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How the Green Party Could Make a Difference

October 29, 2009

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?

    8 Comments leave one →
    1. October 29, 2009 6:58 pm

      It’s crazy, because half of the GPC budget comes from the 1,8x$/vote that the party gets from the government.

    2. October 29, 2009 7:09 pm

      What’s crazy is the GP “May-centric” strategy. Maybe (this time) that is the only hope in heck they have of electing an honest to goodness MP, but when one reads their appeal letters the message smells of “all-May, all-of-the-time”. It is off-putting.

      Running against Peter MacKay was a foolish move which gained them nothing except a little press, quickly forgotten. She ought to have run in Saanich (or any other feasible riding) first. Keep putting the most electable candidates in the most green-friendly ridings and keep at it until a victory is achieved. It will happen.

      May should have paid a price for her dreadful miscalculation. Did she? Or was it just the party which took it on the chin.

      One of these elections we’ll see the GP vote drop precipitously unless they change their approach — partly because of their own issues, partly because of the voting dynamics for the other parties. Showing up only at election time forget-me-not style isn’t a winning strategy.

      • October 30, 2009 10:47 pm

        I think May is one of their greatest assets but in hindsight (and I guess in foresight to most people) running against MacKay wasn’t a great idea. I don’t know that the riding they chose this time for her is the best either. I do agree they need to somehow get more people out there as spokespeople so it doesn’t seem like its Elizbeth May’s party, it isn’t. The party made her change ridings for the next election.

    3. Ken S from Ramara, ON permalink
      October 29, 2009 8:17 pm

      Iggy needs the Greens more than the Greens need Iggy. The only way Iggy can win is to have non-competes with the Greens and Dippers! But Iggy does not want to win. He has a 2 election strategy. 1st election would see another Harpo minority. This minority would see the CPC caucus turn against and throwing Harpo out on his ass! Iggy feels he can defeat a Harpo-less CPC in Election 2. Silly, silly Iggy!

      • October 30, 2009 10:50 pm

        well thats clearly not true, the polls are down right now, but there is no institutional change that indicates the Liberals cannot win, just that its still hard. I don’t think my proposal would help the Liberals very much, probably the NDP more often than the Liberals. Although a good broad gesture would be to try to find one member from every party the Greens could support.

    4. October 30, 2009 5:01 am

      I don’t see how green can endorse any Lib in any riding when their leader is not acceptable to a green and progressive voter. We all know that Libs are largely top down and a green Lib will not vote against their torture and war supporting Oil sands loving boss.

      So that leaves the NDP which would not gain enough seats through a Green gift to make a difference but would ensure the green party was dead with no funding and reduced credibility.

      Besides, having the greens pull their candidates would be circumventing the democratic process and would rob those voters of choice, Very unNDP. If the NDP was being truthful to their so called ideals they spouted last election about Central Nova, they would never want to accept these immoral, tainted votes.

      Everytime someone invents a new format for cooperation it always involves the greens self destruction, bullshit. do it fairly and have the NDP and libs drop out of say 20-30 ridings where the greens could win with consolidation and also sign an agreement to bring in PR should we get a group win, likely we would be willing to throw our support to someone else in the other 280 ish seats,

      • October 30, 2009 11:02 pm

        about Liberal leadership, I understand the point, but would just say our votes are counted per member so you can support a Liberal member without supporting the party. Although in practice, I concede, the party leadership get the support.

        As for bullshit, maybe you’re right, I don’t think it would destroy the Greens, but apparently the vote funding is half their money so I could be wrong. Your idea is great though, I’d be even more in favour of a joint aggreement for the NDP and Libs to strategically step aside to let the Green’s get their fair share. They also have to actively endorse those candidates and the Greens would step aside in a few contentious ridings where the vote splitting might lead to a Conservative win. There would still be those complaining that ‘voter choice’ was being removed, as if there is any now, perhaps this could be reduced by having just one of the NDP or Libs step down in these strategic ridings so that voters aren’t forced to choose between an unacceptable Conservative, and untested Green and not voting.

    5. October 31, 2009 6:51 am

      GAB has it right.

      Greens vote GPC because they believe in the party’s policies. GPC voters are idealistic enough to keep voting Green election after election knowing full well that they stand little chance of winning.

      AS GAB says, any non-compete arrangements would need to ensure that the GPC gets a good shot at winning about 7%-10% of the seats in Parliament. I think that such an outcome would require a two-way GPC-CPC race in more that 10% of the 308 ridings.

      A truly unpalatable feature: to surmount the sense of disenfranchisement that the supporters of parties who have no party representation on the ballot, the non-competing parties must campaign locally on behalf of the chosen runner. At the very least, they must wholeheartedly and publicly endorse the non-CPC candidate and thus, a party other than their own.

      I voted strategically once, a few elections back. The race looked close enough that I felt it was worth voting for the lesser evil. In the end, the greater evil prevailed and I was left with a feeling that I had betrayed my principles for nothing.

      I figger the GPC should take a page out of the Reform playbook. We oughta swallow up the Grits like they swallowed up the PC’s. With the Grits in such disarray, now might be the best time for us to initiate a takeover. I betcha more Libs would want Lizzie May at the helm than MI.


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