Saturday, October 17, 2015

How do Green candidates win?

    Turns out that when Green candidates do well their right-wing counterparts don't!  How is this? Let's take a look at the data from past elections in B.C. that had strong Green candidates.

    In the 2008 federal election, the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding was won by a Conservative incumbent with 43% of the vote. The Liberal’s had 39% and the Green Party had 10% (Note: the NDP candidate dropped out of the race but still received votes).

    In 2011: Elizabeth May won with 46% of the vote, Conservatives 35%, NDP 12%, Liberals 6%.

    Provincially, in 2009, the Oak Bay- Gordon Head riding was won by a right wing Liberal incumbent with 46% of the vote, followed by the NDP with 44% and Greens at 8.9%. In 2013: Andrew Weaver and the Green vote won with 40% of the vote, followed by Liberal Cabinet Minister Ida Chong and the NDP each receiving nearly 30% each.

    The federal riding of Victoria in 2011 saw NDP incumbent Denise Savoie with 50%, Conservatives were second with 23% and the Greens at 11%.

    In the fall 2012 by-election when Savoie stepped down, the NDP loudly claimed that a vote for Green Party candidate law professor Donald Galloway would elect a Conservative – after all the Conservatives had come in second only a year before.

    In that by-election: NDP’s finished with 37% of the vote, Greens’ Galloway placed a close second at 34% and the Conservatives were a distant third at 14%.

    One last example: In 2011, the Green Party won only 9% of the vote against an incumbent Cabinet minister in Prince Edward Island. This year, Green Party leader Peter Bevan Baker defeated that same Cabinet minister in a bi-election with 54% of the vote.


  1. 2011 results are not useful predictors for this 2015 federal election.
  2. The percentage of support for the right-wing party dropped in every single one of these examples, at precisely the same time the voter turnout increased (by the younger voter and those who otherwise wouldn’t have voted).
  3. The truth is that when Greens do well the Conservatives don't! 
  4. In every one of the above examples, the strong Green race corresponded with a very high voter turn-out. This is no coincidence! It is the younger voter, plus the otherwise-won't-vote folk, who make the difference.
  5. In 2011, Saanich-Gulf Islands had a 75% voter turn-out. When Andrew Weaver won his seat, Oak-Bay-Gordon Head had the highest voter turn-out in BC at 69%. New Brunswick Green Candidate David Coon won in a riding with 70% voter turn-out and Peter Bevan Baker’s riding had an astonishing 90% voter turn-out.

  6. Would you like a proactive plan that is positive, pragmatic and committed to a robust democracy, a healthy economy and a meaningful climate action plan?

    Then, vote! And take some friends along with you.

    With thanks from Frances Litman, Green candidate for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke

