John W. Warnock

Green Party of Canada | Where Does the Party Stand on the Key Issues? | by John W. Warnock

 
Where is the Green Party of Canada?                               

 

By John W. Warnock
July 30, 2006


 There are a number of major conflicts around the globe these days. If you look at the web pages of the various Green Parties in the industrialized world, you will see that they have made strong public stands on many of these key issues. But not so in Canada. While the official policy of the Green Party of Canada, adopted at previous biennial conventions, addresses these issues, the present leadership of the GPC has been silent on all of them over the past few years.  

 

* The US/UK wages war in Afghanistan, backed by NATO and a few other client states.
 * The US/UK wages war in Iraq, backed by a declining number of client states.
 * Israel, backed by the US/UK in particular, continues its expansionist program, acquiring Palestinian land and resources (especially water) and assumes the right to determine who will comprise the Palestinian government.
 * Israel, backed by the US/UK, pushes into Lebanon to change the elected government and continue to determine the border.
 * The US/UK, backed by NATO, demands that North Korea not develop nuclear weapons. Only those who have them already can keep them and build more. This is called non-proliferation.
 * The US/UK, backed by NATO, demands that Iran not develop nuclear weapons. Israel can have all the nuclear weapons it wants.
 * The US, backed by France and Canada, overthrows Aristide's government in Haiti. Not all democratic elections are a good thing - people can elect "dictators."
 * The US intervenes to support rightist attempt to overthrow the Chavez government in Venezuela. Another elected "dictator" should step down.
 * The US backs the oil corporations and condemns the new Morales government in Bolivia, no doubt another elected "dictator."
 * The US, backed by Stephen Harper's government, supports electoral fraud in Mexico to prevent Lopez Obrador from becoming President. AMLO dares to propose the renegotiation of NAFTA.     

 

In all these events the position of the U.S. administration is widely supported by the major opposition parties and political leaders, the business establishment, the religious establishment, and the mass media. It is the same in all the NATO countries and Japan. While we live in the so-called post modern world, where it is argued that there are no fundamental truths, this looks suspiciously like a conflict between the rich and the poor.


What is happening here? What happened to the four pillars of the international Green movement, to which the GPC is officially committed: ecological wisdom, social justice, participatory democracy, and peace and non-violence?

 

John W. Warnock was a candidate for the Green Party of Saskatchewan in the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections in the inner city riding of Regina Elphinstone.  

 


 

Climate Change Should Be a Major Election Issue

 

by John W. Warnock
Regina Leader-Post,
December 9, 2005    

 

Every week there are new scientific studies released documenting the disaster of increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change. Between November 28 and December 9 over 10,000 people from all around the world are meeting in Montreal for the 11th Conference of the Parties under the Framework Convention on Climate Change, initiated by governments at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. This is a most important international conference where governments will set forth the goals for reductions in GHG emissions for the period after 2012. Unfortunately, we will hear little of this, thanks primarily to the decision by the opposition parties, led by Jack Layton of the NDP, to insist on an election at this time.


Politicians in Saskatchewan have consistently dismissed the scientific evidence on climate change. Some will remember in 1997 the three major parties in our legislature unanimously passed a resolution condemning the conference in Kyoto and refused to send any delegation. In 2002 the Calvert government, supported by the main opposition parties, strongly opposed initiatives to require Saskatchewan to reduce GHG emissions. At every point along the way the Calvert government has sought to escape any commitment to take action. Some will remember that in June 2002 the four western premiers, including Lorne Calvert, agreed to support in principle U.S. President George W. Bush's call for a new continental energy pact which would promote more energy exports.


So where are we today?  In 1997 the Canadian government agreed that we should cut our GHG emissions to six percent below the levels that existed in 1990. This was the average goal set for the 40 industrialized countries. However, between 1990 and 2003 Canada's GHG emissions increased by 24%, well ahead of even the United States, where the Bush Administration rejected the Kyoto Protocol. Among Canadian provinces, Saskatchewan has had the highest increase in GHG emissions, up 30% since 1990. 

