In an election campaign where the specter of climate change loomed large, Canada’s Green Party had its best result thus far but did not make a serious breakthrough.
The party regained each of its seats in B.C. — one held by Leader Elizabeth May, the opposite by Paul Manly.
In Fredericton, N.B., Jenica Atwin defeated a Liberal incumbent to present the Green Party its third victory.
With Ottawa poised for a Liberal minority government, May was optimistic following the result and vowed to carry feet to the fireplace on the problems that matter to her party.
“There might be crispy toes,” she quipped in her election night speech.
The Greens appeared to have momentum behind them leading as much as the federal campaign, prompting speculation they may outperform previous general elections.
The federal party fundraised just over 80 per cent as much because the NDP in the primary half of the 12 months. Elections Canada filings show that as of June, the party had raised about $2,221,000 from roughly 24,400 individual contributors in 2019.
Earlier this 12 months, the caucus gained its second member after Manly won the byelection in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, B.C.
Greens have also made gains on the provincial level in recent times, including in B.C. and the Maritimes, where the P.E.I. Greens became the official opposition this 12 months.
The party’s cornerstone issue, climate change, occupied a more distinguished space within the election discourse than any previous campaign in Canadian history.
Nearly 30 per cent of Canadians said the climate is amongst their top three issues as they consider who to vote for, polling from Ipsos earlier this month found. The problem was second only to health care, at 35 per cent.
And the parties responded to those concerns. Kathryn Harrison, a political science professor at UBC, said on this election it wasn’t just May “making a plea at nighttime for motion on climate.“
For the Liberals and NDP, plans to tackle climate change were key elements of their pitch to voters. (The Conservatives selected to talk to their base, and while they’d a plan on climate, it was “discredited,” Harrison said.)
However the Greens were unable to convert voters’ concerns concerning the climate emergency into enough support to best the 2 other two options on the left of the spectrum, the NDP and the Liberals.
“I believe partially they stole the Greens’ thunder,” Harrison said.
Harrison identified that the first-past-the-post electoral system also worked to the Greens’ drawback.
Within the 2019 election, the Greens had a significantly stronger performance in the favored vote, taking about 6.4 per cent of support as of 1:30 a.m. ET.
In 2015, the party received about 3.4 per cent of the favored vote, down barely from 3.9 per cent in 2011.
Sean Simpson, vice chairman of Ipsos, said the Green Party’s overall support was tracking higher prior to the official start of the campaign. In June, he said, the Greens were at 6 per cent of popular support, then in mid to late September, it nearly doubled to 11 per cent.
But then it dropped off, remaining at around seven to eight per cent in October.
“I believe they might be upset with that,” Simpson said in an interview ahead of Monday’s vote. “I believe they were double-digit popular vote firstly of the campaign, but with a two-horse race, I believe a variety of people, their priority is to be sure their vote counts and in all but about half a dozen ridings in Canada, a vote for the Green Party isn’t very effective.”
Polling showed Green support was strongest in Atlantic Canada and on Vancouver Island, where Simpson had expected the party to select up some seats.
But not a “green surge” by any means.
That’s partly to do with the “soft” nature of the party’s support, Simpson said. Green supporters are less prone to say they’ll definitely vote, and fewer prone to say that at the tip of the day, they’ll select May’s party.
The Greens also had their share of hiccups on the campaign trail.
Early within the campaign, what was billed as a mass exodus of Latest Brunswick NDPers to the Green Party proved a bit more complicated than that, with some candidates denying that they really agreed to hitch the Greens.
The party also attracted some criticism for working with former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella, who’s nicknamed the Prince of Darkness.
And, in a move that seemingly played right into narratives about strategic voting, Edmonton-Strathcona Green candidate Michael Kalmanovitch halted his campaigning in its final week and suggested his supporters vote for his NDP competitor.
There was also controversy over the party’s stance on anti-abortion candidates, which became fodder for the NDP.
In September, May told CBC she wouldn’t block Green MPs from supporting anti-abortion measures within the House of Commons.
May later clarified that while she wouldn’t whip votes, each of her candidates support the Green party policy “that we’ll never retreat one inch from a lady’s right to a protected and legal abortion.”
The party later dropped an eastern Ontario candidate over anti-abortion social media posts.
But ultimately, such missteps may not have been the deciding consider the Greens’ overall result, Harrison said.
“At the tip of the day, I believe that the opposite parties’ climate platforms have probably been sufficiently reassuring for a variety of voters,” she said.
In truth, she said Canada will not be ready for a stronger message on climate change.
“Canadian voters have been told the environment and the economy go hand in hand for 3 many years now,” she said. “And I believe aren’t even aware of the size of change that’s needed, let alone able to support the sorts of reductions which are needed to get us to net zero by 2050.”