Green Party candidate Natalie Odd watches results come in on election night. ‘I think you would find most people want to have a Green in Ottawa,’ she says
The Green Party of Canada still hasn’t elected an MP, and Calgary is still solid Tory blue, but on election night, local Green candidates were celebrating as the numbers showed their party has stronger support in Calgary than any other major Canadian city.
Almost 11 per cent of Calgary’s popular vote went to the Greens as the party’s support reached new heights in two city ridings. The most successful Calgary Green candidate in 2006 collected less than 12 per cent of the vote, and this year, two candidates surpassed 15 per cent. “The way I look at it is: the Green Party doesn’t like to waste money, resources or human potential,” says Calgary Centre Green candidate Natalie Odd. “And I think that that resonates with people here in Alberta, because people in Alberta are known to be very hard working.”
Odd was the party’s most successful Calgary candidate, collecting nearly 17 per cent of the vote in Calgary Centre. She finished third behind Conservative incumbent Lee Richardson, who easily kept his seat with 55 per cent of the vote (he took 55 per cent in 2006 as well).
In Calgary Centre-North, Green candidate Eric Donovan won over 15 per cent of the vote and finished third behind incumbent Jim Prentice. “I think there’s a large fraction of people in Calgary who are choosing to send a message to the Conservatives by voting Green,” says Donovan. “And that message is: don’t use the economic problems to sweep the environment and other issues off the table.”
The Green Party has traditionally enjoyed relatively strong support in Alberta. In 2006, the Greens won 4.5 per cent of the vote nationally and 6.5 per cent in Alberta — the highest level of Green support in Canada. This year, Green support in Alberta made up almost nine per cent of the popular vote, compared with just under seven per cent nationally. “There are a lot of disenchanted Tories… that have been voting Conservative for a long time but are just really fed up and feel that Green has some vision for them,” says Calgary Southeast candidate Margaret Chandler, one of two Greens in the city who finished ahead of Liberal candidates.
The party’s main disappointment this year was the defeat of its leader, Elizabeth May, in her Nova Scotia riding. Conservative defence minister Peter MacKay easily beat May in Central Nova, dashing the party’s hopes for a Green MP. “The lack of proportional representation is the only thing keeping Greens out of office,” says Odd. “And I think you would find most people want to have a Green in Ottawa.”
Odd says that while she’s disappointed with May’s loss, she sees a bright future for the party. “We are not deflated by any election results, because we recognize that the way seats are allocated in Canada doesn’t reflect the will of the people,” says Odd. “So we’re going to keep fighting until that happens.”
John Chan, the NDP candidate in Calgary Centre-North, also stressed the importance of proportional representation as results trickled in on election night. Chan was paying attention not only to the riding results, but also the voter turnout. A dismal 53 per cent of eligible Albertans voted. The national voter turnout rate wasn’t much better, barely peaking 59 per cent. “I think if we have proportional representation, we will get more people to come out and vote,” says Chan. “That way we will have a more accurate government that reflects the wishes of the people.”
Chan finished second behind Conservative incumbent Jim Prentice with over 15 per cent of the riding’s vote, the highest percentage won by a Calgary NDP candidate in this election.
There were few surprises for the Liberals, meanwhile. In 2006, Calgary West candidate Jennifer Pollock was the most successful non-Conservative candidate in the city, capturing just over 22 per cent of the vote. Pollock kept that title again in 2008, but her support dipped slightly to just under 22 per cent as Tory incumbent Rob Anders took a solid 57 per cent of the vote.