Local Green candidate Ellen Michelson (right) discusses election results with supporters. Photo by Jerad Gallinger/Torontoist.
The 2008 federal election was a historic campaign for the Green Party of Canada. Leader Elizabeth May fought hard for and won a spot in the leaders’ debates, and polls conducted throughout the writ period had the Greens supported by as much as 12 percent of the Canadian population. But although the party boosted its share of the vote on election day, the increase, from 4.5 percent in 2006 to 6.8 percent yesterday, was short of what many had hoped for and was not enough to elect Green Party candidates to the House of Commons.
So with their loftiest hopes shattered, how are Toronto-area Greens feeling about last night’s results? Pretty darn good, as it turns out.
“I think we’ve really improved since the last election,” Toronto Centre Green candidate Ellen Michelson told Torontoist at the Green Party’s election night event in Kensington Market.
Michelson placed fourth in Toronto Centre, receiving 6090 votes, or 11.8 percent. That is a significant improvement over the Greens’ 2006 result of 5.2 percent, but short of their 13.4 percent take in the by-election held in March of this year.
Chris Tindal, the Green Party strategist and former Torontoist contributor who ran for the Greens in Toronto Centre in 2006 and March 2008, agrees with Michelson’s assessment. “We’ve doubled our vote in terms of the percentage” compared with the 2006 results, he said. “There’s no other party that can say that tonight. That’s a huge victory.”
Michelson, however, concedes that her party failed to achieve its biggest goal this election. “The ultimate goal, we wanted a Green caucus in Parliament,” she said. “And we’re working toward that.”
Regardless of the continued lack of Green representation in Ottawa, local supporters Tova Arbus and Tanya Ross share party insiders’ sunny outlook.
“You always feel kind of jaded when the big parties take over and nobody really listens to the smaller issues,” said Arbus. “But I think that the Green Party has worked really hard and that they have definitely stood up for what they believe in, which is important, and there’s no better time than now for people to stand up and say what’s important.”
“I was so happy to hear Elizabeth May at the debates,” said Ross. “It was just really wonderful to have her there, and I think that is a huge step forward for the Green Party.”
Despite that step forward, all of the Greens interviewed by Torontoist agree that last night’s results prove the need for proportional representation at the national level.
“The problem is that the voting system itself is designed so that people feel like they can’t vote for their first choice party,” said Tindal. “They can’t vote with their heart or with their head, for what they really believe is right. And that to me means that the voting system is broken and needs to be reformed.”
As for the effect of Elizabeth May’s supposed deal with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, Michelson refuses to concede that such an agreement even existed.
“First of all, there was no deal with the Liberals,” she said. “There’s a tradition of Parliamentary courtesy, and I think the media, the mainstream media, and the Liberals did their best to make capital out of it. I think there’s been some really offensive misrepresentations, and I think in a way that’s a good sign. The Green Party has now hit the big time. So the traditional politicians are playing—are trying dirty tricks with us that they didn’t try before.”
Looking to the future, Michelson says that the Green Party is ready for the next election, whenever it may come. But first, she has more pressing issues to deal with.
“I’m going to need a little time to catch up on the laundry,” she said. With environmentally friendly detergent, no doubt.
Photo of Chris Tindal by Jerad Gallinger/Torontoist.