Friday, October 14, 2011

Greens take a hit provincially

This year has been a bit of a mixed bag for the Green Party.

On the one hand, they elected their first Member of Parliament when Elizabeth May beat Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands on May 2.

On the other hand, the party lost votes federally and took a hit in this fall’s provincial elections. 

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

How might the Greens do in Saskatchewan? According to my latest projection from early September, they stand to take about 4% of the vote in the November 7 election. That would be an increase on the 2% they took in the 2007 election, but I imagine that number may be driven down as the campaign goes on - assuming we get some polls out of the province.

One of the things the Greens may be able to do in Saskatchewan is supplant the Liberals for third. The Greens are already a third-place party in Prince Edward Island and were in British Columbia in 2009. I imagine, though, they will lose that spot in BC due to the support of John Cummins' BC Conservatives.

People still care about the environment, but in a time of economic uncertainty it takes a bit of a back seat. When confronted with two product choices of equal cost, people will always take the greener one. But when they aren't the same price, most people will take the cheaper one. This is, undoubtedly, compounded in a time like this. The Greens may recover in better times and in 2015 Elizabeth May might be able to use her seat as a platform to win a second or a third, but I wonder if the Greens peaked in the federal and provincial elections between 2007 and 2009.


  1. The Green Party is dead and i fully expect Elizabeth May to seek the federal Liberal leadership. They were a cute fad that lasted for about a year and now they are back to competing with the Libertarians for who is the pre-eminent fringe party in Canada

  2. The Green Party has suffered nationally under the leadership of Elizabeth May. Yes, she won her seat,but the party did not put the resources in to organize strong campaigns in the last federal election in several dozen more ridings. The Greens have no obvious second or third seats.

    Provincially the Greens have really only ever been any sort of a force in BC and Ontario. In both provinces the Greens have not focused enough energy on getting people elected at the local level first and then building on the provincial level. The recent Ontario election for the Greens was a disaster for them. They went from 354,897 votes in 2007 to only 126,567 this time, almost the same as what they received in 2003.

    In BC the Greens look like they will be pushed from being the number 3 to party to number 4 with the rise of the BC Conservatives. On the other hand, it seems likely about a dozen Greens will be elected to local councils this fall, though I do not think any of them as Green on the ballot.

  3. "People still care about the environment". But therein lies the rub. Enough people care about the environment - one way or another - to make it a significant part of any party's platform. In Ontario, environmental issues were very, very close to the heart of the campaign. But it wasn't because of Mike Schreiner. It was the three 'main' party leaders debating their approach to the environment and to energy and taxation. It was so important, I would argue, that it squeezed the Green party out of consideration.

    They make sense as a party mainly when (a) the environment is important, and (b) the 'main' parties are ignoring it.

  4. The Ontario Green Party got obliterated largely for one reason: the Liberals essentially adopted the Green Party's platform. On every major policy point, the Greens and the Liberals take the same position. So it shouldn't have been a surprise that roughly half of the Green Party vote defected to the Liberals.

  5. It took 2-3 elections for the Greens to get May elected. I suspect a few by elections with decent candidates will help add some more vigour to their efforts and that in 4 years they will take a serious run at getting a second MP somewhere.

    More importantly, they will be in the federal debate next time. As both the NDP and the Liberal leaders will be new, and with the prospect of the Tories vilifying either of them for months on end before then, I suspect non-Tory supporters will be more open to new ideas.

    That and the Greens could run their campaigns of the future on fumes - their donor base though small is very committed.

  6. Gotta agree with DL for once.

    The Greens are a lost cause and will slowly disappear as their members are absorbed by the mainstream parties.

  7. Goaltender Interference14 October, 2011 21:37

    I must disagree. The largest parties are extremely vulnerable to shifts in party loyalty leading to sudden rises in the small parties. ADQ lurched from 1 to 4 members during elections before it became official opposition in Quebec. Wildrose and BC Conservatives have shown how plausible it is to surpass some of the traditional opposition parties in BC and Alberta.

    No small party is as organized or well-known as the Greens and sooner or later they will break through somewhere.

    P.S. I find it funny to read people saying that the Greens have suffered under Elizabeth May. Can anyone even name a Green Party leader prior to May? Under May, the Greens have gone from over performing by getting more than 1% of the vote to underperforming by getting less than 5%.

  8. GI

    Tell me what the Greens offer other than some environment issues. That's all !!

    They started in Europe and there are known for their strong Conservative vision outside the environment issue.

