Will the NDP wake up and respond to the threat the Greens pose?

By Harold Jansen on Oct 3, 2008

It's been interesting listening to the post-debate analyses. One theme keeps coming up and that is that Elizabeth May impressed a lot of people. As Andrew Coyne pointed out in the CBC's post-debate "At Issue" panel, the debate cemented the Greens' place on the national stage. Talking to people around here, I'm surprised to hear the chord that the Greens seem to be striking with a lot of people. Some of this is a "none of the above" vote; the Greens have never been in power anywhere and are fresh and new, so people see this as a way of registering dissatisfaction. Other people find their policies refreshing: it's pro-environmental and socially progressive without without the baggage of the traditional NDP.

Thinking back to the debates, I've been struck with how little the other leaders engaged her. There was the odd "Elizabeth is right" as a preface to a statement, but generally they didn't argue with her or challenge the Greens. Right now the polls have the Greens at around 10%. These are votes that could be going to the Liberals and especially to the NDP. Since this level of unconcentrated support means the GPC will likely not elect anyone, these votes are essentially lost. I'm very surprised we haven't seen Jack Layton or Stephane Dion not explicitly calling for people not to waste their votes by voting Green. Dion's alliance with May probably rules that our for the Liberals, but Jack Layton is not bound by any such arrangement. It seems the NDP's response to the Greens (besides disdain) has been to ignore them in the hope that they will just fade away.

Given that the party was a non-entity in 2000, its growth has been explosive. Even if the party doesn't win a seat, it will be difficult to exclude its leader from the next leaders' debate. Going into this election, there was some speculation about the NDP supplanting the Liberals on the left. It's possible that when we look back at 2008, the story might be that the Greens took a big step towards supplanting the NDP.


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Please sir, I want some democracy . . .

There's only one answer to this conundrum. We need a modern, proportional voting system, so we can vote for whomever we want, no matter where we live, and know that our vote will always help to elect somebody.

Under the current system, most of us vote for people who don't get elected, so we end up "represented" by people we voted against. And most MPs "represent" mostly people who voted against them. It's nuts.

Fair Vote Canada has created a home for us "orphan voters"—with cash prizes!


Couldn't agree more

As one of the 100+ political scientists who signed the Fair Vote Canada petition calling for a referendum on PR a few years ago, I agree 100%. We could end up with more people voting Green than BQ in this election, but the Bloc could get 40 seats and the Greens 0.

re: Will the NDP wake up and respond to the threat the Greens po

It's interesting that you write about the Green party supplanting the NDP, Harold. I voted for a local NDP candidate years ago - when the Green party was a non-entity - for the sole reason that he had the only realistic and feasible economic growth programme combined with environmental protection in the community where I lived. I say "sole reason" because I am as far from socialism as can be, having grown up in a socialist country and experienced its drawbacks first-hand. Up till recently the NDP have indeed been the only party with a reasonably strong environmental consciousness and concrete measures to implement it. So in that sense I agree that the Green party is supplanting them.

I did get the impression that other party leaders did not take Elizabeth May as seriously as she should be taken - for better or for worse, for I hope they have a surpirse coming to them :-) Would it be different if the leader of the Green party were a man? (And I'm not a feminist any more than I'm a socialist :-)

I suspect ignoring the Greens is strategic ....

.... as some NDP strategists would argue that addressing them with critiques would lend them more credibility than the Green's explosive growth has already given them. 

It's interesting: in 2004, the NDP's response to the Greens was to "out-Green" them, and they happily trumpeted how the Sierra Club of Canada rated the NDP's platform more highly than the Green's. 

This time around, however, the Sierra Club of Canada has decided that carbon taxes are greener than cap and trades, despite the fact that Europe is engaging in the latter and a combination of the two would probably be most effective for Canada. 

I think you're right

I suspect you're right, Melanee, but I'm not sure that strategy is working any more. The NDP used to benefit from a "plague on both your houses" vote from people who disliked the Liberals and Conservatives. After almost 50 years, the NDP is now one of the old, mainstream parties and the Green vote is now a "none of the above" vote more than the NDP.

I can hear Brad Lavigne from here ...

I can actually hear Brad Lavigne swearing the "ignore the Greens" strategy still works, despite evidence to the contrary. 

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