Kitchener-Waterloo

Local Greens hope to see big boost in support at the polls on Oct. 21

Local Green candidates are hoping to ride a wave of Green support after Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner won his seat in Guelph in the 2018 provincial election.

Campaigns in Guelph, Kitchener Centre excited at the thought of possible breakthroughs

Green party candidate for Kitchener Centre Mike Morrice, centre, talks to volunteers in his campaign office on Wednesday morning just before the election officially got underway. Local green candidates are hoping to see a boost in support in this federal election. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Standing side-by-side with Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner, Guelph's Green candidate Steve Dyck waved his election signs at a downtown intersection and reacted as cars hocked or drivers waved back.

He stood outside in the humidity of Wednesday morning just hours before the election officially got underway. 

"We had tractor trailer trucks going by and honking their horns. We had four-wheel drive trucks going by with guys giving us the thumbs up … People from your hybrid car, your electric car," Dyck said.

Before the sign waving at a busy intersection, volunteers had already been out putting up signs. There's an excitement in the air for the Green Party of Canada in Guelph, Dyck says.

It comes more than a year after the city elected Schreiner, who is leader of the Green Party of Ontario, as its MPP.

At the nomination meeting where Dyck was named the city's Green candidate in April, there were more than 600 people in attendance.

And Dyck hopes to get a Schreiner bump in the federal election.

"There's a lot of energy coming out of Mike's performance," Dyck said.

Increased financial support

The downtown Kitchener campaign office of Mike Morrice was also abuzz on Wednesday. There were about 20 people wearing green shirts moving around the office. Large stacks of green signs sat ready to go out the door as soon as the election was called.

Morrice only joined the Green party this year, although he says he's voted Green in previous elections.

"What really resonated about the Green party is first of all the values, the values are my values," Morrice said sitting in the office.

Morrice won the nomination in March. At the nomination meeting, they hit capacity at the venue and some people were left out in the snow, unable to get in.

Morrice faces some stiff competition from incumbent Liberal candidate Raj Saini and former MP and Conservative candidate Stephen Woodworth.

But he says the momentum from that nomination back on a snowy day in March has continued. He's knocked on doors, he's had conversations with people and he's feeling the support from voters.

Now, in the early days of the election, Morrice's campaign officials say they've raised more than $100,000.

Compare that to the last federal election in 2015 when, according to the return filed with Elections Canada, the Green candidate for Kitchener Centre raised $1,965.

In this screengrab from a Facebook video, Guelph Green party candidate Steve Dyck, right side of screen, waves at cars with volunteers and Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner (second from right). (Steve Dyck/Facebook)

Hard to find candidates

Matthew Piggott is part of the riding association for Kitchener Centre and has helped out on Guelph campaigns as well as others around Waterloo region for several years.

He admits in previous elections, things were different for the Green party.

"We've always had really passion-involved candidates and people who really cared about what they were doing, but it was a tough ask for us to people simply because ... if they came into a campaign, they'd be doing lots of work," he said. "But in terms of the results, it would probably fall short of the effort that they put in."

This year, though, Piggott says things feel different. That largely because of Schreiner's win in Guelph and the Greens forming the official Opposition in P.E.I.

"This is doable and it's something that could really happen. It's reality," he said. "The wins have given people the permission to feel that they could actually vote for what they believe in and I think what happened over in Guelph was a very local example of people saying, 'Oh, this could really happen.'"

'Things can change'

But Wilfrid Laurier University political science associate professor Barry Kay knows the feeling around a campaign and what happens on election day are two very different things.

Each federal election, Kay runs the LISPOP website (Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion) which does seat projections.

Locally, he believes the Liberals in Waterloo and even in Morrice's Kitchener Centre are "fairly comfortable" in this election. He says Guelph could possibly see a flip to Green, in part thanks to Schreiner's win last spring in the provincial election.

But he also notes nothing is set in stone so early on in the campaign and "things can change."

"The Greens are doing better than they've ever done nationally," he said, noting during the first few days of the election the LISPOP research shows the Greens getting between four and six seats. Before parliament was dissolved on Wednesday, the party had two seats.

But like many elections, this one could come down to strategic voting on Oct. 21, and Kay says that could hurt the Greens. While the Greens and NDP may battle it out in ridings in other parts of Canada, Kay says he expects local ridings to come down to a fight between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

"I wouldn't be surprised, based on history, that the Green vote will decline a little bit toward election day," he said.

"The Greens are still seen, I think, by a lot of people as a party that provides promise but is a 'wasted vote.'"

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