Canadian politics just cracked


Open, I mean. A little. First the Bloc, then the NDP, and at last the Conservatives have buckled, and now the Greens are in the debate(s). It’s not much, but it’s a start: the sight of the Green Party leader in the debates is going to give them instant legitimacy, of a kind they have never had before. A whole lot of people who had previously never considered voting Green are going to give them a thought. I don’t mean that everyone’s going to see Elizabeth May and be blown away by her: I agree with those pundits who say she might turn off as many people as she turns on. But just by standing on the stage with the other leaders, she and her party ascend to a whole new level. We are no longer in a three- or four-party system. We are now, and for the foreseeable future, in a five-party system.

As it was, more than 660,000 people trudged to the polls to vote Green at the last election. I say trudged, because every one of them went through the exercise of casting their vote in the certain knowledge that they would not elect a single MP — such is the ludicrous unfairness of our first-past-the-post electoral system. (A refresher course: Tories 5.37 million votes/124 seats=43,000 votes per seat; Bloc 1.55-million votes/51 seats=30K votes per seat; NDP 2.59-million votes/29 seats=89K votes per seat; Greens 664-thousand votes/0 seats=Infinity…) With the lift they will get out of the debates, and given where they are in the polls already, it is possible, even probable, that the Greens will pull more than a million votes this time out. Indeed, they may even outpoll the Bloc.

Which raises a couple of interesting scenarios. 1. Suppose the Greens manage to win a few seats. And suppose they have the balance of power in a tight parliament. The Greens are on record as supporting proportional representation. (So are some other parties, but the Greens appear to mean it.) Could this be the price of Green support? 

Or 2. Suppose the Greens, despite outpolling the Bloc, win no seats, while the Bloc comes home with — worst-case scenario — 30 or more. Could this absurd situation be maintained for long? A system that shuts out a party with more than a million votes — and particularly strong representation among younger voters — while handing a bushel of seats to a party dedicated to the country’s destruction?

It’s not quite a Green Revolution, but this may go down as a historic day in Canadian politics.


Canadian politics just cracked

  1. Democracy, eh?

    Even when it takes a beating, it manages to get back up.

    I too am not certain that May will do wonderfully in the debates, but that’s beside the point. Good for her for sticking to her guns and shaming the others into backing down.

  2. Coyne, people always muse that the Greens might win seats, but they can never point to a solid example of a winnable seat. I think it’s fair to say that the Greens could win thousands more votes and still be unable to snag one riding.

    On another note, I hope you know that you are some sort of romantic idol for many girls in their young twenties. My girl friends seriously dig you. They watch that At Issue panel and swoon.

    I just wish I was as cool as you.

  3. Count me as another one who wonders how May will come across to the average person.

    I too hope for a historic day but not in the same way as you, Andrew. I like our electoral system how it is. I know it’s unfair but I like that our governments can legislate how they want without having to pander to every interest group around.

    I wish for a change in how we view the political system. I am tired of elites and their attitude that they get to govern how they wish and the rest of us hoi polloi can go hang. I hope this energizes some people into trying to take power away from the pooh bahs and place it where it belongs with the people.

  4. Soylent Green is people.

  5. Wait.. you’re tired of elites being able to govern how they wish, but at the same time don’t want governments to have to listen to interest groups?

    If they don’t have to listen, doesn’t that mean they get to govern how they wish? And if you don’t want them to govern how they wish, doesn’t it mean they have to listen to groups outside them?

    I think you need to pick one or the other.

  6. In 2008, I just don’t think the Leader’s debates will be as significant as was the case in the past. Yes, a milestone of sorts, but it’s not as if Elizabeth May is an unknown and isn’t being heard in the MSM. Some might say she is already being overexposed.

    Perhaps with increased status comes increased media scrutiny of what she says, and the GPC poliicies, one aspect of coverage that has been sorely lacking in the past, especially amongst the collegial PPG.

  7. Am I alone in thinking, then, that Harper’s objection to her had real merit — that she represents Liberal Party No. 2? (In her words she has effectively already endorsed the Grits, and she and Dion have agreed not to run candidates against each other; since they’ll do no such favour for other parties, this special relationship is an objective fact, no?) She’s going to go after Harper, yes, and probably Layton, and that’s it. She may even get nasty about in a way that a serious contender wouldn’t — in short, to function as a kind of stalking horse for her real candidate for PM.

