Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Washington Post - Could the Green Party Spell Trouble for Justin Trudeau in October?

Justin Trudeau must be so pleased that he reneged on his promise to rid Canada of first-past-the-post elections and the consequent false majorities it has inflicted on the Canadian people. That broken promise, among the litany of his broken promises and outright lies, may be the one that matters most when we go to the polls this October.

Despite that, the Washington Post asks if the Green Party of Canada could be bad news for Trudeau in the looming election.

With the federal election expected to begin in the late summer or fall, Canada’s political parties are preparing to battle for as many of the country’s 338 ridings as they can — and prognosticators are warming up, too. Will the Liberals hold on to government? Will they retain their majority? Which issues are going to dominate the campaign? 
For months, the Liberals and Conservatives have been in a fairly close one-two race — with the latter picking up steam. Most polls have the former in front. Commentators and pundits, me included, have been saying that the smart money is on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hanging on to government, perhaps with a reduced majority. He remains popular — or popular-ish, depending on which polls you read
The economy is doing well on aggregate. A start-up party led by disgruntled former Conservative member of Parliament (and former cabinet minister) Maxime Bernier is set to drain support from his old crew. And the New Democratic Party (NDP), with whom the Liberals compete for left and center-left votes, are currently weak. 
But in politics, as in life, there are threats you know about and threats you don’t. And then there are wild cards. Enter the Green Party of Canada. Led by Elizabeth May — one of the hardest-working parliamentarians in the country, a deeply informed and fierce debater, and a long-term champion for doing what it takes to address climate change — the party, for years, has had one seat in the House of Commons. That tracks with the Greens’ success around the country — not much of it. Until recently. 
In the 2017 British Columbia election, the local Green Party went from one seat to three in the provincial parliament, about doubling its popular support from 8 percent to nearly 17 percent. It ran the idealist campaign: saying no to money from unions and corporations, distancing itself from the old punch-counter-punch of the Liberals and the NDP, doubling down on a clean environment platform and the need for, you know, a habitable planet. In 2018, in Ontario, Mike Schreiner made history as the first Green elected to the legislature in that province. In New Brunswick, after a wacky election, the Greens are benefiting from growing public support, drawing from the Liberals. 
And in Prince Edward Island, some are suggesting the Greens could make history by winning the election and forming government — a year out from the race, they are effectively tied for first place. Recently in Maclean’s, Jason Markusoff profiled the party, asking, “Where in Canada will the Greens win next?” 
The Greens are clearly a growing force. 
Federally, in November, Green Party leader May was polling at 11 percent as preferred prime minister — tied with the NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Now her party is hovering around 7 percent on the aggregate polling numbers. That’s good news for them and potentially bad news for Trudeau. As David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, put it on Twitter: “Many, including me, say a weak NDP helps the [Liberals] in 2019. But if the Greens pull 8-10% of the vote, that’s tough for the [Liberals].” 
I think he’s right. He concludes, “I’m starting to think that @JustinTrudeau’s greater threat is @ElizabethMay, not @theJagmeetSingh.” Agreed, again, although I’d add that the combination of the two is a particularly serious challenge for Trudeau, especially if either — or both — parties perform well in some of the 34 ridings the Liberals carried by 5 percent or less in 2015 (out of 70 such nail-biter contests in total). 
The Liberals may not be past their best-by date yet — Canadians typically grow tired of federal governments after a few rounds — but they’ve been in government long enough that running the smiling 2015 “Hope and hard work” campaign will be tricky. They’re no longer the scrappy underdog on a quest to unseat the embattled, mean Conservative prime minister. They’re now the ones who broke a promise on electoral reform. They’re the ones who have struggled to build a pipeline — they had to buy the project from the private sector for it to even have a chance — that opponents claim is inconsistent with the government’s environmental agenda. They’re the ones pushing a (morally right and necessary) carbon tax backstop against the will of several (morally wrong and intransigent) provinces. They’re also the target of routine, increasingly nasty attacks from the Conservatives. And now they’re facing a growing scandal over alleged involvement by the prime minister’s office in an attempt to protect the Montreal firm SNC-Lavalin from prosecution over its alleged business practices in Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya. 
The Greens, on the other hand, are rising across the country. Modestly, sure. But notably. They don’t come with baggage. They can run the optimist, hopeful-crusader campaign underwritten by credibility as guardians of the sacred environmental trust — as the environment, day by day, is becoming a more salient issue for voters. Plus, May (as I said, a strong debater) is set to take part in the leaders’ debates in 2019 thanks to rule changes. She’ll be a force onstage. All of that is good news for the Greens and bad news for the other parties. It’s also good news for voters who want and deserve a range of credible options on the ballot.


