Running for Office or to Change Consciousness?

                    There was a federal election in Canada on January 23, 2006. I ran for the Green Party of Canada
                in the riding of Central Nova, which is located in northeastern Nova Scotia.


                    Central Nova is a mainly rural riding with a strong very Scottish heritage. There is an industrial area
                around New Glasgow, its largest city, and a university in Antigonish, St. Francis Xavier, with a strong
                Catholic tradition. The population numbers over 73,000. Peter MacKay, the deputy leader of the
                Conservative Party, is the incumbent. The New Democratic Party (NDP) had a woman candidate,
                Alexis MacDonald, who had also run in the last election and had come in second. There were also
                a Liberal candidate, Dan Walsh, and a candidate for the Marxist Leninist Party, Alan Bezanson.

                    Across the country the overall Green Party vote seems to have increased by over 83,000 in this
                election, as shown below:
                Liberals                   -10.1%
                Conservatives         +33.6%
                NDP                      +21.8%
                Bloc  Quebecois       -7.6%
                Green Party            +14.4%

                    The voter turn-out in our Central Nova riding was approximately 73 percent of the electorate, as
                compared to 61.7 percent in 2004. Every party's vote increased, except the Greens. (The ML Party
                did not previously run.) We polled 671 votes - 1.6% of the total votes in our riding. This was 344
                votes less than that gained by the previous candidate, who received 1015 votes in 2004. That
                candidate led a very low key campaign, whereas I believe our small group was very active. Also,
                I have lived in this area for over 20 years, and have been very involved in several environmental

                So how to explain the low vote in our riding?

                Our campaign

                    We (there were three of us) ran a deep green campaign aimed at capturing consciousness, not votes,
                under the campaign slogan "Make Peace With Nature - Vote Green". I raised the values and ideas
                which we believe a deep green party should embody, plus what I saw as crucial ecological issues in
                Central Nova. Where in public discussions I disagreed with a GP Platform position, e.g. on carbon
                emissions trading, or did not believe that the Platform went far enough, e.g. the energy policy, I made
                the different positions clear.

                    There were two central themes to the material we put out and in the talks and interviews I gave.
                These themes were:
                -  I stated the necessity to move away from looking at Nature in a human-centered manner, so that
                other species of animals and plants are not just seen as "resources" for industrial consumption. I identified
                this non-human centered way of looking at Nature, as the philosophy of deep ecology. I said it was the
                key element, necessary to live sustainably on our planet. This means all of us have to come into a new
                relationship with the natural world. We need to see our personal identities as including the natural world.
                At the present time, when we make a living economically, we destroy the natural world in the process, as
                in industrial forestry, industrial fishery and industrial agriculture.

                - I discussed how our industrial capitalist economy, based on never ending growth and increasing
                consumerism, is not ecologically sustainable, and that we live in a finite world, which we must respect
                for long term survival. We are running out of oil and natural gas -- there is the issue whether we may
                already have reached "peak oil" and "peak gas" levels. Canada's so-called energy policy is basically
                geared to supplying the US market. (This accounts for two thirds of current oil and gas extraction.)
                We are locked into this through our NAFTA membership. Our ecological footprint is too large --
                the industrial lifestyle sought by the six and a half billion people living on this planet is not achievable
                for all, even if we disregard the interests of other forms of life. The huge growth in population has been
                based on the fossil fuel economy, fed by industrial agriculture, and is not sustainable in the long term.
                As the global fossil fuel-based economy is coming to an end, we will have to develop a more local
                economy. Climate change is now underway, and there is no serious attempt to try and halt, let alone
                reverse, the process. These are matters of life and death, not only for the human species but for all
                the other species which should be able to share this planet with us on a basis of equality.

                    I believe that, because of the election, these basic ideas are being more widely discussed in Central

                    We issued seven press releases, which were reported on fairly well by two out of the three main
                newspapers in our riding and by the local radio stations. These releases covered:
                (1) Introducing myself;
                (2) Opposing industrial forestry and spraying;
                (3) A call for marine protected areas and a ban on inshore seismic testing;
                (4)  A call to change Canada' s energy policy and to oppose LNG terminals in the Maritimes;
                (5) Public health should be seen as a component of ecosystem health;
                (6) Some differences between the Green Party and the NDP and why one should vote Green; and
                (7) The necessity for free Earth-centered, socially aware education.

