Elizabeth May on the byelections and vote-splitting

Some of the Green party leader’s comments to reporters after QP yesterday.

Remember, this was a byelection. So there was no—I think people get panicked about vote splitting. Whether it is another Conservative, whether all the three ridings had gone Conservative, it wouldn’t have changed the dynamic in the House of Commons one bit. So in a general election, you have a different set of concerns and I think the Liberals, the NDP, need to start talking to each other. I’ve said that for some time. The Green Party at our convention actually had the members pass a resolution calling for me and our federal council to seek cooperation with the other parties so that in the 2015 election, we—I don’t know what form or shape that would take, but at least have discussions with a goal of after the 2015 election, getting rid of first past the post. The only reason we have all these panics about vote splitting and strategic [voting] is because we have one of the most bizarre voting systems that remains in any modern industrialized democracy. We’ve got a situation where the minority of voters can elect the majority of seats and where people worry needlessly. In the case of Victoria, we would have won in my view if the NDP hadn’t launched a last-minute fear campaign to tell supporters that if they voted green the Conservative would come up in the middle. Well the Conservative was stuck at 12% and wasn’t going to budge and it was very clear.

So that vote spitting argument works on all sides. It can motivate people to vote, not for what they want, but against what they’re afraid of and in a set of byelections, we went into them thinking that this was an opportunity certainly to make sure that people could see the Green Party was viable in different kinds of ridings across the country and certainly you know, the fact … that parties that are larger than us, that were in what were presumed to be safe seats, when they won by over 50% just 18 months ago and I refer to both the Calgary Conservatives and the Victoria New Democratics, they eked out victories by very narrow margins and I think that’s a sign that really the politics of Canada is different. The Green Party is a force electorally across the country…

Again, I can’t stress it enough. Byelections do not put in place a government in power. So there’s much less to fear and the fact that people play on this, you know, you’ve got to vote for one party over the other because you’ve got to be afraid of a Conservative additional seat: that’s not going to change the dynamic in the House of Commons. In byelections, I felt much less pressure, but as I said, our party has a policy. Our membership has passed a resolution calling on us to seek cooperation. I did attempt to see, cooperation with one of the major parties before these byelections. I’m not going to go into details, but they weren’t interested.

So you know, we’re just in a position when in byelections, you want to do the best you can to ensure that a different voice is heard on the federal landscape and I think we did remarkably well and I’m very pleased that—you know, people wrote off Victoria as a place where, because Denise Savoie had last been elected there with over 50% of the vote, there was the assumption that it was such a safe NDP seat, that at least nationally, nobody really bothered to cover the fact that our momentum was huge. If the election campaign had been one week longer, we would have taken Victoria. In the meantime, Calgary Centre, I think that … who would have imagined before these byelections that you would even be asking me about a strong showing by the Green Party in Calgary Centre.

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