    
For the major political parties in Saskatchewan, climate change has been a minor issue. Yet there are numerous scientific studies which all conclude that in Canada the far north and the prairies will be the hardest hit by climate change. Water sources are disappearing, as glaciers melt. Warmer temperatures promise longer and deeper droughts. The boreal forest is threatened by fires and insects. Weather will become more unstable. Farmers are already seeing these effects.


This is one area where the Green Party of Saskatchewan is clearly different from the three major parties. Greens across Canada endorse the declaration of the Climate Action Network for the Montreal conference calling for an alternative strategy on energy:


     (1) Strengthen energy conservation and fuel efficiency standards.
     (2) Support clean, renewable, non-nuclear energy alternatives.
     (3) End government subsidies for oil and coal corporations.
     (4) Defend the world's forests.
     (5) Protect the most vulnerable, around the world and in Canada.
     (6) Support a just transition for workers, First Nations and other communities affected by the change to a sustainable energy system.


The major political parties have made it clear that they think the sponsorship scandal is the key issue in this election. Nonsense. It is time to transcend the current emphasis on personal greed and think about the future we are leaving our children and grandchildren. We have a moral obligation to other people and species who live in those areas of the world most affected by the impact of climate change. Think again how you are going to vote in this election. What is really important?John W. Warnock was a candidate for the New Green Alliance in the 2003 provincial election.
 



Democracy and Decision Making in Green Parties

 

by John W. Warnock
Regina Area Group

New Green Alliance
November 2004


Submitted to the Constitutional Committee, Green Party of Canada

 

Introduction

It is obvious that there are problems of decision making in the Green Party of Canada. Much of this is structural: we live in a huge country with a political state that is federal in nature, where there is the province of Quebec which is different from the others, and where there is a large Aboriginal population which demands recognition and self government. In addition, there are large population differences between provinces and regions.


None of the decision making processes that are being used by the GPC are really satisfactory. The size of the country, and the differences in income, wealth and social status, make it difficult for the majority of people to attend meetings that are far from where they live. Thus attendance at national meetings is small and does not reflect the cross section of the party membership. There were only 180 members present at the August 2004 General Meeting in Calgary out of a membership of around 3800.


The alternative to voting at a biennial convention has been to vote by postal mail or electronic mail. This is an unsatisfactory approach. It is a liberal, individualist approach. It denies the wisdom of collective, participatory democracy. It assumes that individuals know all the important aspects of particular issues. Furthermore, it is well known that lower income people are less likely to participate in mail voting systems, and many people have no access or do not want to have to access computers and e-mail systems. What can be done? We can look to Green alternatives used elsewhere. (1) Party membership


People who join Green parties around the world take out formal memberships. They must pledge that they are not members of another competing political party. They must pay a membership fee. But they also must sign a pledge saying that they support a basic set of principles or subscribe to a party charter.


This varies around the world. The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand only requires party members to subscribe to the Four Pillars of the Greens: sustainable ecology, social and economic equity, grassroots participatory democracy and peace and non-violence. Others have charters which include the Ten Key Values of the Greens. The Australian Greens have a Charter which expands upon the Ten Key Values and includes "principles' which many might argue are policies, such as "an independent, non aligned foreign policy," "facilitating fair trading relationships" and "abolish Third World debt." But this should make decision making easier in that members subscribe to a basic set of principles.


There is no such requirement to join the NDP, for example, which may suggest that they have no basic principles. It used to be that people joining the Green Party of Canada were required to subscribe to the Ten Key Values. But this is no longer the case. Dropping this requirement must have been a constitutional decision, and I do not know when that happened. In any case, the GPC must be the only Green party in the world that currently does not require a committment to basic Green principles.