  8. 664000/0 = infinity should be 664000/0 is undefined because 1/0 = infinity and 2/0 = infinity means 1 = infinity x 0 and 2 = infinity x 0 and 664000 = infinity x 0. Infinity is not a number.

  9. Wrote in my blog a few days ago that the most pressing issue of our time and in this election is democratic and electoral reform. I say this as a woman and poverty activist whose employment income is limited to below poverty levels by disability and who is passionate about peace, the environment, food and housing security, a woman’s right to choose, and the development and sustainability of local economies.

  10. Hey Garnet the possibilities are endless. Everyone is probably thinking yeah sure she is just another Liberal in disguise becuase of their arrangement and they are to going to try and cluster (nevermind) gang up on Harper however what if one or the other sees some potential in using the platform to cast their net at each other’s members – oh the betrayal …. never happen but you never know as for my boy Stevie (he is smiling inside today I am sure) all sweet and colorful … ROFL LMAO

  11. I’m glad they have been included…if only to up the entertainment value. Having ‘The Consortium’ make this kind of decision is simply not on..by the way, I envision ‘The Consortium’ as Celine Dion, Youpi, the guy from the Sham-WOW infomercial, and Paul Wells.

    Seriously, does anyone have an opinion on the notion that because it is something of a pan-national franchise..that is, one of the only existing political parties to exist in many countries (like the Communists)…that the Greens are too dedicated to their agenda, and the national interest of whatever country is secondary, if considered at all?

  12. Interesting watching Dion on tour a few moments ago, decrying Harper for nastiness, when all year he has been referring to the PM as a right-wing, neo-conservative, republican politician. The media, myopic as ever, never picks up on the fact that he has just made the most hateful attack in the Liberal urban bigot arsenal, no wonder every once in awhile his angry look shifts to a merde manging grin.

  13. The French debate should be fun for her.

  14. “the Greens are too dedicated to their agenda, and the national interest of whatever country is secondary, if considered at all”

    Those Green, er, commies are taking their marching orders from Uncle Joe….by whom I mean Joschka Fischer.

  15. Aside from the mathematical nitpicking over how we define (or undefine…) our ratios, the fact that the Greens have no seats to show for their many votes doesn’t much bother me.

    Because of our parliamentary system, our political parties need to appeal to a plurality of people in a given place, to send a member to represent their particular interests. We simply should not accept the ‘party list’ allocation of seats (which means that the CBC will run out of journalists fast, as they will all be on the LPC, NDP benches), especially mixed with traditional ‘actually represent voters’ MPs. Two-tier indeed.

    Also, proportional rep = the end of the independent MP…does our constitution provide for that?

  16. KW: For the independant MP, it depends entirely on the type of proportional rep that’s chosen. A lot of systems use a “two sided” model, where half the house is populated with FPTP riding winners, and the other half by party reps, the number of which is based on their proportion of the total vote.

  17. Missed it by *that* much.

  18. From Dion’s perspective there are certainly pros and cons to May being at the debates.

    The Pros:

    Dion will now have his big sister on the playground to protect him from all that bullying by Harper. Dion and Sis will be saying the same things (as they support one another like siblings should) except Sis will probably say it in a way that we can comprehend.

    The Cons:

    the viewing public will see Dion’s big sister protecting him from all that bullying and no doubt outshining him (as the more dominant sibling sometimes does).

  19. Charlie’s right: as a girl in my early twenties, I’m sure some of my friends are sick of hearing me wax on about the wonder of Andrew Coyne. And his advocacy of proportional representation is only part of it! (His passion for Canada as a nation is a much bigger part of it.)

  20. The NDP got a million more votes and one seat less than the Bloc in the last election. Could this absurd situation be maintained for long? Apparently. What were the results in tshe Ontario election and what were the results in the referendum on PR?

    If provinces hold the same proportionate weight in Parliament after a shift to PR, could this actually help the sovereigntists? They could run two separate parties, one centre-right and the other “the little brother of the NDP”, and wouldn’t have to maintain their current left-right alliance (which seems to be coming apart right now).

  21. 664000/0 = infinity should be 664000/0 is undefined because 1/0 = infinity and 2/0 = infinity means 1 = infinity x 0 and 2 = infinity x 0 and 664000 = infinity x 0. Infinity is not a number.

    Uh, Norm…you don’t get out much do you?

