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

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Firefighters and RCMP are on scene at a fire on Douglas Street. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
PHOTOS: Firefighters battling blaze on Douglas Street

RCMP are also on scene and blocking off access to the street

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

A Kelowna clinic decided to immunize their patients in a drive-thru flu clinic earlier this month. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Interior Health anticipates increase in flu vaccinations this season

Some 300,000 doses of flu vaccine ready for distribution across Southern Interior

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Voters are saying they felt safe voting in person despite the current pandemic. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Central Okanagan voters talk about their pandemic election experience

Despite an election taking place during COVID-19, residents said they felt safe voting in person

Cole Collingwood casts his mock ballot at Vernon’s Mission Hill Elementary School ahead of the provincial election Oct. 24, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
PHOTOS: Okanagan students cast mock election ballots

At Mission Hill Elementary, the election is a chance to learn about the democratic process

Thanks to efforts by a Kelowna shelter and Elections BC, anyone who wishes to can vote in the 2020 BC Provincial Election, even if they don’t have a fixed address. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Kelowna group ensures people experiencing homelessness can vote

Shelter supervisor says voting ‘a fundamental right’ even for those without a fixed address

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
Big White receives 21 cm of snow in 24 hours

Resort’s snow base 41 cm deep, one month until opening day

The deer were allegedly shot within Princeton town limits, late at night. Black Press File Photo.
Armed man, in full camouflage, allegedly shoots deer in downtown Princeton

‘The list of charges goes on and on,’ said RCMP Sgt. Rob Hughes

Most Read