Greens Ahead Of NDP

Despite all of the standard disclaimers about why it’s a bad idea to pay attention to polls, it’s still notable that this Strategic Council poll (which has not traditionally had the Greens as high as some other polling companies) has the federal Green Party ahead of the NDP for the first time, with 13% to their 12%. Among other things, this is yet another argument that we need to be included in the next televised leaders’ debate. There’s also an argument to be made that this puts us in seat territory, since, as Jim Harris points out, the NDP elected 9 MPs in 1993 with only 6.88% of the vote.

One NDP blogger reacted to this news in the following way:

And I guess the near dead heat of the NDP and Greens shouldn’t go unacknowledged on an NDPers blog. To that I offer this, I greatly doubt the Green’s could sustain these numbers in a national election. However, it behooves the NDP to start giving some attention to a party that seems content on allowing the mis-conception that they are somehow equivalent to the NDP on the political spectrum.

To the first point, it’s true that in the past we’ve had difficultly pulling our vote out in numbers that some pollsters have predicted. That’s less true today, however, for two reasons. One, our party is better organized than it has ever been, with competent riding associations and experienced campaign managers establishing themselves in increasing numbers every day. That helps with the problem we’ve had of not “getting out the vote,” something the NDP excel at. Two, we’ve now passed a threshold of support where people consider us a serious party capable of electing MPs, as opposed to just a protest vote. That helps with the problem we’ve had of people entering the polling booth intending to vote green, but changing their mind at the last second for “strategic” reasons. If you don’t believe me, witness the results of the Ontario provincial election. Right up until polls closed bloggers and pollsters were predicting the provincial Greens would only pull 4%, maybe 6%. When the ballots were counted, however, we’d topped 8%, achieving the high numbers we’d been polling at.

To the second point, hopefully the author will be happy to learn that I am not content to allow any misconception that we “are somehow equivalent to the NDP on the political spectrum” to exist because, of course, we’re not. If we were, there’d be no point.

In fact, if people in general were under the impression that we were equivalent to the NDP, then it seems to me they’d be more likely to support the NDP for the oft repeated reason that “they have a better chance of winning.” (Note to any NDPers thinking of making this argument at my doorstep: if I wanted to blindly vote for the party with a good chance of winning, I’d vote Liberal.) No, quite the opposite is true: our support is as high as it is because people recognize that we are different from the NDP in many of the ways that we’re different from all of the status quo parties. (In short, and without trying to start a debate, we move beyond the old left/right spectrum and approach problems from a pragmatic, holistic perspective, while remaining the only party to acknowledge that there are limits to growth.)

Does that mean I’m cheering for the NDP’s demise, secretly hoping to wipe them off the map completely? Absolutely not. The NDP have a legitimate and important role to play in Canadian politics; I just can’t understand why they’re not playing it. If I were to offer some unsolicited advice, it would be as follows. Be true to yourselves. Stand up for traditionally “left wing,” socialist principals. Put away the focus groups and the talking points, the negative tone and the overly partisan rhetoric. Let Layton be Layton: think back to his excellent work as a city councilor in Toronto, when he was committed to getting things done instead of “getting things done,” if you get my meaning. That, in my opinion, is a recipe to get your supporters excited and believing in your party again.

Whatever you do, stop trying to become the new Liberal party. Please. We’ve got one of those already, we don’t need another one.

20 thoughts on “Greens Ahead Of NDP

  1. I couldn’t agree more Chris, trying to replace the Liberal party isn’t going to work as one day they will rebuild and retain their spot as the “natural governing party”. I am glad that you personally see a difference between the NDP and Green’s but I haven’t seen anything as of yet from the Green’s (nationally) that suggests they want to demonstrate a difference between the two parties. Given that the NDP is the more established party of the two, they are the ones who are suffering in the polls because of this. I also agree that their is more then enough room for both parties to happily co-exist and would love to see the Green’s position themselves as a good alternative to the Cons for those old PC voters.
    However, I would suggest that the Greens, are a centrist party and haven’t done anything to suggest they are going beyond the traditional left/right of the political spectrum. Additionally, I would also chalk up their building success more to general apathy with the current political climate and the want for “change” by voters, then to some sort of wide acceptance of party policies. Of course that doesn’t mean it is a bad thing, but at some point the Green Party is going to have to seriously define itself both provincially and federally if it wants to build a solid base of support and not just be the new protest party.