Agreeing to a basic set of principles does not mean that decision making will be easy. There are all kinds of ideological positions within Green parties: environmentalists, ecologists, eco-feminists, deep ecologists, social ecologists, bio-regionalists, eco-socialists, left greens, red greens, blue greens, etc. Indeed, across Europe is it common to find more than one Green party in each country; France currently has five.(2)

 

Consensus decision making


     One of the major differences between the Green parties and the mainstream parties has been the commitment to consensus decision making. From the beginning there has been strong opposition to making decisions by majority vote. The Green idea was to bring people together, to emphasize what they had in common and not to stress their differences, to build alliances among people. The original name of the West German Greens, for example, was Alternative Political Alliance - the Greens. Thus the article on consensus decision making in the constitution of the New Green Alliance in Saskatchewan was taken directly from the constitutions of the New Zealand and Australian Greens, where the Green parties originated.


The norm here is that every effort is to be made to reach a consensus. When there is no consensus after an extensive debate, where all views are heard, and a decision cannot be postponed, it is possible to make a decision if there is 75% support. Some Green constitutions permit amendment by as low as a two-thirds vote, the level included in the constitution of the New Green Alliance. If there is a strong division on an issue, then more work has to be done to clarify a general consensus position. That is the Green approach. (3)

 

Decision making in a federal state

 

There are not many countries today which have a federal state. The Green Party of the United States was formed in 2001. It is a federation of autonomous state Green Parties. The first goal in the bylaws of the GPUS is to build state parties where they do not exist. Representation to meetings of the federal organization generally follows the U.S. Electoral College system; this works as there are 50 states, and no state or region can dominate. Smaller states are granted additional representatives. Decision making includes gender balance, the consensus process, with a two-thirds vote required on important issues when there is no consensus.


The Australians have had state Green parties since 1972 but only created a federal structure in 1994. Given the universal Green principles of decentralization and participatory democracy, it is not surprising that the Australian Greens are a confederation of independent state parties. It is inconceivable that in large federal countries like the United States, Australia or Canada a Green party could have a centralized, unitary structure.


In Australia, as most people know, New South Wales is even more dominant in size and population than Ontario is in Canada. To give greater representation to the smaller states and territories, the Australian Greens emphasize equality among state-level organizations. Important committees, like the constitutional review panel, are elected with one delegate from each state and territory.


The National Council (the executive body) is composed of two delegates from each state or territorial party with one additional delegate for states or territories with more than 2,000 members. National Office Bearers have no vote unless they are delegates from a state or territory. Decisions are made by consensus.


The highest decision making organization is the annual National Conference. Each state has a minimum of four delegates with a maximum of ten, based on party membership. States select their own delegates according to their own constitutions. Decision making is by consensus.


The system of national decision making in Australia is a good model for Canada. The requirements of a commitment to the principles of the Green Charter, decentralization, participatory democracy and consensus decision making allow a delegate system to work and to be democratic.

 


 

How Greens are different from other parties  

 

 Greens                                                                 Mainstream Parties
 Consensus Decision Making                                   Majority Rules    
 Individual/Conscience Voting                                  Rigid/Party Line Voting
 Participatory Democracy                                        Representative Democracy
 Long Term Planning                                               Election Based Planning
 Living as Part of the Ecology                                  Controlling the Environment
 Feminist and Flexible                                              Paternalistic and Rigid
 Ecology the Basis of Life                                        Economy the Basis of Life
 Regional Economics Based on                                Centralist Colonial Economics based on
    Co-operation and Sustainability                               Competition and Waste
 

Source: Western Australian Greens  
 



The Structure of Green Parties:

 

The Decentralized Model of the German Greens

 

by John W. Warnock

September 2005

 

 Currently there is a major debate going on within the Green Party of Canada over the constitution and the basic structure of the organization. The new leadership of the party around Jim Harris is insisting on a highly centralized party with a large staff based in the head office in Ottawa. On the question of how to use the over $1 million coming from the federal government, most of the new leadership is insisting that all of this money must stay with the central office.

 

Other issues of concern to Greens across Canada is the almost complete focus of the new leadership on electoral politics. Few of the new leadership group seems to have had any experience in popular grass roots organizations or environmental organizations.  Currently, the Green Party of Canada is in a state of disarray. Many people have quit the party. Some are in the process of forming a new Green party, the Peace and Ecology Party. Now is the time for a re-examination of the basic questions. What is a Green party? Why should we exist? What form should the Green Party take?

