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Can Green Party Candidates Break Through In Provincial Elections This Fall?

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MIKE SCHREINER GREEN PARTY OF ONTARIO
Last week, the Green Party of Ontario sought to raise Leader Mike Schreiner’s profile with the launch of a campaign that demands his inclusion in the provincial leaders’ debate. | Green Party of Ontario

On May 2nd, the Green Party of Canada made a historic breakthrough by electing its first MP, Leader Elizabeth May, to the House of Commons. Could a similar surprise occur this fall in the provinces?

Of the five provincial elections being held in October and November, the Ontario Greens stand the best chance of pulling off an upset, though they still have a long way to go.

Under former leader Frank de Jong the Ontario Greens took a huge step forward in 2007, winning 8 per cent of the vote, up from 2.8 per cent in 2003. But with Mike Schreiner now at the helm, the party is polling at around six per cent.

Last week, the party sought to raise Schreiner’s profile with the launch of a campaign that demands his inclusion in the provincial leaders’ debate.

Still, at 6 per cent support, it will be difficult for the Greens to win a first seat in the Ontario legislature.

The riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound is likely their best shot. The Greens took 33 per cent of the vote and finished only 14 points behind the Progressive Conservatives in 2007. However, with the PCs up in the polls, it will take a herculean effort for Don Marshall, a councilor for West Grey, to wrest the seat from the Tories. Complicating the matter is that the Green candidate from 2007, Shane Jolley, will be running as an independent and could potentially split the environmentalist vote.

In Dufferin-Caledon, the Greens finished with 16 per cent of the vote in 2007, behind the Tories (42 per cent) and the Liberals (32 percent). Deputy Leader Rob Strang will be running again for the Greens. However, it’s a safe PC riding, so the best the Ontario Greens can hope for is a strong second place.

Guelph also saw the Greens finish third with 20 per cent of the vote, behind the Liberals (41 per cent) and the PCs (25 per cent). With Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals suffering in the polls, the Greens’ Steve Dyck could potentially pull off a surprise if the Tories do not take full advantage of the governing party’s troubles in the riding.

But in the other four provinces, a Green seat is unlikely. Newfoundland and Labrador has no registered Green Party, and the PEI Greens scored only two per cent in the last provincial poll on the island.

The Manitoba Greens had only 1.3 per cent support in the 2007 election, and in Probe Research’s latest poll (which does not identify Green support specifically) the “Other” option garnered only 3 per cent. The Greens did finish second in the riding of Wolseley in 2007 at 12 per cent support, but the NDP took the seat with more than five times as many votes.

“I do not expect the Greens to be a major factor in this election, just as they have not been a major factor in recent Manitoba elections,” said Curtis Brown of Probe Research. “Although there are some important environmental issues on the public agenda, other environmental organizations have been more prominent in these debates than the party itself.”

And in Saskatchewan, the latest poll by Sigma Analytics from November put the Greens at 4.8 per cent, more than double the 2 per cent support the party earned in the 2007 election. But the Greens only placed third in a four-way race in one riding. A seat may be out of their reach, but the Saskatchewan Greens could supplant the Liberals in more than a few parts of the province.

The kind of momentum, funding, and national profile that Elizabeth May enjoyed in Saanich – Gulf Islands will not exist for the provincial Greens. If they do win a riding in any of this fall’s elections, it will be an unexpected victory.

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