  2. Note to any NDPers thinking of making this argument at my doorstep: if I wanted to blindly vote for the party with a good chance of winning, I’d vote Liberal

    We guessed that already. ;)

  3. “Whatever you do, stop trying to become the new Liberal party. Please. We’ve got one of those already, we don’t need another one.”
    … that’s the effect of First Past the Post, not the NDP doing it to itself.

    …. but then again, Layton isn’t pushing for proportional representation right now, is he?

  4. Great blog Chris!!

    Reading the NDP blogger’s comments I added the following paragraph

    It’s important to note that in the Ontario provincial election — the last polls conducted by the six major polling companies just prior to the October 10 election pegged the Green Party of Ontario at 8% — as noted by Greg Morrow of DemocraticSpace. And the GPO won exactly 8% — meaning that the Green Party’s vote has hardened over the 2006 election. There was no slippage due to strategic voting. Canadians are just getting deeply worried about climate change and realize the old parties have done nothing about it.

    to my blog at entitled Green’s Support Surpasses NDP’s in Canada for 1st time ever

  5. Oh ya, here’s another thing to mention. In the London North Centre by-election the NDP said that the Green Party wouldn’t be a serious player — but it was the NDP’s vote that collapsed from 24% to 14%. See

    And similarly in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound where the NDP vote collapsed from 14% in polls during the election to 3.8% on Eday.

    If anyone should be concerned about their vote collapsing it should be the NDP.

    The Green Party has now surpassed the NDP in PEI — where it is the Green Party that is the third party. In Calgary in the last provincial election the Greens won more votes in the city’s 22 ridings than the NDP did. In Quebec the Green Party has polled higher than the NDP in numerous polls from different polling companies in different times. And here we are nationally ahead of the NDP.

    Well, once Canadians realize that the NDP is collapsing in provinces all throughout the country, and that the Greens are a growing, exciting, vibrant, principle-based progressive party — look out — the NDP can and will collapse across the country.

  6. Ugh. I really don’t know why Harris wants the NDP to die. I was glad he didn’t stay on for Green leader. His sentiments bely your post entirely.

    One question, Chris. Does the Green Party take corporate donations? I’ve never looked into that.

  7. Hi Ryan,

    Corporate and union donations are now illegal at the federal level, and as a result the federal greens take neither. I’m not sure about the provincial party, though my guess would be that all four major provincial parties accepted corporate and/or union donations in the last provincial election. (I’d like to see them banned at the provincial level as well.)

  8. While some of the Green NDP snipping is just good natured taunts at our nearest competators other is hatefull.

    We both need to get over this, I honestly don’t feel that our draw is that strong from the NDP core, rather I think it’s wide spread and from my talks with Greens it’s mostly people who were not active or not prospective NDP voters in the first place.

    After all when was the last time the NDP hit 25 percent which would be the combined NDP/Green poll. The weakend Liberals and pissed off red tories are the true benafactors of Green Progress.

    Jim Harris shows that NDP are collapsing towards Green in some areas but I have to wonder if NDP are really just the “Protest vote” they’ve always claimed we were or is there really something happening?

    I’d really wish we had the money to poll ex Dippers in those areas and find out why the have moved their support. After all in some areas of Green growth the NDP has not lost a overly large percentage of votes, why does only happens some places?

    What portion of NDP support, unionist, enviromentalists, socialists, protest voters is at highest risk and how can we craft the message towards that demographic, or from the NDP perspective, how would they protect that faction.