    Since they basically subscribe to the same thing here why would you think they would gain any traction against the CPC or other strong right wing groups? Ain't gonna happen.

    As DL says they are toast !!

  9. I don't think it makes sense to combine the provincial and federal results and talk about the "Green Party" generally. It makes sense to vote Green only when they offer something significantly different from the other parties. As someone has already pointed out, McGuinty made environmental issues a large part of his campaign, so there wasn't much reason to vote Green--and I say this even though I actually liked my Green candidate more than my Liberal candidate. On the other hand, I did vote Green in the previous Ontario election because they had a very different position on the key issue of the campaign: they were the only ones in favour of eliminating public funding for Catholic school boards.

    Federally, it's a completely different story. The Liberals are flailing and don't have a clear position on many issues. I voted Liberal under Dion, but not under Ignatieff, and I'm not sure they'll be able to get their act together any time soon. On the other hand, Elizabeth May is always quick to express a consistent and principled opinion on various issues--she immediately spoke out against prorogation, for example, while the other parties waffled for a few days to see how the popular mood swung.

    Basically, there are different issues at play in every campaign; different party leaders are more or less effective, and people respond to them differently. It's not only a matter of whether the environment is the top priority or not--even as someone who often votes Green, I wouldn't say that's my top concern.


  10. "People still care about the environment, but in a time of economic uncertainty it takes a bit of a back seat. When confronted with two product choices of equal cost, people will always take the greener one."

    This summing up of green ideals into this single consumption point of all things is actually pretty ironic.

  11. I have to disagree with Peter when he says

    "Tell me what the Greens offer other than some environment issues. That's all !! "

    Reminds me of what some people say about the NDP...."tell me what the NDP stands for other then unions?"

    or the Tories "corporations" or the Liberals "being in power"

    Although the Greens will always be known as the party of the environment, they are slowly developing awareness within Canadians that the Greens stand for more then just that topic. It is wishful thinking to believe that they are gone for good.

    It took Jack Layton a decade and a specific situation to get the NDP into opposition territory. Give the Greens at least a decade to see where they will go.

    I can tell you this though, there is a hunger for somebody to be different.

  12. The Green vote in Canada has always been a protest vote. Federally, the Greens started to get popular in 2004 election. This is the first election after the PCs merged with the Alliance and this was also the start of the Liberal decline. In Ontario, the Greens were very strong in 2007, especially in rural Ontario. I believe many of these voters wanted to vote for PC until the faith based schools controversy then shifted Green.

    The Canadian Greens are also more centrist compared to their left-wing European counterparts, which probably made them more appealable to former Liberal and PC voters.

    Green politics is also popular among young people. If the 18-24 demographic were the only ones to vote, then the Greens would be an important player in Ottawa.

    The biggest threat to the Green Party is the NDP. Federally, the NDP has always been an overgrown protest party. Even now their biggest challenge is to start looking like a government-in-waiting. The NDP and Greens are both popular with voters that look for an "outsider" or "idealist" party. Now that the NDP seems electable federally, people may switch their votes to the NDP.

    While I am a strong supporter of environmental issues, I believe the Green Party should flourish in a FPTP system. The environment is not a left-wing or right-wing issue, but it seems like Blue Tories like Stephen Harper or Tim Hudak simply do not take environmental issues as a priority. This is an advantage to the Liberals, who can champion business-friendly environmental ideas.

    - Maple

  13. "I can tell you this though, there is a hunger for somebody to be different. "

    Well Not That Jack you are partially correct if we are to accept the Occupy Wall Street protests current,

    But that different is clearly NOT the Greens !! Even in their European home they are losing strength !! As to ALL the current parties out there. There is appearing a desperate desire for something different and which actually cares about the people. Again it ain't the Greens !!

  14. The green party has some pretty interesting sound ideas on the economy. The green economy unlike the other 3 parties in Canada is about efficiency. It is simply 'inefficient' to burn garbage! Recycle. It is 'inefficient' to travel by car. Reduce.Because there is only one 'land', it is both 'inefficient' to pollute that 'land' and costly to undue and to pay for the damage created by 'inefficiencies. Reuse. That is why the greens are seen to be fiscally 'conservative'. That is why I am green. There is money to be made by any economy that reduces, reuses and recycles efficiently.

  15. The point often missed in the analysis of Green support is that federal virtually doubled for the Greens when they were included in the federal televised debate (2008). When they were excluded in 2011, popular support was cut in half again.

    This exclusion sends a message to voters and to the rest of the media that the Green voice can be excluded, that is it not significant. Voters then react accordingly. This effect rippled through the recent provincial elections.

