Nicholas Ellan: Why Greens target NDP ridings and Elizabeth May’s decade of Liberal deal-making

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      The Green Party of Canada insists that it is committed to postpartisan politics; it seeks to renew our commitment to democracy; and on principle it refuses to whip its elected officials. It claims their elected officials get a free vote on everything, as true democracy demands. (Of course the Greens don’t have any form of internal party democracy. Their nominations are closed appointments. But never mind that for now.)

      This year, the Greens are going into the federal election with their most members of Parliament in history: two. Former NDP MP Bruce Hyer joined the party after he was tossed from the NDP caucus in 2012. Green party activists are openly talking about the possibility of electing up to a dozen Green MPs. Setting aside whether this is realistic, let’s examine how the Greens are approaching this goal.

      Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green party and the only Green MP to ever be elected under this banner, is seeking reelection in the riding of Saanich–Gulf Islands. Prior to her 2011 election, she formed a cooperation pact with the Liberal Party of Canada in 2008, and ran unopposed by them in her bid to defeat Conservative incumbent Peter Mackay. At the time, both the Conservatives and the NDP harshly criticized this deal.

      In 2006, shortly after she was elected Green leader, she declared her intention to run in Cape Breton-Canso in the next federal election. At the time, the riding was held by Liberal Rodger Cuzner.

      She never did contest this riding. Instead, she ran in a by-election in London North Centre, when Liberal MP Joe Fontana had resigned to run for mayor in the London, Ontario municipal elections.  Fontana lost the mayoral bid. May came in second, to the great surprise of analysts. The Greens spent the most of any party. The Liberals held onto the seat until 2011.

      In 2011, the Greens did not seek a formal alliance with the Liberal party again. But in that election, the Liberal vote nevertheless collapsed in Saanich–Gulf Islands when May ran, challenging long-time Conservative incumbent Gary Lunn. The Liberals, who had obtained over 25,000 votes and almost beat Lunn in 2008, obtained fewer than 5,000 votes in 2011—a decline of over 80 percent.

      This result was a major anomaly, and a large divergence from regional voting trends. The only time the Liberals had ever earned fewer than 15,000 votes here before was when the riding it was first contested in 1988. It was their worst performance ever, by far.

      And that brings us to now. Since her election as the first Green MP in 2011, May’s party has doggedly pursued her neighbouring riding of Victoria. This riding has been held by the NDP since 2006. In a 2012 by-election, the Greens' Donald Galloway nearly beat the NDP’s Murray Rankin. Rankin won by less than three percent of the vote. The Greens spent more than any other party.

      This week, May opened a new Green party office in Rankin’s riding of Victoria. She launched the campaign of Green candidate Lynn Quarmby in the NDP stronghold of Burnaby North–Seymour. [Full disclosure: my mother, Carol Baird Ellan, is seeking the NDP nomination in that riding.] The Greens are dedicating their resources to challenging not Conservative strongholds, but ridings where NDP are likely to win. As they have done in the past.

      Despite their stated goal of contesting many new ridings, the Greens have nominated candidates in only 28 of 338 federal ridings so far. Of those, only three are held by Liberal incumbents: Halifax West, Charlottetown, and Malpeque. Not a single Liberal riding west of the Maritimes is being contested by a Green candidate as of today.

      It is not unreasonable to conclude, and I do conclude, that May’s 2008 deal with the Liberal Party of Canada was not an anomaly. She has relentlessly pursued backroom deals with the Liberals for the last decade. She is dependent on the Liberal party’s cooperation for her re-election. She cannot challenge the Liberals if she wants to retain her seat. So she isn’t challenging them at all. She is supporting them.

      I do not believe the Greens are a postpartisan party. They are highly partisan: in favour of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. NDP-Green cooperation is unfortunately impossible, because the Greens are already cooperating with the Liberal Party of Canada.




      Jan 23, 2015 at 5:29pm

      What nonsense. "A decade of backroom deals"? Any evidence of this?


      Jan 23, 2015 at 6:20pm

      The Greens may of won one seat in 2011 but under May the Greens went from
      937,613 votes nation wide and 6.78% of popular vote and no seats in 2008
      to one seat and 576,221 votes nationwide or 3.91% of vote in 2011.
      They get screwed come elections due to FPTP but lost a significant
      amount of support between 2008 and 2011. But maybe it was because Layton
      soared in popularity and the Libs had an unpopular leader, I dunno..

      Could the greens pick up another seat or two, I really dunno. The way the Libs and NDP are
      going after each other and not Harper maybe the Greens will increase
      support next time and be seen as a viable alternative to more than the
      NDP or Libs, I guess we will see in October unless Ste-vee breaks fixed
      election law again and 10 months can be a long time in politics. i
      would like to see more Greens and other parties in Ottawa but until we
      get some sort of pro rep i doubt we will see much sad to say.

      Stellar's Jay

      Jan 23, 2015 at 6:25pm

      Wow, this person has a partisan agenda.

      "The Greens are... challenging not Conservative strongholds, but ridings where the NDP are likely to win. As they have in the past." Let's see, in the last two elections May ran in two ridings held by Conservative cabinet ministers. If she's trying to avoid Conservative strongholds, she's doing a poor job of it. The by-election was a Liberal seat, which the Liberals retained. Then there was that Calgary by-election where the Liberals nearly unseated the Conservatives, but the Greens came in third, and many commentators wondered if the Liberals would have won if the Greens hadn't run a candidate.