    The big picture however is that some stupid Greens and spitefull Dippers can’t see the first goal should be PR and 2 or 3 way coalitions to forever freeze out real problem, the Cons. So Dippers hate liberals too(funny so much hate from socialists, bad karma=bad polls?) but at least we know they(libs) are the ultimate chameleons and in a coalition they can morph themselves enough to claiming they believe almost anything.

  9. I find it somewhat amusing that whenever a poll favourable to the Greens is published (this is a good example), Jim Harris is the first one to blog it on the GPC site predicting electoral success in the not so distant future, yet when a competing poll shows the party back in single digits it inevitably gets overlooked.

    The significant point in most of these polls that is almost always overlooked is the spread between the two main parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals. In this poll, both are sitting at 32%. Some suggest a majority for either party is not possible until one reaches 40%. Others suggest it is not the absolute number that results in a majority, but rather the relative support (a spread of 14% required).

    So, why do I raise this point? Because with fixed election dates for federal elections, unless one party starts tracking upward, approaching majority territory, there is a good chance there will be no election until Oct ’09. If one of the main parties breaks out, the support will likely come from the soft (perhaps protest) of the GPC. You’ll be back in single digits.

    Maybe a better indicator of firm support would be fundraising efforts of the respective parties. From the latest quartely figures I’ve seen, it appears that the GPC comes up well short on this measure. Where’s the benefit of all of this “Trippi” strategy I’ve been hearing for so long?

    Reality check, from the November 5th issue of The Hill Times: “The Green Party is the only party to consistently increase its donations throughout this year. At the end of March this year, it raised $158, 017.20 from 2,669, while in the second quarter it raised $205,855.74 from 2,801 people. The third quarter returns showed the Greens increasing their fundraising to $222,148.47 from 3, 143 people.” -CT

    It appears to me way too much emphasis has been placed on these types of polls, however transitory. While they may provide comfort to some, and serve as positive feedback, I would caution about placing much weight on them.

    Complacency results otherwise. There is much not to be complacent about.

  10. Chris, I’m a little confused. From what I understand Corporations and Unions are limited to $1000 donations… is this not correct?

    One would be hard-pressed to find a good reason why the Conservative Party would outlaw corporate donations.

  11. Chris, thanks for your “reality check” comments imbedded in my post. I would have missed them had you commented in a separate entry.

    So the GPC will pull in less than $1 million per year from its supporters. The Conservatives, Liberals, and more recently the NDP have suggested in the next election, all will spend the maximum amount of, I believe, $17 million.

    Sorry, but if you think these modest gains in donations are something worth bragging about, then you’ve set your standards extremely low. Particularly given the immense amount of media coverage your leader and the GPC have received over the past year, and the public funding provided.

    It looks to me like you have a core group of less than 3,000 supporters who donate on average less than $100 quarterly.

    Most don’t really care that Farley Mowat, Ann Murray, Margaret Atwood, or Robert Bateman support the party’s leadership or the party. Sure , some do. Most don’t.

    It’s a different era.

  12. Oh yeah, and another point: how do you think the statement that the Green Party believes in limits to growth meshes with eco-capitalism?

  13. Elections Canada:
    “Corporations, trade unions and unincorporated associations may no longer make political donations to candidates, registered electoral district associations or nomination contestants of registered parties. The existing prohibition on donations from these organizations to registered parties and leadership contestants of registered parties remains.”

  14. Hey Ryan,

    One could write a book on that, but in brief, for me eco-capitalism means using the tools at hand to solve problems in a pragmatic way that pays multiple dividends (economic, environmental, social, etc.) It does not mean an endorsement of the status-quo economy that is dependent on growth and is determined to turn as much of the Earth’s resources as it can into waste as quickly as possible.

    Have you followed the “limits to growth” link above? That’s probably a better place for this conversation.

  15. @Dot

    The Green Party of Canada support base is 10,000 to 12,000 membership as of September 2008 according to the wikipedia – way more then 3,000, get your fact right

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *