For a party that isn’t used to winning at the federal level, the Greens’ byelection victory is a huge “morale boost,” according to a university professor.
Green Party candidate Paul Manly won the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding last night in an historic victory, beating the second-place candidate, John Hirst of the Conservatives, by more than 5,000 votes.
Manly, who captured 37 per cent of the vote, is now the second-ever Green Party candidate to ever be elected to the House of Commons, joining party leader Elizabeth May.
Bob Chamberlin of the NDP came in third place, finishing with just over 9,000 votes while Liberal candidate Michelle Corfield came fourth, receiving fewer than 4,500 votes. Jennifer Clarke of the People’s Party of Canada, Brian Marlatt of the Progressive Canadian Party and Jakob Letkemann, formerly of the National Citizens Alliance, combined for fewer than 1,600 votes.
Voter turnout was approximately 41 per cent, according to Elections Canada preliminary results, which show that 40,700 out of 99,413 registered voters went to the polls. More than 71,000 people in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding voted in the 2015 general election.
Michael Prince, professor of social policy at the University of Victoria, said while Manly’s win last night likely isn’t the start of a Green wave, it is still a significant victory.
“You cannot underestimate the morale boost for the Green Party,” he said. “This is a party that is used to finishing third or fourth.”
Manly ran unsuccessfully in the 2015 federal election, receiving roughly 14,000 votes or 20 per cent of the vote. Although it was a marked improvement from previous years for the Green Party, it wasn’t the result they had expected.
Prince said their historic win in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding adds momentum to a party that was already feeling good from a strong provincial showing in Prince Edward Island earlier this year.
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The NDP were the incumbent party heading into the Nanaimo Ladysmith byelection but lost to the Greens by more than 5,700 votes. The New Democrats captured around 23 per cent of the vote last night, a 10-per cent drop from the 2015 general election when they took 33 per cent.
Prince said the party is likely doing some “soul searching” after last night’s results which he described as a “very disappointing setback” for the NDP.
“This [riding] was on their books to win and to lose it is disappointing and to lose it so strongly is going to raise some concerns here, certainly on the Island,” Prince said, adding that Chamberlin was a “very credible” candidate.
Meanwhile, the Liberals saw their vote count drop dramatically from 14,000 in 2015. Prince said the Liberal vote simply “melted” away, but that it shouldn’t surprise anyone. He said even though Corfield was a solid candidate, there isn’t a lot of support for the party in Nanaimo.
“Corfield got squeezed out,” he said.
While the Liberals and NDP will be disappointed with the results, Prince said the Conservatives should be pleased with how they did.
“The Conservatives have got to like their chances heading into the fall,” he said.
Prior to last night’s vote, Nanaimo residents have endured four elections on all different levels since May 2017 as well two major referendums. Prince said Nanaimo is a politically engaged community and while there may have been some voter fatigue, it wasn’t really a factor in last night’s election given that voter turnout was at 41 per cent.
“That is pretty respectable turnout – 41 per cent for a byelection that really wasn’t going to determine the fate of the government and was near the end of a government term is pretty good,” he said. “There were all sorts of reasons for people to pass on this election and some did, but for a byelection, this shows the active spirit and political engagement in the community.”
Prince noted that although the Greens won the byelection, they only gained about 1,400 additional votes compared to 2015 when they received just over 14,000 votes. He said the Greens should still feel good knowing that they won with such a high turnout.
“I think the Greens can be a little more confident that this wasn’t just necessarily an aberration of a low turnout in a byelection,” Prince said.
However, Prince cautioned people from comparing the results from the recent provincial byelection, which saw the NDP win, with yesterday’s results, citing a difference in riding boundaries and what was on the line.
“The stakes were different,” Prince said about the provincial byelection. “You had the future of the government hanging in the balance in terms of the Horgan government.”
Prince said one key takeaway is that it appears the NDP and leader Jagmeet Singh can’t take many positives from what happened in Monday’s byelection.
“Parties look for glimmers of hope and there is very little here for Singh and the NDP – that is the message here,” he said. “That’s the sobering message for him and the NDP to really think hard about.”
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