    Thursday, October 15, 2015

    The Politics of Fear, and its Antidote

    Let’s be frank: Fear motivates us! No wonder politicians love using it!
    Currently fear is being used in two different ways by political parties and “neutral third parties.”
    The Conservatives are masters at scaring people. They are constantly sending fear-invoking propaganda to their supporters. During this (and past) elections their main focus is to invoke fear in the electorate. They got some bang for their buck (for a while) by whipping up hatred against Muslims (the niqab issue), and are now using fear to shore up support from Conservatives moving their vote to other parties.
    When Canada was becoming a nation very similar tactics were used in 1849 in an attempt to keep Canada racially “pure,” that is, free of francophones. The current technique is the same, only the lingo has changed. In the words of a Huffington Post article,“...the fear of francophones has been replaced by a fear of Muslims. Instead of rebellion, Stephen Harper talks about terrorism. Instead of Catholicism, it's Islamic extremists. Instead of the Anglo-Saxon race, it's the Anglosphere.” Here also is an excellent Tyee article about how the Conservatives utilise fear.
    But this is not the only type of fear. A far more subtle form pushes voters away from deserving candidates in order to strategically prevent a party from winning. It has been used successfully against the NDP for many years (and may be occurring again as the Liberals attempt to gain a majority of seats). Conservatives try to use it in order to stop the NDP from winning. In the end most strategic voting schemes cancel out each other, but at the expense of smaller parties, thus entrenching the status quo. Here on Vancouver Island it is being used by the NDP and “third parties” such as the Dogwood Initiative, Strategic Voting and Lead Now.
    Strategic voting’s lure is the promise that one can stop party X by voting for candidate or party Y. It is based on old data, such as the last election results (which reveal that the Greens were not in the race anywhere but the Saanich Gulf Islands) or by using recent polling data. As Elizabeth May’s win and the provincial Liberal’s win in 2013 reveal, polls can be very erroneous. My earlier blog goes into more details about how terrible these are.
    That voters would place so much faith in pollsters is foolishness. That voters would decide for whom to “strategically” vote based on either old results, or on the questionable methods used by pollsters, is ludicrous and extremely harmful for democracy –not only because it scares people into voting against their values, but also because it also ends up suppressing the vote.
    These strong-arm tactics are very harmful. Many voters have felt shamed for voting according to the candidate or party that best expresses their values.
    Of course fear is very good at steering the public away from real issues, such as the disappearance of decently-paid jobs, a dying planet, rising social problems, concerns about “free trade” deals, political scandals and many other pressing issues. As a candidate I often felt helpless to get traction on important issues because of the amount of fear being pushed on the electorate. These “hot button” issues grabbed the headlines and forced all candidates to address short-term issues that were ultimately often of lesser importance to most people’s lives.
    So: what can we do about such fear tactics? Ancient wisdom states that the opposite of fear is love. I’m not referring to the wimpy “feel-good” type of love here. I am speaking of the active verb called “love.” Of moving toward something positive, excellent, hopeful, beautiful, compassionate, brave, powerful. Of a freedom for; not a fear against.
    Brain research is revealing. Fear invokes the lower (reptilian) brain. It leads to greed, competition of a terrible kind, hatred, anger and the worst that humanity has to offer. 
    Functioning out of fear has many negative consequences. We make terrible decisions, often alienating loved-ones. Fear creates the very thing that is feared. We age more quickly, get ill more often, and become lonelier. Fear also robs us of the power to live our own lives, for fearfully living ends up giving our power to those we fear. This is why ISIS likes it when we fear them: by dropping bombs on their people they gain more recruits and power.
    Love, on the other hand, does the opposite. It fires up the higher brain -leading to courageous movements and acts, of overcoming seemingly impossible challenges.  Love turns fear into courage, with conviction. We feel empowered. We feel more connected and safe. We make much better decisions. We live longer. We also work more collaboratively with others to bring about positive changes to our world.
    An excellent local writer and photographer powerfully speaks from this type of love. Goody Niosi’s election-related blog posts make most worthy reading. She eloquently reveals the difference between love and fear, such as in this post.
    I conclude by quoting her more recent blog post, where she concludes with these fine words: “And I do wish people would actually live by the words of the late Jack Layton, who said it so well. (Although, sadly, his own party doesn’t seem to be following his words.): ‘My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.’”
    If we love this country, we would be wise to follow Goody’s council.

    Sunday, October 11, 2015

    Does Strategic Voting Work?

    Here on Vancouver Island there is a lot of talk about the “need for strategic voting” in order to prevent any Conservatives from winning seats.

    Even though it is rather obvious that on the national stage it is the NDP and Liberals who are splitting the non-Conservative vote, here on Vancouver Island many NDP’ers are again (falsely) accusing Greens of doing so. Their anti-Harper cause is being boosted by third-party organisations using questionable polling results to encourage all but those in Elizabeth May’s riding to vote for the NDP.

    In some ridings the NDP are even using election data from four years ago to boost their fear-campaign. Back then they and the Conservatives received over 80% of the vote. By ignoring the surging Greens (and improving Liberal support) their strategy intends to sway voters into believing that one has to vote NDP in order to stop the Conservatives.

    (Using old data to suppress or sway the voters of another Party is, frankly, manipulative, dirty politics. It invokes fear. As the Conservatives know, fear is a very strong motivator.)
    There is another problem with voting “strategically.” It is only as valid as are the polls. Obviously old polling data is unreliable. But can current polling data be ‘counted’ on?

    In ridings featuring strong Green Party candidates, the answer is, “Nope.” Which is true everywhere on Vancouver Island, and likely beyond.

    Why is this?

