The Green Party of Canada looks poised to have its strongest showing ever in the next federal election: their national poll numbers remain solid; they won a federal by-election earlier in 2019 in Nanaimo, B.C.; their provincial counterparts in P.E.I. performed exceedingly well in the recent provincial election; and the Green Party in B.C. still holds the balance of power in the province, working with the B.C. NDP in an issue-by-issue fashion.
These are all significant building blocks moving into the federal campaign. With the environment as a “hot button” campaign issue, the party could make gains at the expense of the Liberals and NDP in particular regions.
But they will need to run a campaign based on broad electoral appeal. While environmental leadership will remain its cornerstone issue from a policy perspective, they will not grow if they limit themselves to being a one-issue team.
To this end, we expect a fairly comprehensive platform to emerge from the Green Party—one that looks to speak to more Canadians in multiple regions. Yet the challenges ahead for Green Party leader Elizabeth May will be difficult to overcome. They include:
Avoiding the centre-left squeeze
The federal NDP will be highly cognizant of the threat the Green Party poses to its traditional voters, particularly given Jagmeet Singh’s troubles in major polls. The Green Party will have to design and execute a bold campaign premised on targeting: the youth vote; those who have voted Green before; disillusioned NDP voters; and those who are anxious about the climate plans of the Liberals and Conservatives.
“Owning” the green file
Many of the Liberals’ major environmental commitments—including progress on the Paris Accord targets—have simply not come to fruition. There is a palpable sense that those who previously viewed the party as a “green champion” may now have serious doubts. The NDP has already put out an aggressive green plan, and the Conservatives have released a comprehensive strategy. The political battle on this particular issue will be critical for Elizabeth May. As the campaign advances, the Liberals will undoubtedly be looking to reinforce that they are “the only party” who can potentially form government from the centre-left, and that a vote for the Greens is wasted. The Green Party, in turn, will need to convince those same voters to “stay with them” regardless of the results in October.
Obtaining official party status
It would be a major victory for the Green Party to achieve full party status in the House of Commons. Achieving this result would launch the party into a different political “zone” among federal parties. And this is particularly true if a minority government is the final result in October: the Greens could play a pivotal role in supporting (or opposing) whichever party wins a plurality of seats. Their support will likely need to be secured—with the support of environmental issues as the basis for their decision.