Forty-one Green Party candidates seek election

Jordan Wilkie, leader of the Green Party of Alberta, on a video call from Edmonton on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. It is important for Wilkie that the Green Party acts as a force that breaks up the two-party dynamic. (Screenshot by Marcus Ogden/The Press)

While many in Alberta are fixated on the race between the NDP and the UCP, the Green Party of Alberta is making a  concerted effort to earn seats in the legislature this election.

Their party is running 41 candidates across the province, the most that the party has ever put forward.

“I wasn’t seeing enough proactive policy regarding climate issues, poverty, or guarding our democracy,” says Jordan Wilkie, who has been leading the party since 2020.

The Green Party of Alberta was established in 2011 to fill in the gap left by the Alberta Greens, which eventually dissolved in 2009. Though they’ve been active for 12 years, they’ve yet to win a seat in the legislature.

Of the 87 seats available in the legislature, only the NDP and the UCP are running a full roster of candidates. The Green Party is the third largest in the race.

More candidates were to be put forward, but were unable to run due to regulations around individuals who work in proximity to the government.

“They can say ‘I’m sorry, you can run in this election, but you have to take a month off work unpaid.’ Average Albertans would be out on the street, and that is who is running in the Green Party,” says Wilkie. “We are not lawyers, we are not career politicians. I’m a firefighter.

“We have teachers, we have roofers, we have everyday Albertans that are stepping up for the right reasons.”

The Green Party is best known for its focus on environmentalism and preservation. However, they have adopted other policies to round out and diversify their platform.

“We can’t ask people to care about the end of the world unless we show that we have a good plan to carry people through the end of the month,” Wilkie says.

The Green Party platform attempts to address the economic and cost-of-living concerns many Albertans are experiencing.

This includes establishing a universal basic income, halving the tax rate for small businesses, and implementing a 1.5 per cent annual increase cap for rent, eliminating tuition fees for post-secondary institutions.

To fund these policies, the party would raise the large business tax to 12 per cent, up the royalties the province collects from resource extraction, and increase taxes for higher-income households.

Jonathan Parks, the Green Party candidate for Calgary-Buffalo, said he believes these policies will address the issues many Calgarians face in the city core.

“A lot of people are struggling to frequent our downtown,” he says. “With poverty increasing, crime increases. People are not interested in coming downtown, especially at certain times of the day.” 

CBC Vote Compass places the Green Party as the left-most party in the running. This is an election where the NDP, considered by many as the primary left alternative to the UCP, is placed in the centre-right. The target demographic for the Green Party is voters who feel unrepresented in the present two-party dynamic.

Brandon Eby, a University of Calgary student, began supporting the Green Party just over a year ago after being a member of the NDP.

“I saw more and more a rightward shift in the party,” says Eby. “I just couldn’t bring myself to support them anymore.”

While they have put in a great amount of effort this election, one of the party’s main hurdles is the electoral system itself. The legislature is elected using a first-past-the-post system, meaning that the candidate with the most votes wins the seat in their riding even if they have a minority of the vote as a whole.

“First-past-the-post doesn’t work,” Parks says. “It keeps a lot of the other parties out of the race, which isn’t fair for all of the people that are wanting to vote for these candidates, like the Green Party.”

This system discourages many from supporting parties that are not seen as competitive in their riding, and thus many voters practice ‘strategic voting’ to ensure the party they least desire loses.

Votes for smaller parties, such as the Green Party, are often seen as splitting the vote to the benefit of the most competitive candidate.

“I’ve actually never really received any negative responses from UCP voters; most of the opposition I get is from the NDP voters and volunteers,” says Parks.

Wilkie responds to accusations of vote splitting by pointing to the low voter turnout. In 2019, 67.5 per cent of the province voted. This was a record-breaking turnout for Alberta.

“There’s no vote splitting when over one-third of the province doesn’t even vote because they don’t have a good choice, or they feel disenfranchised. No one’s speaking to them, no one’s actually giving them hope.”

Supporters of the party also point to the key differences between the Green Party and the NDP as examples of how vote-splitting is a limited view of their choice.

“The NDP and the Green Party disagree on most points. The NDP is a pro-pipeline party, they are a pro-police party, they are a pro-landlord party—the Green Party is not,” says Eby. “I’m not voting so that my ‘team’ can win. I’m voting because I believe in things and there are certain issues I won’t compromise on.”

Proportional representation systems often result in minority governments, wherein many smaller parties end up with seats. The Alberta NDP ran on electoral reform in 2015, but they have since abandoned it as one of their planks.

“When you have a proportional system, those diverse values have a seat at the table and people work together,” says Wilkie. “If we want better politicians that are really going to represent the people, then we need to change how we elect them.”

As of May 25,  Mainstreet Research polls reflect that 1 per cent of voters would vote for the Green Party. This shows a slight growth in interest in the party, as they garnered only 0.41 per cent of the popular vote in 2019. 

“Demand better is our motto in the election. We can’t allow these two entitled parties to tell us to fight over scraps when we know there’s more at the table,” says Wilkie.

“You’re either part of the problem, or you’re part of the solution. You’re never the full problem, and you’re never the full solution. Yet, these two parties always talk as if they’re the solution and the other guys are the problem.”

While running 41 candidates is historic for the party, it still leaves notable holes. Eby, who votes in Calgary-Varsity, found themselves having to vote strategically without a Green Party member on their ballot.

“I’m going to be honest, I considered not voting,” says Eby. “It was sort of a compromise on my part that I wasn’t thrilled with.”

The election takes place May 29. Information on voting, including which riding one will vote in, can be found on the Elections Alberta website.

Brandon Eby outside of the polling station at the University of Calgary on Thursday, May 25, 2023. Though a member of the Green Party, Eby had no Green Party candidate in their riding to support. (Photo by Marcus Ogden/The Press)
About Marcus Ogden 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Marcus Ogden is working as a writer for The Press in 2023.