                    I attended the four all-candidates debates. One was at a local regional high school in New Glasgow,
                Pictou County, with about three hundred grade twelve students. Three were community based meetings -
                one in  Pictou County (Stellarton) with several hundred people; one at the university in the riding
                (Antigonish) with over 400 people; and a smaller meeting with under a hundred people in a community
                on the Eastern Shore (Moser River). There were a number of interviews by radio and print media, and
                quite a few internet queries which came out of our electoral work.

                    The Green Party leaflet "Yep. We're a one-issue party" and the printed version of the 2006
                Election Platform only came towards the end of the campaign and much too late. We decided the
                leaflet was so pathetic and dumbed down, that we did not want to distribute it. (What a waste of
                money sending such a leaflet out to all the ridings!) We rushed to produce our own leaflet
                "Make Peace With Nature - Vote Green", based on the press releases we issued. We had
                3,000 printed, and distributed 2,500 through the post office at communities we targeted. The
                rest we gave out mainly at two of the all-candidates meetings.

                    Two further topics I discussed, were on the military and on seals. I raised the issue of the growing
                militarization of Canadian society and its integration into the orbit of the US military, and that I felt the
                Green Party should be calling for the withdrawal of Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan and
                disengagement from Haiti. I used a quote from the Canadian red Tory philosopher George Grant,
                which I felt was specially appropriate against the neo-conservative incumbent Peter MacKay. In his
                wonderful book Lament For A Nation, Grant wrote: "Of all the aspects of our society, the
                 military is the most directly an errand boy for the Americans."

                    I also brought up my opposition to the killing of grey and harbour seals in the Maritimes by those
                connected to the fishing industry, and to the annual commercial slaughter of harp and hooded seals.
                In two different newspapers, in response to a question as to what I would do first, if I could pass
                one bill in the House of Commons, I said it would be to end the annual so-called seal hunt. I have
                always believed that seal issues show in Greens, environmentalists, and others, a crucial test of the
                ecocentric depth of environmental consciousness. Conflicts over seal issues are fundamental conflicts
                over basic value systems, in how we are going to relate to the natural world. (See for background,
                Green Web bulletin #74 "Deep Ecology and Animals". It is a paper given at the "Representing
conference, at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, in November of 2003. It
                outlines the deep ecology approach to animals and contrasts this with an animal liberation perspective.
                The paper covers an outline of deep ecology, seals, aboriginal hunting in parks and protected areas,
                Earth spirituality, and activism.)

                    What happened in the Central Nova riding for the green vote to fall? I believe one reason was
                strategic voting, because the NDP seemed to believe they could defeat the Conservative candidate
                and win the seat. Quite a number of people told us their heart was with the Green Party, but that
                they would vote NDP because they believed they could win. In other words, the Left-Right
                distinction was more important for them than the Nature first (deep ecology) distinction. It seems
                that even for many Green Party supporters the Left-Right distinction, in a conflict situation,
                overrode their deep ecology sentiment. This points to the need to strengthen deep ecology
                consciousness (not mentioned in the 2006 Election Platform) among Green Party members
                and supporters. Given the NDP-Conservative polarizing nature of the local campaign, hopefully
                those who did vote for the Green Party, grasped at a deeper level the two themes which we
                pursued, and gave them their support.

                    I found this campaign to be intellectually and emotionally stimulating. I would like to thank
                my campaign manager (Mark) and my official agent (Helga) for their support, which made
                possible the theoretical work I was able to carry  out. The press releases we issued are
                available on our web site at

                For the Earth,
                David Orton
                2006 Green Party candidate in Central Nova
                January 29, 2006

                P.S. There were two spin-offs from our electoral work. The New Glasgow Public Library is
                organizing an evening discussion "Green Movement Information Session" on February 8th.
                Their web site states "David Orton, national spokesperson for Deep Ecology for the Green
                Party of Canada, will lead an introductory discussion on the Green Movement and the
                tenets of the Deep Ecology movement." They are doing print and radio publicity for this.
                The event will be covered by the community TV station. This came about, apparently, because
                one of the librarians liked what she heard at one of the all-candidates  meetings.
                Also, the student "Green Council" at Saint Francis Xavier University has invited me to give an
                evening public lecture on "Deep ecology and the green movement" on March 9th.

                To make contact, to receive the Green Web Literature List or to share
            information, please e-mail us or write to us at:

               Green Web, R.R. #3, Saltsprings, Nova Scotia, Canada, BOK 1PO

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    Last updated: January 29, 2006