After wins on both coasts, Greens eye federal breakthrough on P.E.I.

The Green Party on P.E.I. is setting its sights on a federal breakthrough this fall, following a federal byelection win for the party Monday in B.C. and the provincial election two weeks ago which set up the party to form the Official Opposition on the Island.

Island Greens look to oust incumbents from Liberal-red P.E.I. soil

Paul Manly pulled off what's being described as an upset victory in a byelection in the federal B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. After vaulting into second place in a provincial election two weeks ago, Greens on P.E.I. are looking for a breakthrough in some of the Island's four federal ridings. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

The Green Party on P.E.I. is setting its sights on a federal breakthrough this fall, following a federal byelection win for the party Monday in B.C. and the provincial election two weeks ago which set up the party to form the Official Opposition on the Island.

Green candidate Paul Manly took in 37.1 per cent of the vote in the byelection Monday in the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, well ahead of the second-place Conservative candidate who won 25.1 of the vote. The Liberals came in fourth place at 11.1 per cent.

"I think there is a desire for change and that's getting expressed in various ways," said P.E.I. Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker. He said B.C. voters showed an "acute disappointment with Mr. Trudeau.... So those votes have gone somewhere and I think a large number of them would have gone to Paul [Manly]."

Bevan-Baker became the first Green candidate to win a seat in P.E.I.'s legislature in 2015. That was followed by a provincial byelection win for the Greens in 2017. In the last P.E.I. general election April 23 they won in eight of the province's 27 districts, enough to form the Official Opposition under a PC minority government.

Green opportunity?

Bevan-Baker said that provincial result and the byelection win in B.C. will both help Green candidates running in P.E.I.'s four federal ridings this fall.

"With the plummeting poll numbers of the Liberals nationally, I think there is an opportunity here for another party and the Greens are really poised to do well. So I do expect some big gains at least in terms of vote count. Whether that will translate into seats I don't know. But I'm sure that we will do better in the polls."

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said the Greens will see their vote count increase on P.E.I. in this fall's federal election. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

All four of P.E.I.'s federal districts are currently represented by Liberals, and have been since 1988, with the exception of Conservative Gail Shea, who won the riding of Egmont twice before being defeated by Liberal Bobby Morrissey in 2015.

Rising polls

But the Greens have seen their popularity rising in recent polls of Islanders' federal voting intentions. The most recent poll from MQO had the Liberals still holding a sizable lead at 40 per cent, but that was down 12 points from their previous poll.

The Greens at 18 per cent were in third place behind the Conservatives (who had support from 32 per cent of decided voters). But the Greens saw their popularity jump eight points from the previous poll results in January.

The margin of error among decided and leaning voters in that poll was +/- 5.7 percentage points. Telephone interviews with 400 eligible voters across the province were conducted from April 11 to April 16.

Experience gained

Darcie Lanthier has already won the nomination from the Greens to run in Charlottetown, which is represented by Liberal Sean Casey, who's running for re-election.

Besides benefiting from momentum, Lanthier said her campaign would also gain from the experience the fledgling Greens received from the 2019 provincial campaign, the first in which the party ran a full slate of candidates.

The Green Party candidate for Charlottetown Darcie Lanthier says the party's experience from the 2019 provincial election will help her in her federal campaign this fall. (CBC)

"A lot of experience going out and knocking on doors, a lot of experience in how campaigns are run, and a lot of enthusiasm," said Lanthier. "I mean it's quite unusual for a large group of Green volunteers to get active and engaged and then also succeed. So everyone's very happy about that."

Lanthier said she believes strategic voting against the Conservatives robbed the Greens of votes in the 2015 federal election, but she doesn't think that will be repeated.

"I don't think that threat is there in the same way right now. I think there's a big opportunity for people to vote Green without fear."

SNC Lavalin effect?

UPEI political science professor Don Desserud said the best opportunity for the Greens this fall will be in the provincial capital.

"The Greens have a good base of support in Charlottetown, and the right Green candidate might well be able to capitalize on that support," said Desserud. "Right now the federal Liberals are telling themselves that such issues as the SNC Lavalin affair are not resonating with voters. I am not sure they're right about that."

On Tuesday Alexander MacKay, a Liberal candidate who came in third place in P.E.I.'s provincial election behind the PCs and the Greens, tweeted that the Greens could take the riding of Malpeque.

MacKay ran in the provincial district of Rustico-Emerald, which is part of the federal riding of Malpeque, which has been held by Liberal Wayne Easter since 1993.

Desserud said while the PCs won the most seats in P.E.I.'s provincial election, there's not a natural shift of momentum to the federal Conservatives this fall because "the P.E.I. PCs are nothing like the [federal] CPC."

Desserud also noted while the Progressive Conservatives won four more seats in 2019 versus 2015, the number of votes the party received actually went down.

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About the Author

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature.


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