 

Green parties were created around the industrialized world to offer a different policy from the existing parties, one with a major focus on ecology. But Greens also wanted to create a new party structure which was different from the traditional parties which stressed electoral politics, focus on the male leader, centralization, hierarchy, and competition. Greens wanted their new parties to stress participatory democracy, decentralization, equality for women as participants, and consensus decision making.

 

The model used in the formation of most of the new Green parties was the most successful party at that time, the German Greens. It would be useful at this time to revisit the original German Green structure. The experience of the German Greens had a profound influence on those who originally formed the Green Party of Canada in 1983.

 

I. Background 

 

The German Greens emerged in the late 1970s. The German constitution of 1956 outlawed the traditional German Communist Party (KPD). The Social Democratic Party (SPD) dominated the political left, but it was a very conservative, bureaucratic organization, and it had proven to be resistant to the new women's movement, the peace movement, and the environmental movement. The very extensive range of popular groups formed the "extra-parliamentary opposition."

 

 The German Greens (whose original name was Alliance of Alternatives - the Greens) was formed by a broad alliance of popular groups which included the peace movement, the movement against nuclear power, other environmental organizations, the women's movement, the student movement, Third World support groups, the alternative lifestyle movement, and various left groups. From the beginning they worked closely with the Alternative List, a formation of socialists and Marxists who rejected the Soviet model and were running candidates in local elections.

 

Around 1979 many of these socialists moved into the Green Party. The German Greens were known for the slogan: "Neither Left nor Right but Ahead." But this did not mean that they were adopting the European fascist slogan of the 1930s. They made it very clear that they opposed the existing capitalist system and at the same time rejected the alternative of the Soviet system. Both were deemed to be destructive of the environment, based on hierarchy and centralization of power, were anti-democratic, militaristic, and represented the worst of patriarchal politics.  

 

From the 1980 platform down to around 1992 the Greens were committed to ecosocialism, based on pluralism and diversity, sometimes running as the Rainbow Coalition in local elections in alliance with the Alternative List. They emphasized equality, the right of all to a basic national income, economic decentralization, and workers' ownership and control of enterprises. They were definitely influenced by the European left anarchist tradition.

 

As many people know, the German Greens had a major division right from the beginning. There were the "fundamentalists" who saw themselves as the representatives of the popular movements, critiquing the system and setting forth the radical alternative, who wanted no alliances with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The "realists" were less critical of capitalism and believed that the party should strive for alliances with the SPD in order to bargain for immediate environmental reforms. 

 

The German Greens were strongly against nationalism, fearing a return to the type of state that existed under the Nazi. Therefore, in the 1990 federal election the Greens were the only major party to oppose reunification with East Germany. Because of this stance, their support dropped, and under the German system of proportional representation they fell below the 5% level and lost all their seats in the national parliament. There was a major internal struggle over the period from 1991-1993, and the realist wing emerged victorious. This political shift was reflected in policy changes, most notably the party's acceptance of the dominance of the market in economics. They broke with the other European Greens to support the Maastricht Treaty, which embodied the free market principles we associate with the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
 .
 After the election in 1998 the German Greens joined in the so-called Red-Green Coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to form the federal government. The Coalition, and the Greens, were re-elected in 2002. In the September 2005 election the vote for the SPD and the Greens dropped, they lost their majority in the Bundestag, and at the time of writing, it is uncertain whether they will be in the government or the opposition. As part of this coalition government, the Greens were required to surrender some of their basic policies, most notably their opposition to militarism and support for the universal welfare state.  

 

But of equal importance has been the change in the structure of the German Green Party. With the realists taking control, the party structure was changed to make it more centralized. The new leadership constructed a "more professional" approach to elections and weakened links to the popular movements. Many from the fundamentalist wing of the party withdrew after 1992 and went back to working in the grassroots movements or joined other left parties.

