TORONTO — On the one hand, the Green Party is sending more than one MP to Ottawa for just the second time in its history, including its first ever representing an Ontario riding.
On the other hand, the party appeared to lose a significant amount of the voter support it received in 2019, and its leader didn’t come close to winning her desired seat.
Maybe Monday was not quite the best of times and the worst of times for the Greens, but it did leave them with a result that to some extent reflects the tension that seemed to be threatening to tear the party apart just before the election was called.
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- Pre-election profile: Elected leader during the pandemic, Greens’ Annamie Paul hopes to connect with Canadians
Mike Morrice won a race that was thrown wide open on Sept. 4, when Liberal incumbent Raj Saini ended his campaign amid accusations that he behaved inappropriately toward female staffers, which he denies.
Saini’s withdrawal came too late in the campaign for his name to be taken off the ballot. Although Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau had said that if Saini won re-election, he would not be welcome in the Liberal caucus, Saini had still garnered more than 15 per cent of the riding’s votes as of early Tuesday morning, leaving him in fourth place.
Morrice finished second in Kitchener Centre in the 2019 federal election, some 6,000 votes behind Saini. Prior to this election, Kitchener Centre and its predecessors had been among Canada’s most reliable bellwether ridings. Voters there had picked a candidate from the party that went on to form government in all but one election since 1965.
The Greens also held on to the closest thing they have to a stronghold, as former leader Elizabeth May was re-elected for a fourth term in Saanich—Gulf Islands.
That’s where the good news ended. The other Green incumbent, Paul Manly, was running behind his NDP and Conservative challengers for much of the night, while Green Leader Annamie Paul failed in her second attempt to reach Parliament.
Running in the Toronto Centre riding where she finished second in a 2020 byelection, Paul was in a distant fourth place with about half of all polls reporting.
The first major party to leader to speak publicly Monday night, Paul thanked her candidates, their volunteers and all Green members for their efforts during the campaign.
“It is hard to lose – no one likes to lose – but I am so proud of the effort, the creativity, the innovation that our team brought to this race,” she said.
The Green leader said that the election results suggested that the voting public is looking for a kind of “status quo” in Ottawa, and that all parties should tone down negativity and work together to help Canada through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to ensure that whatever wounds were created during this election are not permanent,” she said.
With candidates running in only 252 ridings – the fewest for the Greens since 2000 – the party’s share of the overall popular vote also appeared to be at its lowest in 21 years.
As of 12:30 a.m. Tuesday EDT, Green votes accounted for approximately two per cent of the national total, down from 6.55 per cent in 2019. During the four elections in which May led the party, its share of the popular vote bottomed out at 3.45 per cent.
Speaking to CTV News as Paul was delivering her concession speech, May said she was “very thrilled” by Morrice’s election and felt “a very strong sense of disappointment” at Paul not winning Toronto Centre.
May said she could relate to Paul’s situation, as the Greens did not win any seats during May’s first two elections at the helm of the party.
“I’m sure she’ll reflect on this, and we’ll be discussing this at the Green Party – where things went wrong and what we need to do better,” May said.
The former leader dismissed the pre-election reports of party disarray as “mostly generated from gossip” and declined to comment on what the future could hold for the Green Party.
“It’s way too early for me to be suggesting what’s next, except that I have confidence and faith in our membership,” she said.
Party bylaws stipulate that because Paul did not become prime minister as a result of Monday’s election, she must face a leadership review within six months.
A similar review nearly took place in June, as part of a bout of intra-party politicking that also included an attempt to strip Paul of her Green membership. These efforts were called off on short notice, as Paul and those seeking her ouster appeared to find an uneasy truce to get through the election.
Rona Ambrose, a former interim leader of the Conservative Party, told CTV News that if Paul were to be removed as leader now, May could well play a role in charting the path forward for the Greens.
“Elizabeth May would be the natural person to step in and take over the party while the membership decides,” she said.
Jenica Atwin, who was elected for the Greens in 2019 and defected to the Liberals earlier this year, citing discomfort with the Greens’ position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was re-elected for her new party in the New Brunswick riding of Fredericton.