Elizabeth May, vote splitting, and the national party leaders debate

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      For years, the knock on the Green party has been that it splits the non-right-wing vote, enabling those most hostile to the environment to remain in power.

      New Democrats, in particular, point to the long reign of the B.C. Liberals in B.C. and the Conservatives in Ottawa as proof of this hypothesis.

      Each federal and provincial election is dissected by New Democrats for evidence that somehow a few hundred or a few thousand Green votes helped one of the planet killers come first past the post before a more progressive candidate.

      Green party activists vehemently reject this claim. They point to ridings where they've succeeded to suggest that they actually hurt right-wing candidates more than anyone else.

      The prime example is Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May. She took Saanich–Gulf Islands from a Conservative cabinet minister, Gary Lunn.

      Vancouver's only Green city councillor, Adriane Carr, topped the polls in the 2014 election in which the NPA only elected three members to council and lost the mayoral race.

      B.C.'s only Green MLA, Andrew Weaver, defeated a B.C. Liberal cabinet minister, Ida Chong.

      In all three of these elections, voter turnout increased significantly, in part because there were strong Green candidates in the race.  

      Of course, New Democrats can point to other examples to support their argument.

      Greens had success in the last Vancouver park board election, yet the NPA took control of the board.

      Meanwhile, a Green candidate, Janet Fraser, was elected to the Vancouver school board and threw her support behind the NPA in the election of a new chair. Vision Vancouver trustee Ken Clement narrowly lost the election, depriving his party of another majority.

      In the last B.C. election, right-of-centre candidates won narrow victories in provincial constituencies such as Burnaby-North and Surrey-Fleetwood, further fuelling NDP claims of vote splitting.

      In 2013, B.C. Liberal Richard Lee defeated the NDP's Janet Routledge in Burnaby-North by 668 votes. Green candidate Carrie McLaren captured 1,577 votes.

      In Surrey-Fleetwood, B.C. Liberal Peter Fassbender beat the NDP's Jagrup Brar by 265 votes. Green candidate Tim Binnema attracted 1,032 votes and Conservative Murali Krishnan picked up 748.

      So who's right? Could Green candidate Claire Martin, a well-known meteorologist, be the best bet in North Vancouver to defeat incumbent Conservative Andrew Saxton?

      Or will another Green candidate, accountant Michael Barkusky, split the anti-Conservative vote in Vancouver Granville, enabling Stephen Harper's man, Erinn Broshko, to squeek out a victory with fewer than 40 percent of the votes?

      And what about in Burnaby North-Seymour, where the Greens are investing their hopes and precious campaign resources in SFU professor Lynne Quarmby? The NDP has nominated a former provincial court chief judge, Carol Baird Ellan, to take on Conservative Mike Little and Liberal Terry Beech.

      No one can deny that Green Leader Elizabeth May has done a tremendous job in elevating the importance of climate change on the national agenda.

      She's accomplished this without much help from the mainstream media, which continues to downplay the importance of this issue.

      Before May became Green leader, the NDP and the Liberals did not devote anywhere near as much attention to global warming as they do now.

      Climate change was barely mentioned in the 2006 election that catapulted Harper into the prime minister's chair.

      But still, there is this lingering question in the minds of many citizens: is a vote for a Green candidate really a vote for Stephen Harper?

      In tonight's first televised national-party leaders debate, May will have to make the case that this isn't the case.

      Otherwise, she risks seeing the Green vote evaporate in the rush to back whichever other party appears to be the best bet to throw Harper out of power.

      Comments

      21 Comments

      Simone Peter

      Aug 6, 2015 at 8:51am

      Sorry difficult to read, too much wifi interference in the air. This slight barb is well deserved though because one thing the Greens (particularly Elizabeth May) and the Conservatives share in common is there ability to find "science" to support their policies decisions.

      The green party is filled with nuts that believe in wacky pseudo-science but hide it well among their green washed cherry picked blend of right and left wing philosophies. Seriously small business grants? Giving tax breaks to small business? Support for apprenticeships? Paired with no tax for under $20K and massive corporate tax hike?

      Personally I would rather have one or the other this slightly right of centre party doesn't do anything for me and don't even get me started on her personal belief in chemtrails or how gm crops are the precursors to the apocalypse.

      Guilin Fish

      Aug 6, 2015 at 9:01am

      The NDP has promised to change the electoral system to proportional representation - and I trust they will follow through with this promise.
      So I plan to vote NDP this times and Green at the next election.

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      Matt D

      Aug 6, 2015 at 9:40am

      Andrew Weaver defeated a sitting Liberal, and then voted to support the next BC Liberal budget as if he was just another BC Liberal

      Janet Fraser hands control of the VSB to the conservatives.

      Elizabeth May speaks about "working with anyone", then puts her electoral efforts into targeting NDP seats and refusing to back the Kelowna-Lake Country Greens decision to support a joint candidate with the Liberals.