Anonymous said...

Actually, Dippers and E May screwed Trudeau on electoral reform out of sheer partisan spite. They hijacked the electoral reform committee demanding full PR or nothing. All on 21% of the vote.

If anything they demonstrated why PR is a bad idea. Junior gave the NDP a PR electoral reform committee as they requested. But instead of working on a legislative compromise that the Liberals, NDP and Greens could agree on, they voted with the Cons for a referendum they opposed when they didn't get their way.

Trudeau washed his hands of the committee and was going to legislate simple ranked ballots in any case. I.e., your MP has to be elected with a majority of the vote. There's no reason why anyone with any sense would oppose this.

But then Nathan Cullen said if Trudeau did this it would be the same as waging "political nuclear warfare." That finally did the trick. The NDP got what they wanted: the boot of FPTP back upon their throats.

Long story short: vote splitting between the Greens and NDP will decimate Green and NDP seats. Fear of a Con majority will drive left-leaning voters to vote Liberal.

If we had ranked ballots, voters could've safely voted Liberal as a back-up vote, choosing NDP and Green first. Now the NDP and Greens get nothing.

Liberals have always been the party of FPTP. It made them "Canada's natural governing party."

They will never make the mistake of promising electoral reform again.

Anonymous said...

Easy to see you’re quite bitter about the Liberals ‘failure’ to deliver something other than FPTP nationally as you have railed at Junior on numerous occasion since the whole process fell through.
A previous commentator has explained some aspects of that failure, other than simply Justin screwed it up, BTW.
But I can’t recall your having said anything regarding that very process in what I believe to be your home province, BC. Where, as we know, it failed rather misrably with sixty percent of voters choosing to retain FPTP. Why is that, Mound? Just wondering. Mac

Trailblazer said...

Electoral reform.
The general public is too friggin stupid to understand anything but first past the post and is not inclined to even try to understand.
Winner takes all seems ingrained in our psyche .
Perhaps this is because of all the elderly now hanging on to their money for the afterlife?


The Mound of Sound said...

First of all, this post is simply about an op-ed in the Washington Post.

As for Trudeau's integrity, electoral reform was just one of his campaign scams.

The idea that his hands were tied by the NDP and the Greens is a bit disingenuous as he's wielded majority power without much hesitation. The only thing that seems to stand in his way are polls.

Why did the BC electoral reform referendum fail so miserably? The options were unusual. I had difficulty making sense of them. They were not the standard pro-rep/preferential ballot options. And the Horgan government put little effort, very little effort, into explaining these options, how they were chosen, why standard options weren't on the ballot. Most people I know didn't understand and they were open about that.

So we're left with something considerably less than a democracy. It's government by the consent (a lot of that ill-informed by Mr. Trudeau's disingenuous rhetoric) of less than two of five voters.

Just as we had to do under Harper's majority, the majority of Canadians have to submit to the whims of a false majority government that can only pretend it has a mandate from the electorate.

I understand that's fine with Liberals. It was fine with the Tories when they exercised false majority rule. It suits them so well. Which is why we are ruled, not governed.

Purple library guy said...

On someone's comment that it's somehow impossible to ever have proportional representation because FPTP is somehow in our DNA or something . . . OK, then how did so much of the world manage to get PR?

As to poor dear Justin with his majority government being totally unable to do electoral reform because the mean ol' NDP and Greens insisted on . . . actual reform . . . whatever. The fact is, all the experts agreed with the NDP and Greens and so did all the polls--almost every member of the public that actually wants some sort of electoral reform understands that the Libs' preferred option, STV/ranked ballot, was not it. Don't get me wrong, STV can be good for mayoral or presidential elections, or propositions--any situation where you're only going to end up with one of something. For parliamentary elections, it's a way to rig things in favour of centrist compromise parties, such as, oh hey, Liberals. What a co-incidence. The Liberals finally threw in the towel when they realized ramming through the solution designed to give them endless majorities was not passing the smell test, every single witness called by the committee opposed it, and the media was starting to notice just how cynical they were being. Finding it too hard to put in the solution that rigged things in their favour, they picked up their ball and went home rather than fulfil their promise. Blaming the people who weren't being evil is the height of hypocrisy.

Finally, the article may have a point, but it's hard to say. Lot of things could happen between now and the election. Jagmeet is likely to finally be in the Commons soon; he could surprise us all with good performances in the house.