Rob Shaw: ‘Voters sent the Greens a clear message: Get your stuff together, or get lost.’
There were real no winners in Canada’s 44th election on Monday, with voters denying Liberal leader Justin Trudeau his coveted majority and instead sending all parties back to Ottawa with virtually the same results.
But there was one clear loser: The Green Party of Canada.
On paper, it looks like the Greens made an interesting gain, picking up a new riding in Kitchener Centre, where Mike Morrice will serve alongside Saanich-Gulf Island’s Elizabeth May in Parliament. It’s the first victory for the Greens in Ontario, and theoretically at least it could serve as a beachhead for the party to springboard into other important Ontario ridings next election.
But that positively quickly shatters when you look at how the Greens did overall in the election.
It was, in short, a disaster.
The worrying result for the party was likely in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford on Vancouver Island, where the Greens fell from 20 per cent of the vote in 2019 to six per cent of the vote on Monday and below the People’s Party’s seven per cent.
Yes, the Greens were actually beaten by a PPC candidate best known for penning a racist op-ed in the Vancouver Sun last year that argued multiculturalism was hurting the country. How humiliating is that?
It’s an especially astounding result when you consider that this riding encompasses the provincial Cowichan Valley riding of BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau. To see the federal wing of her party so thoroughly repudiated by voters in her own backyard must be deeply troubling to her and the rest of the provincial green apparatus.
The Greens’ share of the popular vote nationally plunged to 2.3 per cent, from 6.6 per cent in 2019 – prompting People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier to crow that his 5.1 per cent nationally outperformed the Greens and should mean he’s taken more seriously in the future.
Leader Annamie Paul was crushed in her riding of Toronto-Centre, finishing fourth with a dismal nine per cent of the popular vote, while Liberal incumbent Marci Ien cruised to an easy victory. It was a devastating showing, far worse than anything the Greens had predicted. It likely had something to do with the months of bitter infighting around Paul’s leadership, which turned voters off from supporting her.
“It’s hard to lose,” she told supporters. Though, the Greens made losing look easy Monday night.
To really understand the depth of the Green collapse, you need to look at Vancouver Island, where, prior to Monday, it did supernaturally well in ridings, far outpacing its share of the vote provincially or nationally.
Here too, disaster.
In Victoria, where the party finished second in 2019 with 29.9 per cent of the vote, the Greens went into a freefall down to 12 per cent. The Liberals had been hoping the Green collapse would boost candidate Nikki Macdonald’s hopes – but instead, Green voters apparently rallied behind incumbent New Democrat Laurel Collins and boosted her up 11 percentage points to a decisive and commanding victory.
In neighbouring Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, where the Greens finished second with 26.4 per cent in 2019, another total collapse down to nine per cent. The Greens haemorrhaged votes to the NDP.
The race in Nanaimo-Ladysmith was too close to call Monday night, but it was clear Green incumbent Paul Manly wasn’t going to win. The NDP and Conservatives were battling it out for the seat, while Manly, who held almost 35 per cent of the vote in 2019, was brought back down to earth to a sobering 25 per cent and third place. It appeared the Greens bled off not just to the NDP here but also the Conservatives.
Everywhere you looked, the Greens fell.
Even in Saanich-Gulf Islands, where the invincible May will begin her second decade representing the riding, her margins shrunk.
She won the riding with 50 per cent of the vote in 2019, but on Monday night clocked in with only 37 per cent. For the first time, she looks to be within striking distance of her opponents, should a future party happen to run the right person at the right moment.
The Greens (under whomever leads them next, likely May by default) will try to spin Monday’s result as a gain because the party won a new seat in Kitchener. Don’t be fooled.
The party reaped what it sowed after months of immature infighting, petty squabbling, and court challenges against its leader. Voters sent the Greens a clear message Monday night: Get your stuff together, or get lost. The party has a steep uphill battle to reclaim the ground it lost. It’s possible it never will.
Rob Shaw has spent more than 13 years covering BC politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for The Orca. He is the co-author of the national best-selling book A Matter of Confidence, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.
- Rob Shaw: ‘Let’s hope the premier is right that cruise ships won’t give BC a miss. But on this file, so far, he hasn’t been.’
- Green leader Annamie Paul was the very first guest on Ellected – the podcast about, by, and for women in politics.
- Last October, Dene Moore looked at polls and protests indicating Canadians were increasingly concerned about the climate – and wondered where the Green wave was?