Greens make history, but fall far short of projections
TORONTO – The best federal election result in the history of the Green party may still have left many of its supporters disappointed.
Yes, there were three Green MPs elected – the most ever. Yes, a number of Green candidates beat out more established parties in ridings where the party has never been competitive before. Yes, the Liberals were held to a minority government.
But the lofty predictions of a widespread breakthrough never came to pass. The Greens’ share of the vote was well below what most polls had suggested. In many ridings the party had been hoping to win, they had to settle for still-impressive second-place finishes.
Worst of all, perhaps, voters didn’t provide the outcome May had hoped for most of all – a minority Parliament where Green support could determine whether government proposals pass or fail.
That balance of power – or “balance of responsibility,” as May prefers to call it – rests instead with the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois. The Liberals will be safe as long as one of those parties votes with them or abstains. The Greens’ three-person caucus isn’t big enough to make a difference.
Still, the longest-serving major party leader put her best spin on the result as she spoke to supporters in Victoria, B.C. late Monday night, promising “non-stop arm-twisting” as she attempted to work with the other parties.
“I guess the phrase really is holding the feet to the fire. There will be crispy toes,” she said.
“We can make a really significant contribution in a minority Parliament, and we will.”
May won her riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands handily, taking nearly 49 per cent of the vote. Paul Manly, who was elected as a Green in a byelection in May, retained his seat. Jenica Atwin became the party’s first-ever elected candidate from outside B.C. by winning a close race in Fredericton, N.B.
Other hoped-for breakthroughs failed to materialize:
- There was no second MP-elect from the Maritimes, despite strong provincial support for Greens in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island
- Hopes for success in the southern Ontario ridings of Kitchener Centre and Guelph were dashed, as the party’s candidates in those ridings finished second behind Liberal incumbents
- In Quebec, former NDP MP Pierre Nantel finished in a distant third place
- There were second-place and third-place finishes in B.C., but no other candidates were able to clear the final hurdle and join May and Manly in Ottawa.
The Greens’ 6.4 per cent share of the popular vote represented a significant increase from the 3.4 per cent they won in 2015, but fell below the all-time high of 6.8 per cent that they received in 2008.
May, 65, used her election-night speech to remind voters and politicians of other parties that she will not let up on taking action to stop the climate crisis, which she has called the most pressing issue facing the planet.
“To those leaders who [said] … they had a plan for the climate that would protect our children’s future while not having one, we go to Parliament determined to ensure that you actually have one while we still have a chance,” she said.
“We will not allow the Parliament of Canada, in its 43rd session, to let down our children.”
During the campaign, May said repeatedly that she would not work with any party that did not have a serious plan for addressing the climate crisis. She said the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP all failed on that score.
However, May often found herself knocked off-message by a number of self-inflicted woundsowing perhaps to the party’s relative lack of the large election-time political machines enjoyed by the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP.
The party removed one candidate in Ontario early in the campaign because of an anti-Muslim Facebook post. Last week, when Islamophobic comments from four Quebec candidates came to light, the party chose to keep the candidates and said they would make public statements of apology instead.
A second Ontario candidate was removed for anti-abortion comments. Confusion over the party’s position on abortion haunted the Greens throughout the campaign, despite May’s assertion that the party would “never retreat one inch” from the current laws.
The confusion was stoked in part by the NDP. Leader Jagmeet Singh said he considered May’s position open to change because she had said she would be willing to work with the Conservatives in a minority Parliament – something he said he would not do under any circumstances.
Another bizarre incident saw a picture of May on the party’s website altered to include a different compostable cup than the one she was holding when the photo was taken. The new cup featured the Green logo and a reusable straw.
Green party bylaws require a leadership review to be held within six months of any election in which the party’s leader does not become prime minister.