      If May has an electoral pact with the Liberals, it's pretty thoroughly disguised.

      The Liberal performance in Saanich-Gulf Islands last election was their worst ever, by far. Yeah, that was a really unique riding last election, so different from the Liberals' national result, which was: their worst ever, by far.

      And the Greens' 28 candidates aren't running in Liberal-held ridings, except for the three that are. Yeah, there are just SO MANY Liberal-held ridings. The Greens have announced 28 candidates, about 1/12 of the number of seats in the House, and the Liberals hold a little over 30 seats overall, so based on random chance the Greens would have nominated candidates in about 3 Liberal-held ridings.

      Using the logic of this article, it's clear that the NDP has formed an electoral pact with the Conservatives, because none of the NDP candidates announced so far are running in Conservative ridings, except for the ones that are.


      Jan 23, 2015 at 6:51pm

      Was this embarrassingly facile waste of pixels provided in exchange for living rent free in his mom's basement?

      Clearly Nicholas Ellan hasn't the foggiest notion what he's talking about. For his mother's sake, I hope she isn't taking political advise from her philosopher progeny.

      Burnaby North-Seymour is not an "NDP stronghold", certainly not in the eyes of senior NDP strategists. Kennedy Stewart's well-publicized move to Burnaby South was an acknowledgement of that fact, amidst accusations of Harper "gerrymandering" the new riding North Shore/Burnaby riding to favor a Conservative win.

      That's precisely why the three NDP contenders for that riding (including Nicholas's mom) are relatively low-profile candidates. An "NDP-stronghold" it is not.

      As for the hackneyed trope that the Greens are vote-splitters, or the laughable notion that Greens are colluding with Liberals (funny, the Libs said the same thing about Greens colluding with NDP in Brandon-Souris and Calgary Centre) - I think Canadians should get used to the idea that there is a new game in town.

      Nicholas Ellan

      Jan 23, 2015 at 7:08pm

      @SJ: You've misread the article completely; and probably deliberately.

      The Greens don't avoid Conservative or NDP strongholds. They avoid Liberal strongholds. Deliberately and systematically. The evidence of this is outlined in my article.

      Island Green

      Jan 23, 2015 at 7:15pm

      The key to this analysis is this line from the article: [Full disclosure: my mother, Carol Baird Ellan, is seeking the NDP nomination in that riding.]

      The NDP have been moving away from their roots and from their principals, trying to out liberal the Liberals (voting for S. Korea Free Trade with democracy killing Investor State Trade Dispute Resolution clauses, supporting Energy East pipeline, Supporting LNG fracking in BC...)

      The Greens are gaining support from all directions, including from disappointed former NDP supporters. The Greens are running strong candidates in the ridings they have the best chance of winning.

      In an article in the Straight from April 11, 2013, titled "Green Leader Elizabeth May says Justin Trudeau more cooperative than Thomas Mulcair", Elizabeth May talks about why she has had more conversations with the Liberals than with the NDP. No backroom conspiracy here. The answer is simple: The Liberals have been more friendly and open to talking to her.

      "For the Saanich–Gulf Islands MP, collaboration is important. During the Green party’s convention last summer, she received a mandate to seek cooperation with the NDP and the Liberal party to defeat Stephen Harper and the ruling Conservatives.

      Her experience so far with New Democrats has been “discouraging”. Last December, she wrote to NDP and Liberal MPs on the subject of electoral cooperation.

      “It was a personal and confidential letter, but the NDP made it public and attacked me for sending it,” May recalled. “And Tom Mulcair prohibited his members from answering my letter.” "

      Why oh why would Elizabeth May be discouraged by the NDP???

      More from the article:
      "...she needs to work on getting better access to Mulcair. According to May, she’s sat down for a meeting with Mulcair only once since he became NDP leader last year.

      “Maybe…because [the Liberals are] the third party and smaller and sit near me in the House, but I find it very easy to get a meeting when I ask for a meeting with the Liberals—the House leadership or the Liberal interim leader when it was Bob Rae,” May said. “And I found it extremely difficult to get meetings with
      New Democrats.” "

      Baffling prejudice against Greens

      Jan 23, 2015 at 8:38pm

      Stellar's Jay knocks this author's argument down. For good measure, "She cannot challenge the Liberals if she wants to retain her seat" is hogwash. Liberals came out last of all major parties in May's riding in 2011, and that was at 75% turnout. Libs have no chance there after May's performance past few years. Should also be noted that May proposed electoral co-operation for 2015 and Mulcair ignored it:

      libs = cons

      Jan 23, 2015 at 9:00pm


      Jan Slakov

      Jan 24, 2015 at 12:34am

      Wow, right in the first paragraph are two erroneous statements - that the Greens "don't have any form on internal party democracy" when I know that, as leader, Elizabeth must look to the elected party council for direction on many items and that party conventions involve numerous votes on resolutions brought forward from the grassroots. And nominations are NOT closed appointments; Elizabeth ran against someone here in Saanich Gulf Islands before she was elected here.
      There is at least one other untrue statement in this article. I don't understand why the Straight published it. It doesn't deserve this much attention.