Monday, January 21, 2008

May's Greens: rising tide?

Globe columnist Lawrence Martin's latest
piece on Elizabeth May and the federal Green Party was quite interesting. As many know, May is fighting to participate in the leader's debate and hoping to knock off Peter MacKay and win the first seat for her party. It won't be an easy task, but the Greens are feeling boosted by recent polls showing her party as high as 13% nationally and as high as 17% in Toronto's "guilt-ridden" 905 belt.

The big question is whether May can hold on to her poll numbers and translate them into votes at election time. It's likely that the Greens will be far outspent and outorganized by the three national parties, all of whom will be spending the maximum amount, and likely the Bloc too. Electoral history is filled with stories of overly optimistic parties driven by buoyant but ultimately ephemeral support levels.

A lot of folks assume that if the Greens do gain support that it'll be at the expense of Layton's NDP. According to the Martin article, some Greens even talk about merging with the NDP to create a new GDP (apparently that's short for "Green Democratic Party" and not "Gross Domestic Product"). However, Green gain at NDP expense isn't entirely certain. If it were, how might we explain the fact that the GP's greatest strength, when looking at all 500,000+ sized urban areas, lies in Calgary (9% in 2006, on average) and the 905 belt (17%, according to some poll numbers). These are hardly traditional areas of support for the NDP, which, at 10%, came in barely ahead of the Greens in Calgary and, outside of Oshawa, Hamilton and the Niagara region, struggles for votes in the 905 area that surrounds Toronto. Meanwhile, the NDP's two strongest cities, Vancouver (27% in 2006) and Winnipeg (28%) are actually two of the GP's weakest (5% and 4%, respectively).

My hypothesis right now is that the Greens are emerging as a or perhaps even the protest party of choice in regions where the NDP is relatively absent. Apart from a few BC ridings, wherever the NDP has a strong, well-managed campaign, the Green vote tends to be a non-factor, staying in the 2% to 6% range.

For the Greens, it certainly doesn't hurt that their message is more palatable for some suburban voters who feel a need to support a platform they see being ecologically-conscious, but who may be uncomfortable with the NDP’s traditionally pro-labour, redistributive policies (which the Greens tend either not to share or to keep awfully quiet about). If that's the case, the Greens may well be usurping more Liberal vote than NDP. Is that the reason behind the Dion/May hug-a-Green/hug-a-Liberal strategy? It's unlikely that, over the long run, they're both going to emerge victors from their quasi-alliance.

The Internet, being the ever-glorious provider of election study and polling numbers that it is, has given me quite a bit of interesting data to play with. That's one source of the tables I have above, which are simply summed riding-by-riding totals for each region. I've also found that the 2006 Canadian Election Study data files are freely
available; that study consisted of interviews with thousands of Canadians before and after the election to gauge such things as party momentum, preferred second choices, and reactions to party platforms, campaign announcements and party leaders. In the lead up to the next federal election, I hope to share of the interesting findings from this data.


At least one
fellow Manitoba blogger, upon noticing my recent profile change (which states I've been a blogger since only January of this year), has concluded that my entire 2007 blogging history must have been written and posted all this month. It sort of conjures up the image of some wretched, hunched-over character in a dark, grungy basement cackling madly in between fits of wild typing to produce mass amounts of blog content (if only I was that prolific...). No harm done, but lest others make the same assumption, I thought I'd make it known that I merely changed the Gmail account I associate with the blog to a new one. For those using a Gmail address with, it's easily done, as the instructions here, here, and here all attest. Of course, given the new profile date that'll appear by your name, you should be prepared to have any and all past election predictions challenged! Don't say I didn't warn you...


ravijo said...


Welcome to the New Democrats Online. I can't seem to get into the Globe's version of the article, but I'm interested to hear of Green party activists calling for a merger (Green Democratic Party).

Could you please explain more about this even if you simply copy and paste.


Blogging Horse said...

Agreed. Good post.

What is going on recently that Liberals are helping keep May in the news? She's been nowhere since her Nazi comments, but now she everwhere thanks to Liberals: 1) Scott Reid's puff piece in the Star and 2) Scott Tribe (Mr Lib Blog) giving May a "guest blogger" spot, just for examples.

What's the deal?

Prairie Topiary said...

The GDP reference in the Martin article is as follows: I've told Jack Layton," she responded, "that the door is open to talk about anything." She revealed there's been a little debate going on her party about one day joining with the NDP and calling a new party the GDP - the Green Democratic Party.

As far as I know, the Liberals haven't been promoting May's Greens a whole lot other than Dion vouching for her eligibility in any national leaders' debate.

From May's side, however, she almost endorses the Liberals outright in the article: "Where can we make the most progress?" she asked in an interview the other day. "It's a no-brainer. We can make the most progress with St├ęphane Dion as prime minister in a minority government." She goes on and on in the article, waxing poetic about Dion's integrity, politics, etc.

ravijo said...

Very interesting. The constant nagging detail is May's decision to endorse Dion for PM. This has sabotaged any attempt to co-operate between the parties.

The smartest thing Jack can do is call her bluff, publicly. However what's more likely is that he'll wait until the upcoming election is over and done with.

Sean S. said...

I did a post last week that looked at the poll numbers from the last year that shows, I think, that the Green increase is coming from all parties, and that 1/3 to 1/4 of the decreased NDP % is because of the Green's.

Good post, and welcome to NDO!

Prairie Topiary said...

sean s., interesting analysis - thanks for pointing out your post.