How the Green Party Could Make a Difference
It looks like we’re not going to have a federal election for at least 5 months now so its time for the parties to pull back and consider strategy. Clearly that’s what the Liberals are doing with their recent change of chief of staff. So I’d like to suggest a bold change of strategy for the Green Party. Fair warning, you’re probably not going to like it 🙂 Note, I am not a Green party member and have no involvement with their campaigns so this approach will anathema to people for all kinds of reasons I can think of and probably many I cannot. But hear me out.
For the Green party the number one priority should be and is to lead Canada towards an environmentally responsible position from the depths of global warming recklessness where we currently languish. Getting Green party members in parliament would be one way to do this. But the Green party needs to admit openly and frankly that this just isn’t going to happen with our current unfair voting system. So what can they do?
The Green party regularly gets 8-10% of the national vote, about the same as the Bloc Quebecios, but no seats where the Bloc gets over 50 seats. The Green party is only competitive in a handful of ridings across the country, its support is uniformly spread out which is punished by our antiquated first-past-the-post voting system. What the Green party does have is a strong brand and a strong moral voice in Elizabeth May. They also have around 10% of the country rooting for them, that’s not nothing. So how can they use this?
The answer is for the Green party to become the environmental conscience of politics in a constructive and strategic way. I have argued before on this blog that strategic voting is the only kind of rational voting possible in our system. For the Greens strategic campaigning is also the most rational approach. Currently the Green party runs a candidate in every riding all through the campaign and pulls votes from other candidates from the NDP or Liberals who might be very pro-environment. I propose the following general campaign structure:
- run a candidate in every riding in the country. But say right up front to Canadians that you know we aren’t stupid. You know, that even getting a few Green MPs, or one MP, would be a great success. What you are asking your supporters to do is to support the Greens as their first choice, to tell pollsters you will vote Green and when you get connected with the Green campaign to find out where the other candidates stand on the issues important to the Green party
- near the end of the campaign, say 1 week out, you hold a large press conference. You announce, for every riding in the country (listed up on your website), one of three things:
- 1) the Green party candidate in that riding will step aside and fully endorse one of the other candidate whom the Green party has vetted as an acceptable choice for progressive, environmentally conscious Green voters. All Green voters will be strongly encouraged to vote as a mass for this candidate so that their voice can be heard
- 2) the Green party candidate will remain running in this riding because all of the opposing candidates are unacceptable representative for Green voters. While the party acknowledges it cannot win the riding it strongly encourages Green voters and those dissaffected by the political system to vote Green as a protest against politics as usual, Canada’s abysmal environmental record and our unfair voting system.
- 3) the Green party candidate will remain running and will win this riding. You ask all progressive voters and those who care about the environment and want to see Canada make a change to consider voting Green this once to get a truly progressive voice into parliament. We are supporting candidates from your party in an open and bipartisan manner across the country because we believe politics needs to change in Canada. Now we need your support to make a change that the media and the old boys network of politics as usual will not be able to ignore. We won’t be forming government but we will be there fighting every day for a Canada that is progressive and stands up for its responsibilities to its people and to the world. You don’t have to agree with everything we say, but you know you want a voice like ours in Ottawa, if only to stir up the complacent members of your own party to know their should be no such thing as a safe seat in parliament for any party.
What this would amount to is a contract with Green voters to act strategically as a group who realize that Canada needs to get on track with their environmental policy immediately. It should be presented that way and involve active engagement with the Green’s 10% of voters throughout the campaign. It would recognize that the Green party would be lucky to get a single seat in the next election and cannot drive the policy discussion in parliament, only MPs can do that. So the Green party along with its committed voters, 10% of Canadians who vote every election for a cause they believe in, is deciding to act strategically to maximize its influence over who sits in parliament. The goal is to make the members in Ottawa as green as possible, hoping this will lead to a greater chance of getting Canada on track. It would be recognition that we cannot afford to wait for electoral reforms that may come in decades or never at all for the voices of Green voters to be heard, they must be heard now. But to be heard may must vote for someone who can win.
If this works it would also give relevance to the Green party by showing they can move an election. The week before the announcement the polls will show split support for Green members and other candidates. After the announcement, by election day the Green vote in these ridings will drop significantly, or to zero if it is possible to officially withdraw, and maximize the impact of their statement of support.
So thats my proposal, its not satirical and I don’t think its crazy. It takes a level of frankness and honesty about how our democracy functions that we never see in this country. But if anyone can do it its the Green party under Elizabeth May. Obviously this has ramification for the Green party if it fails. There is a risk the media will turn wildly against it as they did with the coalition last year. The Green party would lose a fair bit of money for the next election since their actual vote count on election day would go down. But if it works this would be made up for by their new relevance and hopefully a few seats in Ottawa as well as a number of members from other parties who ‘owe them’ their election.
What do you think? Am I crazy, or is this crazy enough to work?