Saskatoon

Poll suggests Greens surging in Sask. Can they be more than just spoilers?

A Green Party of Canada candidate in Saskatoon believes encouraging poll results for the party in Saskatchewan this week can be translated into votes, despite the party's history of seeing voters' stated support disappear on election day.

Recent federal election poll puts support for Green Party and NDP in Sask. at 8% and 11%, respectively

Left: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. Right: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. A recent poll in Saskatchewan put respondents' support for May's Green Party of Canada at eight per cent, just behind the 11 per cent support for Singh's NDP. (Ben Nelms/Reuters, Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A recent poll of Saskatchewan residents suggests that Green Party of Canada support in the province is much closer to support for the NDP than what unfolded in the last federal election.

In 2015, the NDP received 25 per cent of the popular vote in the province compared to two per cent for the Greens.

A poll published this week, conducted by the University of Saskatchewan's Social Science Research Laboratories for CBC and Postmedia, found that 11 per cent of respondents would vote for the NDP, while eight per cent said they would vote for the Green Party. The gap between the parties is within the poll's margin of error.

University political studies department head Loleen Berdahl said the tension between the two parties is "fascinating to watch.

"So we're seeing almost a competition for the left of the political spectrum," she said. "And how people will work with that when it actually comes time to vote will be quite interesting."

Berdahl said this could play out a number of different ways in the minds of voters on election day.

"I might prefer the Greens, but I don't think they have a chance and then vote NDP," she said. "Or they might say, 'Well, you know, I'm going to go with where my true values and heart are.'"

She said voters' reactions to the Green Party are always interesting.

"People like to say they'll vote for the Greens and then not actually do it when the time comes," she said.

Saskatoon West Green Party candidate Shawn Setyo said Berdahl is "absolutely right" about what happens on election day. He said getting Green supporters out to the polls has been a challenge.

"The other parties certainly have the infrastructure to get their voters, to call them, to drive them, to get them actually to the poll booth," he said.

He said the Green Party is building that infrastructure and he thinks the poll numbers will be reflected at the ballot box in the coming election.

Candidate says support coming from 'entire political spectrum'

Setyo also said he doesn't believe Green Party support automatically comes from people who would otherwise vote NDP.

"I think many of the Green voters are coming from the entire political spectrum, not just the NDP," he said. "Certainly, many supporters do come from that party, but I think they also come from the Liberals and they include Conservatives."

Setyo said the reasons behind his party's showing in the poll is likely due to the increased exposure of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and the increased attention being given to climate change.

"They're not seeing it anymore as a wasted vote but a vote that actually matters this election," he said.

The NDP candidate for Saskatoon West, Sheri Benson, said she hasn't seen the close race between the two parties in the poll results reflected in what she's hearing on constituents' doorsteps.

"I don't see it reflected in the everyday reality of people in Saskatchewan," she said. "I don't see the support I received last time going away."

Votes could hinge on climate change action plans

Benson said the Greens' showing in the poll could be a product of voters' concerns for the environment.

"People are sort of looking at climate change," she said. "I think that's been a big issue this campaign where it hasn't been before. Perhaps people are looking for the parties that are able to address that for them."

Benson said the NDP compare favourably to the Green Party on that issue.

"I think when it comes to election day, people will see that not only do we have a better climate action plan than the Greens but we also have one that brings people along with it," she said.

The poll suggests that the economy, climate change and the cost of living — in that order — are the top three issues for Saskatchewan voters.

The poll was conducted over the phone this month and surveyed 400 random residents in Saskatchewan. The results are considered accurate within 4.9 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

About the Author

Kelly Provost is a newsreader and reporter with CBC News in Saskatoon. Email him at kelly.provost@cbc.ca.

With files from Adam Hunter

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