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

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

Ellis Ross (left), BC Liberal party, celebrated with his wife, Tracey after being named the preliminary winner of the 2020 snap provincial election.
Ross presumptive Skeena winner in snap B.C. election

Election outcome will not be official until mail-in ballots are counted

Voting has officially closed throughout B.C. for the 2020 snap provincial election. (Clare Rayment)
Map of Skeena polling stations

Watch the updates on the map below as polling stations are counted throughout Skeena riding

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

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

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Kelowna school

The outbreak is the first within B.C.’s school system since classes resumed back in September

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

NDP Leader John Horgan speaks with the owner of a barber shop while campaigning in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Campaigning was restricted by the coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s B.C. majority came with historically low voter turnout

Barely half of eligible voters cast ballots in snap election

Most Read