      So how was the progressive cause advanced in any of these cases by having a few Greens around?

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      Westminster

      Aug 6, 2015 at 9:41am

      In Canada we have the Westminster Parliamentary System.

      Which means the Party that forms Government basically is a Dictatorship like we have now.

      While I agree and support the broad Green Party agenda although it is not budgeted out or detailed implementation and execution of a concrete Green plan does not yet exist.

      For example if your running a business or country you would expect to have a detailed plan with budgets planned and details of how you would achieve your goals.

      The Green Party have bullet points broad non detailed talking points on the platform.

      Unfortunately the Greens are a 1 Seat party perhaps 2 or 3 in this next election at best.

      Any Party that forms Government can ignore the other parties especially in a seat majority situation as we have now. They can ram any rubbish Law thru, do anything they want.

      Look at BC at the Provincial level we have 1 Green and the BC Liberals don't even have to acknowledge him by name and simply ignore the minority seat Green candidate.

      So as someone who supports a Green agenda & a Green Economy how do I get that?

      Certainly not by simply voting Green once every 4 to 5 years & waiting hoping for the best.

      As for vote splitting maybe in very small number of seats but it's across all parties not just the NDP overall it's not a big deal as some think.

      I am voting NDP in my riding because that Party appears to take that seat in Vancouver away from the Liberal incumbent and the NDP stated on their platform to bring in Proportional Representation.

      So if the NDP form Government we who vote for them can hold them accountable to bring in Proportional Representation.

      Proportional Representation is the only way under our Westminster System to bring in a credible Green Party into official status in Ottawa.

      Otherwise voting Green is expecting doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, good luck with that.

      Meanwhile where is that NDP Candidate on my voting list?

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      Pat Crowe

      Aug 6, 2015 at 9:45am

      Take the young, non tax paying, mom and dad pay for everything, students are smarter, idealist University of Victoria(Oak Bay Gordon Head} voters out of the equation and May would be hustling tables at Original Joes.

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      Matt D

      Aug 6, 2015 at 10:42am

      Pat Crowe
      "Take the young, non tax paying, mom and dad pay for everything, students are smarter, idealist University of Victoria(Oak Bay Gordon Head} voters out of the equation and May would be hustling tables at Original Joes"

      Nonsense, in two parts.

      First, students pay taxes on income earned, they pay taxes on bursaries and scholarships, they pay consumption taxes, fuel taxes, as well as other indirect taxes and fees; MSP (income dependent, mind you), license fees. You get the idea (well, probably not, actually, since you constructed your argument as you did).

      Being a student is not an automatic tax exemption, in the way being a senior is, for example. You get a tax credit for simply being the latter, not the former.

      Two, in order to accept your argument, all of those students you claim elected Weaver either voted for the first time that election, or voted Liberal before, or some left the NDP.

      Pretty hard to believe, based on your prejudicial and poorly sourced caricature of the people that your argument uses as the reason as to why Weaver won holds any water given that there was a slide in BC Liberal voters to the Greens (or did all those students voting materialize after 2009, but not prior. UVic has been there much longer than four years, I may add). Weaver won by poaching votes from both other parties.

      It almost pains me that the taxes paid by educated students on their higher incomes eventually go into providing CPP/OAS/GIS benefits, as well as offsetting the increased cost of public health care as we age, to what appears to be an angry person who also appears to be capable of only contributing insults and condescension to public life.

      You have anything better to offer, or is this how you really think we get better elected representatives?

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      Steller's Jay

      Aug 6, 2015 at 10:52am

      I'd take NDP complaints about this more seriously if they weren't totally happy splitting the non-Conservative vote when the Liberals have a chance and they don't. Hypocrites.

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      eagle_joe

      Aug 6, 2015 at 11:15am

      I hope Elizabeth May stays on as the Green leader, from what I've seen, she sure as hell would never make it as a stand up comedian!

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      ron1

      Aug 6, 2015 at 11:46am

      I'm unclear - as an environmentalist - why I should vote Green. Tom Mulcair was acknowledged as an outstanding Environment Minister in Quebec and the NDP platform has more advanced ghg emission targets then either the Greens or Liberals. The battles of the NDP to protect our rivers and lakes and maintain more coast Guard stations - including at Jericho beach - are well known . With no possibility of the Greens forming gov't and every possibility that the NDP could if all progressives support its task of getting rid of Harper, it's NDP for myself and my family - including two who voted Liberal last election! Get rid of Harper - the greatest threat to the environment - vote NDP!

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      FN

      Aug 6, 2015 at 11:48am

      Matt D, you don't understand our income tax system. Students receive a variety of tax credits and their scholarships are tax-free. And very few full-time university students earn enough taxable income to lose their free MSP status.

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