What an experience! The election is over, and I’m filled with pride, gratitude, and hope.
Pride because I’m part of something bigger than myself, something incredible: Canada, and also the Green Party of Canada; and because the people of the Green Party Provencher have bigger hopes and vision than I could have dreamed, and are already pressing me to take things further. I’m so proud of them, and proud to be their candidate.
Gratitude, because there are so many people that contributed to our campaign. Our donors and volunteers, the Executive Committee of the Green Party Provencher Riding Association, the people who came out to our events and shared their ideas with us, the people who left us encouraging emails and Facebook messages (and notified us when our signs disappeared), the other candidates (congratulations Ted, and a huge thank-you to Terry and Les for running a positive and friendly campaign!), the local media (the local papers and radio stations were great at giving us equal coverage – something the national media stopped doing with a month left in the campaign), and of course the voters who had the courage to vote Green even in a heavily Conservative riding with enormous pressure to vote strategically. I applaud those Green voters, who voted for the candidate and party they thought had the best plans and ideas when it seemed that so many others had other motivations for voting, because they understand the principles of our system and stand by them even when they’re unpopular.
And I’m filled with hope because our future looks a little bit brighter today than it did at this time last year, not necessarily because I’m excited about a majority Liberal government (though I think it’s a marked improvement on the one it will replace), but because I’ve seen so many people throughout this campaign thinking deeply and speaking articulately about the nation they live in and the issues we face. I’ve had so many people tell me that they’ve never been so informed, and that they’re hungry for more. You all have more hope than you’ve had in a long while, and that inspires hope in others, including me.
So what does the future look like for Canada? I’m sure there is no end of articles speculating about what it will be like. I do have a few thoughts on the election results though, and what that will look like both locally and nationally.
Nationally, this looks like a huge change. This is the first time in Canadian history that a third-place party has jumped to first place – and a majority government, at that! This is also the first time in Canadian history that the son of a Prime Minister has become Prime Minister. This change in party fortunes is unprecedented, even in comparison to the Orange Wave that swept Quebec in the 2011 election.
But I say it looks like a huge change because, in some ways, it isn’t. Yes, blue to red is a big change in the votes, but we’re still going from one false majority government to another. We complained for four years that the Harper Conservatives formed a majority government with only 39% of the national vote, but that’s precisely the amount that the Liberals won with last night. And a majority government behaves like…a majority government. While the Harper Conservatives behaved rather poorly much of the time, rushing omnibus bills through without proper debate and ignoring the warnings of experts in committee, and while I sincerely hope (and even believe) that the Liberals will not follow suit, the point is that a majority government doesn’t have the same accountability that a minority government does. I don’t think the Liberals will behave the same way the Conservatives did, but they could – which is why we must be vocal with our MPs, always letting them know that we’re paying attention and that we won’t tolerate bad behaviour and broken promises. Remember, the Liberals voted for C-51 and promised to fix it later, and also promised that this would be the last election with First Past the Post; hold them to it!
If the Liberals follow through on their promise to bring in electoral reform, everything about our political system will change. People will no longer be afraid to vote their heart, or feel pressured to vote “strategically” or vote against someone, and that will change the way that they vote. Greens stand to gain under proportional representation, not only because last night we would have won 10-12 seats instead of 1, but also because more people would feel empowered to vote Green. We know we’re most people’s favourite second choice; without fear of vote splitting, we’ll be a lot more people’s first choice. Parliament will no longer be polarized between two parties, as it traditionally has been, and elections will be less prone to sweeping waves of protest votes. Quality candidates and smart policies will matter more.
The Liberals are also poised to enact some Senate reform, which is hugely important. We need a sober chamber of sober second thought, and one of Trudeau’s best moves as Liberal leader (in my opinion) was to eject all Liberal senators from his caucus; there’s no room for partisanship when it comes to scrutinizing potentially partisan bills.
And finally, the Liberals have a much, much better approach to the environment than the Conservatives do. Elizabeth May will still be an outspoken critic of the government, but you can bet that her comments on environmental issues will be taken more seriously than they have been over the past four years. Stephane Dion is a brilliant environmentalist who will make a fantastic environment minister, and we’ll finally be able to make progress at an international climate change conference when we go to Paris (and it has been suggested that Elizabeth May will lead or co-lead the delegation, in a throwback to when delegations to such events were non-partisan and collaborative).
So all in all, this is very good news tempered by the possibility of seeing little real change. Time will tell, but I’m happy to give the Liberals the benefit of the doubt and say that they will show integrity and accountability in how they govern Canada. And I’m going to keep my eye on them and support my MP in valid critique of them in case they don’t. That’s how democracy works.
Locally, it looks like there was little change at all: Ted Falk received 55% of the vote instead of 58%, and the Green Party candidate received 3.9% instead of 3.6%. The Liberal and NDP vote share stayed more or less the same too, within a few percentage points. It almost makes you wonder why we bothered…except that there was very significant change in a number of ways!
First, the voter turnout jumped dramatically. In 2011, 61% of Provencher electors voted; in the 2013 by-election, only 33% did. This year 69.8% of electors voted. That means that more people are engaged and potentially holding their MP accountable. Politicians need the feedback of their constituents in order to do their job, and knowing that more people are paying attention is an important and powerful motivator. Ted Falk, take notice – because we are.
Second, Ted may have been re-elected, but he is no longer a back-bencher in a majority government, he is now a member in opposition to an even larger majority government. His role may change dramatically, and I think and hope that this means that he’ll be more able to speak on behalf of his constituents and collaborate with other parties and citizens’ groups within the riding. While our chances of getting handouts and goodies from the government has decreased (because governments tend to favour the ridings held by their own MPs), our chances of having a stronger voice in government has increased (because Harper is stepping down as leader and Ted will have to raise his voice more often in order to have much of an effect). I don’t know if Ted sees last night’s results as good news for his party, but it IS good news for Provencher, and particularly for the residents of Provencher who want their voice taken to Ottawa. We can work with Ted in a greater capacity now, and I hope he’ll be happy to have our support.
Third, and most powerfully, we are seeing the start of a Green movement in the riding. This is something you can’t see in the numbers, but if you come out to any of our events you’ll see it in the eyes of our supporters. When I started the Green Party Provencher Riding Association two years ago, just in time for the by-election, it was with the goal of creating an infrastructure to organize the Greens of Provencher and help the movement to grow, and we spent the last two years building that infrastructure. Without it we had no way of knowing who our voters were, why they voted Green, or how we could get them together. While we’re still a long way from the database and structures of the Conservatives, we’re growing in organization and making connections with more Greens all the time. And we’re growing: the small increase in percentage of the vote masks the actual numbers: we’ve jumped from over 1,100 votes to over 1,800 votes, and some of our new supporters are experiencing a personal awakening to politics, and to values that they’ve long held but had never heard a political party articulate. They want to grow in that, and they’re talking to their friends about committing to a movement, rather than just voting in an election. That’s incredibly powerful, and I’m excited to see where it will go!
If you’ve been following my blog, thank you. If you voted for me, thank you! If you’ve seen something here that inspires you to a better vision of Canada, send us an email and we’ll add you to our list. In a week or two we’ll have a meeting to decide how we can best keep this momentum going, to plan events and meetings that continue to inspire us and bring out the best in Provencher!
This has been an amazing experience, and I’m so blessed to get to know so many of you! Thank you for your support: you’ve taught me so much, and I’m honoured to have been your candidate!