Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Green Party Breakthrough?

A consensus seems to be emerging among pundits that the big winner in Monday's by-elections was the federal Green Party.

And superficially this seems to be the case.

The Greens finished second in the Willowdale riding and substantially improved their vote totals overall.

But is this truly evidence of a Green Party breakthrough?

Forgive me if I am just a tad bit skeptical.

First off, you cannot really determine national trends on the basis of four by-elections, especially in by-elections with such poor voter turnouts.

Vancouver-Quandra had a turnout of only 33%, Willowdale, 24%, Toronto Centre, 28% and Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River, 25%.

When voter apathy is so high, political success usually boils down to good ground organization and getting the vote out.

And because they could focus their resources on a few key ridings, the Greens would have an advantage in this area, an advantage which would disappear during a general election.

Secondly, I suspect many Green votes were actually protest votes. People wanted to send out a message that they didn't like any of the main stream parties. Again, this is typical behaviour in a by-election, a dynamic which won't be in play in a general election when more is at stake.

Thirdly, voters weren't really paying attention to any of these races. There was no national campaign to focus on. No leadership debates. No real issues. So when people walked into the voting booth, many of them voted "Green" simply because they think the environment is important. If there was a party called "Health Care" on the ballot it probably would have received lots of votes too. In a general election, there will be lots of other issues on the table.

So it's way too early to get excited about the Green Party.

5 comments:

Ken said...

The Greens didn't finish 2nd in Willowdale or any of the other ridings. They were 3rd in the 2 Toronto ridings though.

Anonymous said...

It was a good thing that Elizabeth May didn't make herself the center of attention this time. There were relatively strong candidates (for the Greens) in Chris Tindal in TO Center and Dan Grice in Quadra. When May was running in London, Greens received frequent e-mails to donate, do remote phone calls to the riding, etc. With May not in the candidate mix, it was noticably more low key, yet the Greens gave themselves more of a boost than with May pulling out all the stops in London. The Greens do need to prove themselves in a general election though. I don't like May but I think the party gained some cred this time.

nbt said...

First off, you cannot really determine national trends on the basis of four by-elections,[...]

I'm skeptical too Gerry, but then again, you have to remember that the Reform party got their big [initial] break in an Alberta by-election.

Anonymous said...

I think the Greens doing well only hurts the NDP for the most part. But, they are moving upward but I don't see any big breakthroughs soon. Willowdale is also a very comfortable riding and the people there can afford to 'do their part to make the world a better place.' Provided of course that somebody else pays for the new regime instead of them. (real conservative)

Iain G. Foulds said...

... Yet, in the context of an almost unavoidable serious economic downturn, the Green party would essentially disappear.