    Not much above high school math (Gr. 11) apparently either…but it’s *okay*, Norm.


  22. BC Liberal Party. Nuff said.

    BCL – Maybe. Or it could be as meaningful to the Greens in the long run as it was to the PDA or UnityBC.

  23. Good news for democracy, but not necessarily good news for the Libs + NDP. If Eliza May takes votes, they will most likely come from the NDP or the Libs…..very few votes will leak form the Cons to the Greens…so the real winner is…??

  24. Neil, Greens are a popular protest vote here in Alberta where voting Liberal is blasphemy and voting NDP is.. well.. I’m not really sure what it is because I don’t think it’s ever happened.

  25. “664000/0 = infinity should be 664000/0 is undefined because 1/0 = infinity and 2/0 = infinity means 1 = infinity x 0 and 2 = infinity x 0 and 664000 = infinity x 0. Infinity is not a number…”

    Norm, was it really necessary for Andrew to write?

    lim x -> 0+ (664068/1) = infinity

    I’m sure what we’re all dying to see on this blog is calculus.

  26. The more wack jobs on the left is fine with me – should make for more Conservative MPs.

  27. Charlie: “Coyne, people always muse that the Greens might win seats, but they can never point to a solid example of a winnable seat.”

    There are a few that the Greens have an outside chance of winning. Central Nova (obviously), Guelph, Vancouver Centre. They did well in the provincial election in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound but that was largely on the popularity of the candidate there, who is not running in this election. They could also potentially come up the middle in a riding where all 3 other parties are roughly equally popular, such as London Fanshawe. But other than Central Nova, it’d be hard to argue that any of these are more likely than not.

    The Greens, probably moreso than any other party in Canadian history have dispersed geographic support – nearly equally popular in rural and urban that kills their chances of winning a bunch of seats.

    Some numbers to consider.. suppose the Greens take 15% of the vote of the NDP and Liberals, and 10% of the vote from the Bloc and Conservatives, and they do this in equal proportion in each riding (and given their popularity in each riding, this is plausible). [And assume no other popularity shifts]

    Here’s how the election would turn out:

    Conservatives: 32.6% vote / 131 seats
    Liberal: 25.7% vote / 97 seats
    Greens: 16.4% vote / *0* seats
    NDP: 14.9% vote / 28 seats
    Bloc: 9.4% vote / 51 seats
    IND/OTR: 1.0% vote / 1 seat

  28. Note the above numbers are not meant to be a prediction. Secondly, if the Greens really did get over 15% of the vote, they’d likely win 3 or 4 seats – the numbers above just illustrate a) how dysfunctional our electoral system is and b) the magnitude of the problem faced by the Greens.

  29. “It’s not quite a Green Revolution, but this may go down as a historic day in Canadian politics.”

    I think you’re going to be right Andrew.

  30. So people think Elizabeth May is a Liberal because she is closer to Dion’s environmental plan (Does that make Gilles a Conservative because the Conservatives say QC is a nation?) and because she said she’d rather Dion were Prime Minister than Harper? Seems to me she just honestly answered a question. Who would Layton rather have as PM – Harper or Dion? I think we know he’d never answer the question.

  31. Why do people always assume that the Greens can’t take conservative votes? I’m a conservative and I don’t vote PC/CPC anymore, I vote Green. They are not “left.” They support the environment (real conservatives conserve) and believe in sound fiscal policy and shifting taxes from good things to bad things. And they had the idea way before the Green Shift.

  32. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    It’s so convoluted! Typical of how many Canadians think.

    We’ve invited Gilles Duceppe to debate, made an exception, so now we can open up the debates to Elizabeth May, with all the rules to fair play broken.

    Just like the game Red Rover, Red Rover, let Elizabeth May come over. Who’s next?

  33. Derek is absolutely right, and maybe May being in the debate will help people to see that the Greens are not left wing but much more right wing in their stances. And the reason May is equated with the Libs is because of May’s real quest to defeat the Conservatives by any means possible and to that effect she has basically endorsed the Libs as the way to go. Which begs the question as to whether she really is a leader of a party, or just another Liberal candidate.

  34. many people will be interested to see how May and Dion debate against each other.

  35. I’m interested in seeing that too Sunny12. I think May will destroy Dion on issues where the Liberals and Greens differ. I expect she will have to in order to dispel the myth NDP and Conservatives are spreading that they are in the same party.

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