Ethnic media and the environmental challenge: How Green is May’s valley?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, centre, is arrested by RCMP officers after joining protesters outside Kinder Morgan’s facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, March 23, 2018. Photograph By DARRYL DYCK, The Canadian Press

Back in December 2018, National Post’s John Ivison wondered whether really, finally, truly, 2019 could be the year Elizabeth May’s Green Party broke through, saying it is an appeal that might find a sympathetic audience. On the other hand, he said the Greens could just as easily pass from rising hopes to has-beens.

As we approach the final run nine months later, we looked for evidence of the rise of the Green Party in the ethnic media. In trying to provide a snapshot of coverage on Elizabeth May and the Green Party, we used word counts in a compilation of more than 650 stories collected from ethnic media sources that dealt with the 2019 federal election.

The answer to the headline question is that while 27% of respondents to a recent national poll consider environmental issues to be key to their voting decisions, reflected by more than 200 mentions of the environment, climate change and global warming in our story collection, Elizabeth May was mentioned fewer than thirty times.

In total, and related to all issues, Andrew Scheer’s name appeared more than 560 times, Justin Trudeau’s more than 630, and Maxime Bernier had 208 mentions. Jagmeet Singh with 80 topped Elizabeth May’s mentions, even though the polls suggest she has double the percentage of support at 14%.

What is it about the Green Party (mentioned a bare 80 times, against 770 for the Conservatives, 560 for the Liberals, 120 for the PPC and 130 for the NDP) and its message that seems to have failed to capture the imagination of the ethnic media?

After a brief and surprised flurry of interest after the Nanaimo-Ladysmith win, May and the Greens slid off the map, to become a sidebar mention in other issues – unfortunately few of them related to Green Party policies and positions, and even fewer connecting with key immigrant community concerns.

At least 24 of the May mentions were related to the Pierre Nantel move to the Party, while others were side mentions in the Bernier TV debate dispute, cameo appearances in the Vancouver Pride Parade condemnation of Scheer’s absence, and to protest Elections Canada’s warning to environmentalist groups.

In contrast, immigration and immigrants were mentioned more than 300 times in our story collection, none of them in conjunction with May’s name. Whatever the Green echo chamber, the ethnic media and its issues do not seem to be part of the conversation, and that is bad for both sides.

In fact, after brief mentions in August on Fairchild TV BC’s daily Cantonese news (07/08/2019) of Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s plan to help workers in the gas and oil sector transition to a renewable energy economy, called Mission: Possible, which was released in May, there has been little if any coverage of the Green Party platform even on this subject.

It will be interesting to see if the October 3 environmental issues debate in 117 ridings scheduled for October 3 by GreenPAC, a non-partisan organization dedicated to electing environmentalist candidates (Sing Tao Vancouver, 10/08/2019, Chinese), will attract ethnic media attention. It may just take an invitation.

Accompagné de la chef Elizabeth May, Pierre Nantel a confirmé lundi qu’il portera les couleurs du Parti vert et se présentera dans Longueuil–Saint-Hubert. Photo: Valérian Mazataud Le Devoir

One riding that might deserve special attention from Quebec’s close to a hundred multilingual media outlets is Longueuil–Saint-Hubert, as Pierre Nantel, the former NDP MP, becomes the Green Party candidate for a riding with a growing African, Arab and Latino population. While French is the predominant language, with English only at 4%, Spanish claims 2% of speakers. It is a riding in which the Greens had a bare 3% in the 2015 election, with Liberals and NDP running neck to neck at ten times that number, the NDP winning by a bare percentage point, and the Bloc a close third. It looks like every vote will count. Of the riding’s population just over a hundred thousand, 17% claim visible minority status, with almost 30% of recent immigration coming from Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Algeria in Central Africa and Haiti.

Shortly after being booted from the NDP, Nantel tweeted in French that his priorities remain the same: Quebec and the climate. The Green Party has had a banner year in both fundraising and polling, fueling speculation about a strong performance by the party in the fall election, reports the Canadian Punjabi Post Daily (Toronto, 20/08/2019). He said he believes Green Party leader Elizabeth May is the only federal leader willing to truly tackle climate issues. “There are two choices: the status quo with the Liberals and the Conservatives or there’s the alternative. And I think factually, for no matter who is looking at the climate situation, the person who embodies that, it’s obviously Ms. May” (The Canadian Parvasi Daily – Mississauga, 19/08/2019).

We hope the message reaches multilingual media audiences.

(~870 words, Andres Machalski, President, MIREMS Ltd., with files from


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