    To start with, election polls in general have become less reliable in an age of cellphones and telemarketing. Read, for example, this National Post article. In brief it reveals that nearly all cell phone users hang up or refuse a call from a polling company, in large part because they don’t want to use up their minutes. Such folk are most likely to be younger -the least likely to vote.

    If pollsters admit that over 90% of those who are phoned (including to landlines!) cannot, or do not, participate in their surveys, how “random” are their samples? Questionable, at best. Even worse, when it comes to predicting the likely vote of those using only cell phones, pollsters are virtually dead in the water.

    This demographic is not small potatoes. There are more of these voters than there are who voted for any one Party in the last election!

    The more these younger voters participate in the election, the less certain polling predictions become.

    What happens when they do?

    Not long before the last federal election (in 2011) a reliable polling company predicted that Elizabeth May would lose to the long-term incumbent Conservative candidate. They were accurate in the vast majority of ridings across Canada. Why did they mess up in this particular situation? Answer: The youth vote turned up! No pollster could predict that the vote would swing like this. Green Party Elizabeth May won with 46% of the vote, the Conservative came in second with 36%, and the NDP fell to third with just 11%. (You can view that voting prediction here by referring to British Columbia and Saanich-Gulf Islands.)

    Part of this win can be attributed to voters switching from Liberal and NDP to support the surging Greens. They would not have done this, however, if these voters hadn’t become aware of the surging interest in Elizabeth May by the undecided voter and the otherwise non-voter. In fact the voter turnout would be huge, tied with an east coast riding for the highest rate in all of Canada.

    Engaging the disenfranchised is also how Andrew Weaver won in the provincial election in the same region two years later. The voter turn-out rate in his riding was the highest anywhere in British Columbia that year.

    Since 1988 the Conservative vote in British Columbia has remained about the same. It’s only when the voter turnout is down that they are able to improve their seat count. No wonder the Conservatives actively attempt to suppress the vote!

    So if pollsters cannot predict what will happen if many of the younger voters turn up on voting day then what happens to the “strategic voting” idea? It falls flat on its face. Certainly, out of fear, many who prefer to vote Green will either vote NDP or else not bother at all. But if there is enough momentum from the usually disenfranchised voter the “strategic vote” fails to secure the traditional party candidate.

    Currently Elections Canada is watching for voter suppression tactics, including those that have been practised by many Conservatives (and some Liberals). Elections Canada is aware, too, that one form of voter suppression can occur in order to "consolidate power in the larger, more well financed political parties" at the expense of smaller ones. They call this tactic a form of “micro-targeting.”

    I believe that attempting to convince supporters of another Party that there is no hope their desired candidate can win (and so should instead vote for their party!) is a form of micro-targeting.

    So how will more Green candidates win? When the general population, especially the disaffected and the unsure, realise that the Greens offer a positive vision for improving the economy AND the planet at the same time, of how we can better care for each other and reclaim the Canada of which we once felt proud.

    The best example I have seen of a voter’s imagination becoming inspired by the Green vision is a blog post by an excellent local writer, Goody Niosi.

    This is a Green Vision
    What motivates people to vote Green is hope. Hope for more good-paying local green jobs. Hope for better health outcomes. Hope for eliminating poverty. Hope for democracy. Hope for a planet that will continue to sustain life.

    Green candidates are thus tasked not only with capturing the imaginations of those who otherwise might not vote but in the much harder task of overcoming the fear-based messaging of the Conservatives, the NDP and the well-intentioned (but misguided) “strategic voting” machine.

    As hope is ultimately stronger than fear it is only a matter of time before Vancouver Island and the rest of Canada elects a Green government. But we don't have to wait that long. If enough Greens are elected this year, which is altogether possible, then they will hold the balance of power in a minority government led by either the NDP or the Liberals.

    Now this is something to hope for!
     p.s. In just over two years, since I ran for the B.C. Green Party, Greens have become a house-hold name. After knocking on many doors in my home riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith I recently noticed that more Conservatives are now planning on voting Green. More importantly I noticed a strong trend: many undecided voters are looking more than interested in the Green Party. Paul Manly's campaign has raised more money than any other in Nanaimo's history, has more volunteers than any other campaign, and has tremendous momentum. I will not be surprised when he wins on October 19th. 
    Despite what the pollsters are predicting.