Thursday, October 16, 2008

Flailing the Greens

I expected the Green Party to at least win one seat this election. No really, I truly did. I don't think that since the late 1980's was there such a strong environmentalist streak within the national political mood. Elizabeth May successfully petitioned to be included in the televised debates. Jim Harris had provided the infrastructure, funding and legitimacy to the party after years of peripheral involvement in the federal square. The time was ripe for the Greens to finally elect their very first Member of Parliament, so what happened?

A lot of things went as planned: The Greens capitalized on the newly refreshed environmentalist movement and increased their take of the overall vote. Almost 1,000,000 Canadians opted for a Green candidate, an increase of 300,000 from the 2006 Federal Election. In fact, they were the only party in Canada to actually increase their total votes. But despite this, the Greens failed to win a single riding, and even lost their lone sitting MP to a Conservative.

The mistake was primarily May's decision to develop an uncomfortably close relationship with Stephane Dion, the doomed Liberal leader. May advocated strategic voting, urging Green voters to choose the Liberal candidate rather than the Green candidate. The goal, apparently, was to keep Conservatives from winning seats, rather than increasing Green representation. May also developed a bizarre non-compete agreement with Dion, choosing not to field a candidate in the Liberal leader's home riding. These agreements might have improved May's standing with Dion, but they cost the Green Party itself precious funding in lost votes. It remains to be seen just what May was hoping for. A place in Dion's cabinet perhaps? A cozy job in Ottawa as Minister of the Environment? Whatever one can say about her actions, post-election it is clear that a good deal of her efforts were for the advancement of Elizabeth May the politician, not the Green Party.

We're now hearing some interesting things from depths of the Green Party. One senior Green has come out against May's renewed call for a coalition against Stephen Harper and her strategic voting policy. Another Green has come out and stated that the goal of the Green Party is, amazingly, not to exist as a political entity but to influence other political parties, acting as some sort of publicly funded lobby group. And of course we still have Elizabeth May, simultaneously announcing a party debt of $2,000,000 and her new plan to topple Stephen Harper's government without ever setting foot in the House of Commons. These are the sounds of party suffering from a bad case of indigestion.

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