Is Cooperation Necessary or Probable?

By Kai Nagata,
What would the House of Commons look like with the addition of a few dozen Green MPs? Under any kind of minority government, a Green caucus led by Elizabeth May would wield outsized political clout. For example, they could demand important environmental policy commitments every time they helped pass a government bill.
This could be reality in four years or less, if Green Party members in a few key ridings play their cards right.
Here’s the situation. The Greens hold just two seats out of 308 in Ottawa — one secured by Elizabeth May in 2011 and the other courtesy of Bruce Hyer, the former NDP MP for Thunder Bay who sat as an independent before joining May as a Green.
That’s just 0.6 per cent of seats, despite the Greens polling as high as 10 per cent nationally. One survey commissioned by the party found as many as three in 10 Canadians would consider voting Green. What holds them back is Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system, under which Green candidates almost never have enough concentrated support in a single riding to win.
That’s why Greens are strongly in favour of proportional representation. Under pro-rep if 30 per cent of voters really did go Green, they would win roughly 30 per cent of the seats. In the expanded 338-seat House of Commons, that would translate to a massive 100-person caucus.
It will never happen, however, unless Canada’s voting system changes……………..
Since Elizabeth May’s historic 2011 election victory in Saanich-Gulf Islands, Green parties have been on a bit of a roll. They’ve enjoyed wins in the B.C. provincial election (Andrew Weaver), New Brunswick (David Coon)* and Vancouver’s municipal election (Adriane Carr, Janet Fraser, Stuart Mackinnon, Michael Wiebe).
The federal party also came close in a couple of byelections. In November 2012 Donald Galloway nearly stole Victoria from the NDP’s Murray Rankin. And in Calgary Centre, Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt won with 10,191 votes to 9,033 for Liberal Harvey Locke and 7,090 for Chris Turner of the Greens……………
Speaking generously, the Greens have a decent shot in perhaps a dozen ridings. The party doesn’t have the resources to run 338 serious campaigns, and the incentive to run long-shot candidates disappears this year with the end of the per-vote subsidy. But that lack of capacity could be a major asset, if other parties can be drawn into negotiations about where Green candidates choose to sit out.
With the Liberals, the ask is clear: Greens need a commitment on proportional representation from Justin Trudeau, so the next election isn’t fought under first-past-the-post.
Nominations for the next election are in full swing, creating a strategic dilemma for grassroots Greens. Is it nobler to keep struggling under the current voting system? Or would it make more sense to strike a deal this year with the Liberals, setting up the next election to be fought under some form of proportional representation?
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