Last month, Green Candidate Paul Manly won the by-election in the Vancouver Island riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. The win has been described as an historic moment for the Greens; adding a second MP to the House demonstrates that Elizabeth May’s hold on Saanich-Gulf Islands is not a one-up accomplishment. Indeed, the recent gains provincially in PEI, New Brunswick, and BC, provide evidence of growing voter interest in Green policy.
Our candidate, Janine Gibson, and I were fortunate enough to be on Vancouver Island during the campaign and spent a day with Manly’s team doing canvassing. Janine herself spent a few hours with Paul. We both found it a positive and inspiring experience. People, for the most part, were highly receptive and many expressed frustration with traditional politics and parties.
Not Just the Environment
Justin Trudeau has suggested that the win in Nanaimo shows that Canadians are preoccupied with climate.
He’s not entirely wrong. But he’s not entirely right either. In fact, his position sounds like he’s ready to make climate part of his 2019 platform. What he’s missed is that people are not happy with the traditional parties. This was, over and over again, the take away message we received while standing on people’s door steps. We also won’t forget that his 2015 climate plan involved purchasing a pipeline.
The Liberals failure to keep their promise on electoral reform is an important part of this story too. Our system is increasingly polarized and getting dirtier with every election cycle. People are fed up. Some people choose to simply give up. Others have found the Green Party is an alternative that promotes cooperation and consensus building.
Manly is also a strong advocate for affordable housing. Anybody who has been to this area of the country knows that homelessness is a huge problem. Green policy on social welfare and social justice is strong and well defined and Manly is a great spokesperson for it.
One big question lingers; what will happen in the next Federal Election in October, 2019? This by-election was not one that could change the government. As a result, people were not voting strategically. That is likely to change in a federal election as the “anybody but…” pressure starts to mount. What that means for Manly’s prospects to stay in his seat is hard to know right now.
What we do know is that Green votes come from across the political spectrum. Mostly Liberal but, perhaps surprisingly, more Conservatives switch Green than NDPs. As the evidence mounts that we must act on climate change it is very possible more conservative minded folk will look to preserving a healthy for future generations.