 

What is summarized below is the basic structure of the party from its formation, when it was a decentralized party emphasizing links with the popular movements. As they stated in the days before 1994, the party "operates with one leg inside the legislative bodies and one inside the citizens' movements." It was this structure which had a major influence on the formation of the original Green Party of Canada.

 

II. Basic structure of the Green Party of Germany 

 

NOTE: it should be remembered that Germany is a federal state and has much in common with Canada, the United States and Australia. This structure is similar to that created earlier in New Zealand and Australia, which formed the basis for the constitution of the New Green Alliance/Green Party of Saskatchewan. The structure described below is for the party before the changes that came after the 1990 election.

 

(1) The Group. The base of the party is the group. These are local groups of members, which also can include Green activists who are not members of the party and don't want to be involved in electoral politics. Members pay monthly dues: 50% kept by the local organization, 25% going to the state organization, and 25% going to the central office. Groups are organized on a geographic basis but most often around special interests and issues. These are often called "working groups" like Third World Support groups. They commonly include non members.

 

(2) Municipal Groups.  Above the local group is the city quarter or city group, and in the rural areas, commonly the county group. The party is not organized along the lines of state-imposed electoral boundaries.

 

(3) Statewide organizations. A state assembly meets semi-annually and is based on a delegate system, where groups send one delegate for each 20 members. There is an elected state-wide steering committee. The state organization operates with a small elected executive committee (5 members). The Greens were committed to a collective leadership, rejecting the emphasis put on individual leaders by the mainstream parties.

 

(4) The federal party. The federal party has an annual assembly with delegates elected by local groups. There is a national steering committee of 40 elected for two years. Even after 1983 when it had members in the national legislature, and had some funding from the state, it maintained a small administrative staff with one general manager and eight paid staff. Federal funds from membership dues, one-half the salaries of elected legislators, and government funds provided the party went into the Oko-Fond, which were administered at the state level. A board of five, including a minimum of two representatives from the popular groups,  dispersed these funds to local activist organizations for popular campaigns.  To combat elitism, the party required the rotation of elected members of the Bundestag. Under the PR list system, the top elected numbers would serve for two years and then step down to be replaced by the next highest members of the party's electoral list, who would also serve a two year term.

 

(5) The issue of Gender parity. At all levels of the party there were women's groups and women's caucuses. The party established a goal of gender parity in all organizations. But this proved difficult to achieve as the strong German patriarchal tradition carried over into the Green party operations. Only one third of the original Greens elected to the federal parliament were women, in spite of the existence of the PR electoral system using the party list system, and there was at one time only one woman elected to the federal steering committee! Women active in the leadership of the Greens, including members of the federal parliament, regularly complained of sexism within the structures of the Green Party. Women's issues, like the right of all women to choose abortion, were given a low priority by the men in the party caucus in the Bundestag. Several books on the German Greens stress that in the grassroots organizations which originally  formed the party there was a very strong presence of women, and women were commonly and prominently in leadership roles. But when the Green movement crossed over into the system of parliamentary politics, with emphasis on competition and conflict, women either were pushed aside or withdrew. Within the German political party and electoral system, the Greens had by far the highest percentage of women in elective positions.

 

References: Capra, Fritjof and Charlene Spretnak. Green Politics: The Global Promise. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1984. 

Kitschelt, Herbert. The Logics of Party Formation: Ecological Politics in Belgium and West Germany. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989.  

Markovits, Andrei and Phillip Gorski. The German Left: Red, Green, and Beyond. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.  

Richardson, Dick and Chris Rootes, eds. The Green Challenge; The Development of Green Parties in Europe. London: Routledge, 1995.  

Tad Shull. Redefining Red and Green; Ideology and Strategy in European Political Ecology. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.
 



The Evolution of Green Parties

 

byJohn W. Warnock
Canadian Dimension Magazine
November-December 2004.  