    The peculiar thing that happens next is that the drop in popular vote is perceived as reflecting negative sentiment towards the Greens, rather than the reflection of distorted media coverage.

    If the Green voice was heard, then other parties would embrace more sustainable policies, but they find it easier to conspire to eliminate the voice. If the other parties believed in honest debate and the elimination of preventable distortions in the system, they would insist on Green participation in the debates. It is unlikely that they will, though, as it will cost them some votes.

  16. People might be interested in some quick calculations that I ran on the counterfactual of what the results might have been if the Green party vote had not collapsed from 8 to 3 percent and thus robbing the Liberals and NDP of some votes:

  17. K, you Green Bashers,
    Even if you can't see a global environmental disaster coming doesn't mean it's not coming. Just wait until our present 'majority' conservatives ( representing less than 20% of Canadians) totally destroys what they can of our environmental monitoring. Then you will see just how environment affects jobs and the economy. Then we will all see the pendulum swing the other way...

  18. Anon 19:24

    Most of us know that the current Govt's of both Canada and the USA are environment disasters.

    However !! The Green party is not even on the horizon of this!! When your support is less than 10% of the public, considerably less currently, you have NO status in the discussion and in fact are an impediment to the discussion !!

  19. Jim Johnson,

    Your debate exclusion theory doesn't hold water provincially. In Ontario the Greens have never been included, and yet still had their support crater.

  20. In this last federal election everyone took on the green look. There is only one Green federal party, provincial Green as well as municipal Green, from bottom up not going green from top to bottom and forgetting what has happened to this planet in between.It is hard to think that all the other parties have the environment first on their agenda looking back and ahead at their wishful empty thinking and lets not be fool by empty mind.

  21. The common comment in the field in 2011 was that without this wild orange surge, the Greens would have tripled their votes or more. Consider the messy field of play: the media shut down coverage of Elizabeth May pre-election day, while polarizing the NDP surge as either a passionate reason to destroy Harper and vote NDP, or as a passionate, mindless reason to be paranoid and shut down the NDP and vote Conservative. Voters who don't pay attention year-round were often taken in by that nonsense, and those who are active participants in democracy weren't, and saw it as politicized media BS.

    The Green Party didn't betray their supporters and throw sand, they projected their consistent, clear values and policies, focused their efforts and with Elizabeth May as an MP, the "Green" effect begins as Canadians wake up to the vital, constructive new option they have.

    I've got to say that most of the corporate media is just as bad as the both the stupidity of the general party vs party bickering that has gone on with the "first past the post" system and daily QP nonsense and that parliament has long been almost pointless, due to incompetence in design and now so corrupt and extremist; quite non-Canadian if not also now pro-Republican. The inactive Liberals deserved their demise! Ignatieff was Harper's most potent ally!

    The Green Party brings forward clear ideas about better democratic process and better participatory governance on issue after issue. If you're cutting down the the Green Party at this point in late 2011, you're either too lazy or conditioned not to do research on issues and systems, or you're just spewing "muddy the water" lingo from a senile party that's drifting and scared of accountable, transparent democracy.

  22. Yes, I was one of the 2007 Ontario Green voters who switched to the Liberals this time around, pretty much for the reasons that Andrew Steele gave in his G&M article (I notice a lot of the comments are criticizing it, but for me it was spot-on):

    But I don't think it's a "defeat" when a mainstream party takes your ideas to heart. At one level, sure, but green ideas are more important than Green Parties.

    Federally, I think part of the vote drop can also be attributed to the "Climategate" scandal. To survive, the green movement must (at least temporarily) distance itself from global issues and focus more on the local benefits of their policies. The Ontario Liberals did this fairly successfully, if imperfectly.

    Elizabeth May is an asset for the Greens, and if she's given more media coverage next election (pretty much a given now that the party has a seat) it's very likely that they'll do better. She's likeable, fairly honest and she's well-informed about the issues. My opinion of her improves every time I happen to see an interview with her (CTV had one recently when she was recovering in the hospital from hip surgery).

    The one concern I have is that during the election she spent most of the time talking about non-Green-related issues like "civility" and "democracy", and her election-night victory speech seemed more like the speech of an independent MP than the leader of a national party - definitely a missed opportunity to use one of the few times that the national spotlight was focused on her.

    Perhaps it was inevitable at the time. But if the Greens hope to win more than one seat, it's imperative for May to use the podium she's given to promote the ideas of the larger movement that she's part of.


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