spokesperson for Immigration on the Shadow Cabinet” (15). Haddad’s plan includes support for a “Canadian Green New Deal”, as well as taking steps towards reconciliation via Green Party support for “Indigenous resistance movements” (16). The need for collaboration is emphasized throughout Haddad’s platform, including the external need to work with other parties that share the progressive climate and social goals of the Green Party, as well as the internal inclusion of voices from NGOs and marginalized groups to ensure voices are being heard within the Green Party and the Government of Canada (16). Although defunding the police is not mentioned within Haddad’s platform, it was discussed within the leadership debate that can be accessed here. Haddad proposes that the RCMP can not be reformed, thus planning to defund the RCMP, with that funding going towards community efforts to lessen poverty, ultimately moving to defund and eventually abolish the policing system (17). More of Meryam Haddad’s platform can be read here.

Andrew West ran as a Green Party Candidate in Ontario in 2014, and since 2015 has been the Attorney General Critic for the Green Party of Ontario. West now seeks to make the leap to the Green Party of Canada with a run for leadership (18). At the forefront of West’s platform is a promise to balance the budget and eliminate the federal debt (19). To tackle climate change, West proposes the transition of subsidies away from the oil and tar sands industries and the application of these funds to greener energy sources, with a focus on job creation within the clean energy sector (19). West has also made a commitment to strengthening relations between Indigenous Canadians and the federal government (19). While West’s platform makes no mention of defunding the police or the systemic racism occurring within the criminal justice system, Canada’s national defence is mentioned, including plans to meet NATO’s target of national defence accounting for 2% of GDP expenditures, with emphasis on putting funding towards peacekeeping, rather than militarization (19). West does discuss the concept of defunding the police in the leadership debate that can be accessed here. West believes that police still need resources to protect themselves, but that these resources should be different depending on the situation, wanting to reallocate funds within the policing system (17). Information about other issues focused on in Andrew West’s platform can be accessed here.

Courtney Howard is an expert on the health impacts of climate change and works as an emergency physician, thus leading Howard to take a health-based approach to tackling climate change (20). Included in Howard’s platform is the plan to create a Canadian Climate Accountability Act to maintain some stability within both policies and investments designed to fight climate change (21). Howard’s platform also mentions steps to ensure a green recovery from COVID-19, with emphasis on green infrastructure, and the planned creation of 1.2 million jobs within the green energy sector between 2030 and 2050 (21). Howard also commits to taking on recommendations proposed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the appointment of Indigenous judges to ensure representation within the judicial system (21). Howard’s platform does not include a reference to defunding the police, but it is discussed within the leadership debate, which can be accessed here. Within the debate, Howard discusses the need for further insight into systematic racism with a proposed redistribution of resources to move towards more community-based work, referring to restorative justice and de-escalation training (17). The entirety of Courtney Howard’s platform can be accessed here.

Although they all have different approaches to tackling the issue, combatting climate change is a common thread throughout the platforms of all of the candidates. We will find out on October 3rd, 2020 which candidate Green Party of Canada Members decide to entrust with the leadership of their party. At such a time we will be able to come back to this document to compare their campaign promises with the actions carried out by the new leader of the Green Party of Canada.


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