 

Extract: 

 

The Green movement entered the electoral area in the early 1970s with the formation of the Australian United Tasmanian Group, the New Zealand Values Party, and the Ecology Party in Great Britain. These parties were ecologist, biocentric rather than anthropocentric. Environmentalists, those interested in fine tuning the capitalist system, chose to work within the established parties and to pressure governments.


Political parties began to proliferate in the 1980s following the pattern of the successful West German Greens (officially known as The Alliance of Alternatives - the Greens). It was a coalition of environmentalists, anti-nuclear activists, the women's movement, peace activists, gay rights supporters, students, and socialists and Marxists who rejected the Soviet system. They revived the slogan "neither left nor right but ahead," which signified their opposition to the capitalist system and the Soviet model of socialism, both of which were seen to be committed to endless industrial growth and were authoritarian and patriarchal.
   
Green Party principles


The German Greens developed the Four Pillars of the Green movement which are now the core values of Green parties around the world: ecology, grassroots democracy, social justice, and non-violence. There were six additional principles added which formed the Ten Key Values of Green Parties. Most important here was the commitment to feminism and the creation of a post-patriarchal society. The Green parties were to be different, stressing decentralization, local control, extra parliamentary activities through local groups, and decision making by consensus. There has been an historic resistance to the "grey politics" of the old parties like the Tories, the Liberals and the NDP which stress the glorious male leader.


A major change occurred in the Green parties following the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989 and the virtual disappearance of the Communist parties in the industrialized world. The social democratic and labour parties all moved to the right, continued their support for U.S. led militarism, embraced the policies of neoliberalism pushed by the international capitalist class, and steadily reduced their commitment to the welfare state. As the social democrats embraced the policies of the new "free trade" regime, the Green parties moved to the left. These policies of "globalization" were all contrary to the four core Green values. The Green movement also became a major force  participating in the World Social Forum. Green parties are usually on the political left


On the political spectrum today the Green parties in the industrialized world are almost all on the political left, to the left of the social democratic and labour parties. As Tad Shull points out in Redefining Red and Green; Ideology and Strategy in European Political Ecology, around 85 percent of Green supporters in Europe are from the left and otherwise support the social democrats, the new left party or the reformed communist parties. This is particularly true in the Nordic countries (the Nordic Green Left), like the Left Green Alliance in Iceland, the Unity List-Red Greens in Denmark or Green Links - Green Left in the Netherlands. In Portugal the Ecological Green Party participates in a formal electoral alliance with the Portuguese Communist Party as the United Democratic Bloc. In France and Italy the Greens are part of broader left electoral alliances. In New Zealand and Australia the Greens are the parliamentary left opposition, to the left of the Labour parties. The Green Party of the United States is far to the left of the Democrats and Republicans, and its platform is well to the left of Canada's New Democratic Party.


The Green Party of Canada, a relatively small and diverse party, does not seem to have gone through the process of political adjustment following the collapse of the Soviet regimes. But its policy before the 2004 election, and the leadership of ex-Tory Jim Harris, called for Canada to withdraw from all military alliances and to follow a non-aligned foreign policy, opposition to free trade agreements like NAFTA, and ending the exploitation of Third World countries. Greens were prominent in the popular mobilization in opposition to the U.S. war against Afghanistan and Iraq, but not the new federal leadership.


In the August 2004 vote for party officers, only one quarter of the Green Party of Canada membership actually participated in the mail-in vote. Of these, only 55% supported Jim Harris for leader. A movement has started to take back control of the party from the "blue-greens." The collapse of the support for the Greens in B.C. in the 2004 federal election was an indication that the move to the right will not increase electoral support. It was here that the critique of the new Green policy by Jack Layton and the federal NDP was most widely publicized.


The new leadership core has proposed far reaching changes to the constitution of the GPC which run contrary to the Green traditions of participatory democracy, decentralization, and consensus decision making. They have rejected a federal structure, the system used by the U.S. and Australian Greens. It is hard to believe that the party membership will approve a system with centralized control in Ontario, no special status for Quebec, and which ignores the Aboriginal community. John W. Warnock is a member of the CD editorial collective and has twice been a candidate for the New Green Alliance in the inner city riding of Regina Elphinstone in Saskatchewan elections.

