THE GREEN PARTY’S SHOCK victory in a recent federal by-election has Canadians reassessing their chances in the upcoming fall election. Elizabeth May routinely polls as the most popular party leader and the Greens have been experiencing success at the provincial level in B.C., Ontario, and PEI.
What does that mean for Kamloops? Very little according to the conventional wisdom. The Greens have never topped eight per cent in our Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding. However, that sort of thinking represents a failure of imagination.
Occasionally long-established voting patterns are disrupted as voters move en masse to a new option. This is called a ‘wave election’. During a wave election historical results mean nothing. Look at the NDP in Quebec during the 2011 election.
Remember ‘Vegas Girl,’ the primarily English-speaking bartender who handily won a francophone riding even after taking a mid-election vacation? There was a wave during the last election, too; the Liberals rocketed to first place from third. Propelled by a popular leader, they swept traditionally hostile ridings such as Kelowna-Lake Country, where they jumped from 11 per cent to 46 per cent.
Given that historical voting patterns favour the Conservatives, a wave would be a precondition to Green success in Kamloops. A local candidate can’t create a wave, instead they work hard so that they are well positioned to capitalize on potential opportunities.
Like surfers, candidates hope for a big wave, and if it comes must ride it with skill to avoid wiping out. Is a Green wave forming? There’s a great deal of ‘buzz’ around the party because early signs are so promising. However, potential breakthroughs have come and gone for the Greens before.
A lot will depend on a steady and inspired performance from Elizabeth May. Events between now and the election will play a big role too. One catalyst for a wave could be Jody Wilson-Raybould announcing a move to the Greens.
Another requirement for a Green candidate to win in Kamloops is vote splitting. Terry Lake running for the Liberals is a big help on that front. While he’ll no doubt want to focus people’s attention on his time as mayor, Lake’s record in Christy Clark’s right-of-centre government has made him a polarizing figure.
Small ‘c’ conservative types, who’d normally vote for the incumbent Conservative MP Cathy McLeod, are giving him a serious look. However, left-of-centre voters aren’t interested in him given his record. If the Greens capture all of that vote while Lake and McLeod split the right of centre vote, they could come out ahead in a tight, three-way race.
Normally the NDP would stand to benefit from a split rightwing vote but they’re missing in action. The NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is a thoughtful individual with good ideas but he’s proven to be a dud as leader. In Kamloops the NDP are putting up Gina Myhill-Jones. She was the only candidate to step forward after their preferred option, Bill Sundhu, passed. Haven’t heard of her? Nobody else has, either.
It’s no wonder the Green nomination is such a hot ticket. At least three people have expressed interest, meaning Kamloops could soon see its first-ever contested Green nomination meeting. I’ve personally met with one of the three potential nominees and came away impressed by his long record of public service, his intelligence, and his personal credibility.
Cathy McLeod is still the favourite to win this riding. Terry Lake’s chances evaporated when Liberal support cratered following the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Despite a near victory by Bill Sundhu in the last election the NDP are a non-entity this time around.
The Greens, if they pick the right candidate, put in a lot of hard work, get a boost from disaffected NDP voters, and catch a wave, have a very real chance of winning. Admittedly, that’s a lot of ‘ifs’. But the only alternative is four more years of Cathy McLeod. That works just fine for some. Others may be ready for a change. If so, they’d do well to pay attention to the Greens.
Jesse Ritcey has a strong interest in the environment, nature education, politics, gardening, and food security. Born and raised in Kamloops he works to create change and build up our community through his work with a number of local organizations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.