Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Can Greens breakthrough in the provinces?

On May 2nd, the Green Party of Canada made a historic breakthrough by electing its first MP, Leader Elizabeth May, to the House of Commons. Could a similar surprise occur this fall in the provinces?

Of the five provincial elections being held in October and November, the Ontario Greens stand the best chance of pulling off an upset, though they still have a long way to go.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

The buzz around a possible victory made Elizabeth May's breakthrough in Saanich - Gulf Islands a surprise, but an expected surprise (if such a thing exists). There does not seem to be that same kind of buzz in any of the provinces, and in truth only the Ontario Greens are a real factor in the five provincial elections this fall.

I have often wondered, though, why Green support in Ontario is so regional. Both at the provincial and federal levels, the Greens do best in the area stretching from Guelph to the Bruce Peninsula. Never having been to the area, I can't speak to its character. What is it about this part of the province (and country) that makes it more favourable to the Greens than elsewhere?

I imagine that the best shot of a provincial Green being elected is in British Columbia, thanks to Ms. May's breakthrough. The party ended up with 8.2% in the 2009 election, so there is a base of support in the province. However, when that next election will take place seems to be up in the air. It is supposed to take place in 2013, but when Christy Clark became leader of the BC Liberals this past spring talk was of a fall election. Depending on the media report, whether or not British Columbians will be going to the polls sooner rather than later changes each day.

I am presently working on the Manitoba projection model, and have run into the problem of the province's electoral re-districting. Unlike Elections Canada, Elections Manitoba does not breakdown the new ridings by their percentages of residents who lived in the old ridings. I am still puzzling over how to model for the new districts when so little information seems to be available.


  1. Elizabeth May benefited from name recognition. The Ontario Greens are dead in the water. I don't expect them to do very well. They will win some support in the Parry Sound-Owen Sound-Caledon triangle, but that's it.

    I ran into the same problem with Manitoba when I did my analysis. It's too bad that Elections Manitoba doesn't have the redistributed results. You'll just have to do a lot of guess work.

  2. I have a feeling the Greens will face problems in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound this go 'round.

    Their last candidate, Shane Jolley, who is locally popular, has decided to run as an independent against "the party system." They now have some no-name candidate nominated in his stead, sort of what they had in Guelph as well just this past May. They had a good candidate in 2008, he didn't run again, and their vote dropped majorly.

  3. The only Province (or Territory) I can see the Greens winning a seat in is the Yukon, and even then only if they find a strong local candidate. ~Teddy from Riding by Riding.

  4. In addition, if you can find some poll by poll results from Manitoba, I could be combined to do the gruntwork to convert the data. ~Teddy

  5. I can't speak for other provinces, but in Ontario it seems highly unlikely that the Mike Schreiner led Green Party will have any impact. Elizabeth May has been a household name in Canada, which helps her to some extent in federal elections.

    The Ontario Greens garnered an impressive 8% of the popular vote in 2007. But that is more likely a result of centrist and swing voters being disappointed by Dalton McGuinty and John Tory.

    - Maple

  6. Hm. Well, a large part of that area is cottage country; I guess that could be part of the reason. I think that short-term momentum is against the Greens at this point, though long-term trends are probably for them, if only because long-term economics are on their side (the oil's got to run out eventually).

    I'm not sure if anyone's made the connection, but I see two major events being in large part responsible for the sharp rise and subsequent fall in overall Green support over the past several years. The first is Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" (2006), which played in a lot of Canadian theatres and I think significantly helped along an already-existing slow trend of rising Green support. And the second is the Climategate scandal of 2009, which was soon followed by withdrawal of green projects and political defeats for those advocating for them, as well as a sharp decrease in overall Green Party support in Canada (though also helped along by their decision to focus most resources on winning one seat). I mean, even May who won her seat seemed to spend most of her time talking not about green issues but about democracy and decorum.

    Just personally, I have to say that I think the Ontario Greens' old leader De Jong came off looking better on the screen from the interviews I've seen - more down-to-earth and practical. Schreiner seems to speak more like a politician or salesman; more slick, uses catchphrases, fake smiles at the camera, etc. Harder to take seriously. Maybe it's just me. He has a nice resume, though.

  7. Esn, I think the explanation is a bit simpler than that. Green support has generally been going up since 2000 when they started running candidates in all 308 ridings, even with an almost anonymous leader. Elizabeth May brought the party a bit more press attention because she was already a well-known activist and so with more coverage came more votes.

    In 2011, the Greens decided not to run a national campaign and concentrate on getting Elizabeth May elected. Less press coverage meant fewer votes.

  8. Hey, Teddy from above. Some interesting notes. Federally Whitehorse voted Liberal 35% to Conservative 31%, but Rural Yukon voted Conservative 37% to Liberal 30%. The Greens did better in Whitehorse 20% than out of it 17%.

    I'm curious to see if this will translate at all to the coming election there.


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