 


 

What is a Green Taxation Policy?

 

by John W. Warnock
The Weaver, Vol. 8, Issue 3,

Fall 2006.

 

The mass media has characterized the Greens as a single issue party, concerned only with environmental issues. The Green Party of Canada has been criticized for having only a sketchy and amateurish policy on taxation and fiscal policy. This must be addressed.


The Green Party of Saskatchewan has formally endorsed the Saskatchewan Alternative Provincial Budget, prepared by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Saskatchewan Division. It can be accessed from the federal CCPA website under Saskatchewan Office Publications: http://www.policyalternatives.ca.


Around the world Green parties have formulated tax policy within the framework of the four pillars of the international Green movement. These include ecological wisdom and social justice. Social justice principles include providing equal access for all to food, shelter, clothing, education, health care and other social necessities. It also includes a commitment to greater economic and social equality within countries and between countries. Promoting ecological wisdom has included government policies and taxation systems which encourage conservation and penalize waste.


Within this broad outline there are progressive and regressive taxation measures. Progressive taxation policies, like those supported by CCPA-SK, are based on a citizen's ability to pay. A graduated income tax, established after a long struggle by working people, is a good example of a progressive tax. The higher the individual's income, the higher the rate of taxes that are paid. This is a common tax found throughout the advanced, industrialized world. A regressive tax is one that does not take into account a person's ability to pay. Flat consumption taxes like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) are regressive taxes. Users fees are regressive taxes. Local property taxes are regressive since they do not take into account the income or wealth of the property owner and fall heaviest on those in the lowest income brackets. Regressive taxes are favoured by those with wealth and those who are high income earners.


The first Green Party in the world was founded in Tasmania, and the Green Party of Australia is one of the most developed parties. Over the years they have produced a comprehensive taxation and fiscal policy. We can look to them as an example of a well developed Green Party policy. The full text of their tax and fiscal policies can be found on their web site: http://www.greens.org.au/policies/economics.


The Australian Greens state they "aim to achieve social equity and environmental sustainability" and that "this can be carried out by using tax revenue to finance reforms and by using taxation as a steering instrument." Much of their policy is directed at the regressive taxation policies adopted by recent Labour and National party governments. This parallels the situation we face in Canada and Saskatchewan.


Our Aussie colleagues "aim for a tax policy that encourages a fair distribution of national income and wealth" which "reduces taxes on labour and increases taxes on resource use and pollution." They are strongly committed to a progressive taxation system. Thus they pledge to make the personal income tax system more progressive by restoring taxes on those in the higher income brackets and reducing tax breaks for high income earners. They oppose a goods and services tax. They are pledged to eliminate the lower taxation rate on capital gains from investments. They support the re-introduction of an inheritance tax on estates. They also propose to reinstate the traditional corporation tax, repealing the cuts that were made in 2001-2.


This part of the Green tax system is devoted to the goal of promoting social justice. The remainder of their policy direction is concerned with promoting ecological sustainability. The Aussie Greens would introduce a series of eco-taxes and green levies, including tax incentives to encourage waste minimizing technologies. They propose a carbon tax, provided that it comes with compensation for lower income earners to counter its regressive impacts. They propose increases in resource-based taxes "while remaining committed to progressive income and wealth-based taxes." They will remove all subsidies to ecologically damaging activities.


At one time the Australian Greens proposed a progressive carbon tax. The tax would not be used to increase government revenues. All revenues collected through this tax would be redistributed equally to all Australian citizens through a direct payment. In effect, this Green tax  was also a wealth re-distribution proposal. It is somewhat similar to the Alaskan system, where 50 percent of all royalties from oil and gas are paid into a Heritage Fund, and the profits from this fund are paid out annually as equal grants to every Alaskan citizen.


The Australian Green have shown how to develop a progressive tax system based on ability to pay and combine this with a tax system that promotes sustainable practices.
 


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