An Open Letter To Jack Layton: Extend your hand to the Green Party


Congratulations on a good showing last night. I myself talked at least several people into voting for the NDP instead of the wrong-headed “strategic” voting they were going to attempt. However, though I was an NDP member in university (I’m now 33) I had to vote Green this time. The environment is my biggest issue, as the other issues don’t really matter at all if we don’t have a planet to live on. And I needed to make a statement about how important this is to me. So I joined the Green Party, volunteered for them and voted for them.

I have to say, though, that I am torn. It seems foolish to be splitting the progressive, environmentally-responsible vote. Especially with the first-past-the-post system being the way it is. Whatever we think about the Conservatives, we have to admit that they were smart to consolidate and stop dividing their votes. I would think that our environment and our children deserve the same kind of strategic smarts.

I was pleasantly surprised to read in NOW Magazine that Adria Vasil, the environmental writer there, actually found the NDP to be ahead of the Greens in terms of green platforms. But I still voted Green in order to make it clear that the environment is a pressing issue. I’m sure many Green voters did the same thing. And it’s sad that those votes couldn’t add up to any seats in parliament.

And while perhaps some egos would be hurt, it seems to me that merging the Greens and the NDP is the logical thing to do if we actually care about saving the planet and making our country healthier and more prosperous. Greens got 665,940 votes this time. Almost half of what the Bloc got. Surely this could have made a difference in some of the ridings. As well, I think that a merger would encourage even more people than just those who voted Green to come over to the NDP. It would alleviate some of the fear that lead to strategic voting because people would view the NDP as an even stronger force. For many people it wouldn’t seem as much like a “wasted vote.” And I think it would even draw some Liberal voters who would realize that the NDP would now be truly the only party that cares about environmental issues.

There were some stirring speeches at the Green Party party last night in Kensington Market. Speeches about how in the last half century childhood asthma has gone from 1 in 50 children to now 1 in 5. Speeches about how many of the mock elections in schools overwhelmingly voted Green. These mock elections are evidence that our children know how crucial it is to turn things around. It would be great if, as these children and teens reach voting age, there were a united force that they could join in order to fight for a sustainable society.

A very sad thing about this election is that the Greens weren’t allowed into the televised debates. This ensured that the environmental issue – for many people the most important issue of all – wasn’t discussed at all. Instead we debated the merits of hundred dollar a month tax rebates and beat to death a decade-old sponsorship scandal. How truly sad. Maybe the Greens will get into those debates next time. Maybe not. But a surefire way would be for you to speak for them.

I’ve been mulling over the merits of a GreenDP. Of having Jim Harris, an eloquent, passionate and brilliant speaker, as the NDP Environmental Critic and one day Minister of the Environment. Of having NDP’ers calling to task the government for the murder of thousands of Canadians a year through smog. Other than the fact that when you mix Green and Orange you get an unfortunate shade of Brown, it all seems to make sense.

I listened carefully to the speeches last night to hear what the Greens feel they bring to the table that the NDP doesn’t. The Greens speak of being the only party that realizes it’s time for a change. They speak of being the only party that will entrench the right to clean air and water into the Charter of Rights, allowing citizens to use the courts to clean up their area. Are these values really so far off from what the NDP believes? The NDP website speaks of people’s right to clean air and water. Could we not all work together here?

I know the NDP gets a lot more votes than the Greens. So a name like the GreenDP would seem like placing too much weight on a party that “only” gets a bit over 600,000 votes. But it’s not that crazy. It would be a symbol that you, Jack Layton, are embracing the future. That you truly represent the health of our country. That you are doing it not just for us, but for our children. That you will work with all truly progressive people to make a change. That it’s not just about egos, it’s about love and caring and compassion.

I don’t know you personally, Mr. Layton, but from what I’ve seen and heard, I truly believe that you are a person who cares about issues larger than yourself. That you truly care about other people. That you want to reach out and help as many people as you can.

I might just be blowing hot air here and dreaming up nonsense. But maybe I’m not. Maybe I’ve got something here. Maybe it’s not too late to save ourselves from environmental destruction.

The bottom line is that it’s ridiculous that I had to tell my friends “Vote Green… Or at least NDP.” With the system the way it is, we need to unite and stop screwing around. We don’t have time for partisan games. We need action. And we need everyone who believes what we believe to be on the same team.

I know you’re busy these days, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.


Josh Rachlis


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