canadian politics

Elizabeth May predicts she won’t stand alone after the next election

It has been a long time coming for a party that many still consider a fringe entity.

Finishing fourth in a byelection is not usually cause for celebration.

But delight was in the air for Elizabeth May and the Green Party of Canada over their candidate’s fourth-place result in the recent byelection in the eastern Ontario riding of Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

Not because they came anywhere close to taking the seat — Conservative Michael Barrett cruised to an easy win — but because the Greens finished just 24 votes shy of the NDP.

“Virtual tie between the Greens and the NDP,” screamed the headline on a news release issued the next day.

The tally was 883 to 859, each drawing about three per cent of the vote. But for the Green party it was a sign they are now sitting at the big-kids’ table and maybe, just maybe, will be competing for more than scraps come next October.

“The wind is in our sails,” May said in an interview with The Canadian Press shortly before Christmas.

It has been a long time coming for a party that many still consider a fringe entity. The Green party has existed in Canada on paper since 1983 but has just one MP ever elected: May won in both the 2011 and 2015 elections in the Vancouver Island riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

The party has many times polled well between elections but when voting day comes, their vote scatters to other parties Canadians feel have better shots at victory. In 2015, May admits, they lost half their vote in the final week of the campaign. She won her seat again but the Green candidate in Victoria, who had been polling well, ended up a disappointing second to the NDP’s Murray Rankin, nearly 7,000 votes behind.

READ MORE: Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May engaged to B.C. Interior man

READ MORE: This is Canada’s best chance for electoral reform, Elizabeth May says

But with nine Greens elected at the provincial level in four provinces, and the party leading the governing Liberals in recent polls in Prince Edward Island, the Greens are enjoying a new kind of momentum and confidence, not to mention public profile, that is putting a spring in their step.

The Greens are also rising as the NDP and their new leader, Jagmeet Singh, are struggling to find their place. May, who has been the Green leader since 2006, appears to be better known nationally than Singh. The two were tied in a recent Abacus Data poll, with 11 per cent of Canadians backing each as their preferred prime minister. In a Nanos Research poll in October, May was ahead of Singh when Canadians were asked who they thought best suited to deal with mercurial U.S. President Donald Trump.

The NDP still outpoll the Greens in voting intention but some political insiders are openly wondering if May and the Greens are going to be the spoilers for Justin Trudeau’s effort to win a second election.

“I’m starting to think that Justin Trudeau’s great threat is Elizabeth May, not Jagmeet Singh,” tweeted Abacus Data CEO David Coletto a few weeks ago.

The pollster said the Greens are still polling relatively poorly, somewhere near seven or eight per cent. But he said more than one-third of Canadians are willing to consider voting Green, and the next election is going to be fought with climate change as a top issue, which is the Greens’ bread and butter.

“The environment is potentially ripe for the Greens to make a breakthrough,” he said. Though, he added, “it doesn’t mean they will.”

Nik Nanos, chief data scientist and founder of Nanos Research, doesn’t think the Greens are poised to take over from the NDP as the main alternative to the Liberals on the left. He said for that to happen Singh and the NDP would need to implode. But he said the Greens could be the “stealth” vote in the next election, as Canadians look for alternatives to the status-quo parties in an era of voter fatigue with traditional politics.

“From all the numbers I watch, I’m actually watching the Green party the closest,” Nanos said.

Nanos said May very likely will have company after next October, with British Columbia and Quebec the two places ripest for them to win another seat or two.

May is hoping that the strategic voting she blames for losing so many potential votes in 2015 won’t matter next time, when there isn’t a progressive-voter push to defeat a Conservative government. She is counting on former Conservative Maxime Bernier and his new People’s Party of Canada being enough to take votes from the Conservatives to leave voters free to choose who they really want among the other parties on the left.

“We’re excited about what 2019 looks like for us,” said May.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

Surrey school district proposing 13 new schools in the next decade

Staff suggest new designs for future builds to maximize school space

Delta McDonald’s temporarily closed after employees test positive for COVID-19

Two employees at the Annacis Island location (1285 Cliveden Ave.) reported testing positive on Sept. 18

Two Surrey schools report COVID-19 exposures, including second contact for Panorama Ridge

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

Surrey school district student enrolment down from projections

‘That’s not something I can say in my time in Surrey, I have ever said at the board table’: superintendent

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Most Read