Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May did not mince words when she spoke to reporters late Monday night after voters in Saanich–Gulf Islands sent her back to Ottawa.
May said she has no “doubt” a targeted New Democratic campaign “flooding our mailboxes and airwaves with untruths about the Green Party” robbed her party of a stronger showing in Greater Victoria, where internal polls had shown “very strong leads” in the ridings of Victoria and Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.
“We really learned some things,” she said. “We didn’t think that smears and attacks would be sufficient to erode the leads we had. So we were wrong and we didn’t respond in kind. We basically didn’t respond at all. We assumed that voters would be as outraged as we were.”
Speaking to reporters earlier, she even spoke of “concentrated campaigns of disinformation” aimed only at Vancouver Island seats.
With these comments, May referred to advertisements and flyers, which suggested the Greens would prop up a Conservative minority government and curtail abortion rights. New Democratic officials, for their part, defended the advertisements, which appeared in the final days of the campaign and further intensified the verbal sparring between May and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
The sparring also confirmed the regional race in Greater Victoria was between the New Democrats and the Greens, who had hoped to turn the region into a springboard for greater national recognition. In the end, the New Democrats prevailed by holding off Green challenges in Victoria, Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, and Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.
In Victoria, Coun. Laurel Collins won 33.2 per cent of the vote, ahead of Green Racelle Kooy, who won 29.7 per cent, to retain a seat that New Democrats have held since 2006. Collins will take the place of former MP Murray Rankin, who had held the seat for seven years. In Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, Randall Garrison returns to Ottawa after winning his third straight election, beating Green David Merner by a margin of 34.1 per cent to 26.3 per cent. Greens had identified both ridings as pick-ups. Sharing a stage with May at Victoria’s Crystal Gardens on election night, both Kooy and Merner told the audience that they had not seen the last of them.
Less competitive was the race in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, where New Democratic incumbent Alistair Macgregor defended the seat he had won in 2015, beating Conservative Alana DeLong by a margin of 36.2 per cent to 25.8 per cent, with Green candidate Lydia Hwitsum coming in third place with 20.2 per cent of the vote.
Ultimately, New Democrats retained the three out of four Greater Victoria seats they held before the writ dropped. Looking across Vancouver Island, they retained five out of seven ridings with a connection to Vancouver Island (North Island-Powell River straddles Vancouver Island and the northern coast of the mainland).
Greens, meanwhile, retained both of the ridings they held before the election: May’s riding of Saanich Gulf-Islands and Paul Manly’s riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, which he had won in a byelection held in May.
Merner had predicted at the time that Manly’s victory would help spark a Green wave. In the end, the status quo prevailed.
Jamie Lawson, associate professor of political science at the University of Victoria, acknowledged the Greens did not have the breakthrough they had anticipated but also added that they can take some comfort in the fact that they showed strength in Atlantic Canada.
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