Saturday, October 18, 2008

Election Post-Mortem, Part One: The Greens and the BQ

The Green Party

It's hard not to call this a successful campaign for the Green Party, at least on the surface. Granted, they didn't elect an MP, and they lost their kinda-sorta MP in Blair Wilson. But there were a lot of other victories for the Greens in this election.

They earned 6.8 per cent of the vote, up 2.3 per cent. They'll get a larger taxpayer subsidy. Elizabeth May participated in the televised leaders debates. They ran their first television ads. The Greens have arrived on the national political scene as a serious player, a fringe party no longer.

On the downside, they failed to elect an MP, despite their best-funded campaign ever, despite May's profile and performance in the debates, despite the Liberal non-aggression pact.

Moreover, I think the Greens have some soul-searching to do. The strategic voting yes, strategic voting no tap dance of May down the stretch was comical. And it seemed to speak to serious schisms within the party, with some candidates saying knock it off we want to win, and two candidates actually dropping-out to support Liberals.

The Greens need to ask themselves what want to be: are they a serious political party that stands for a range of policy options and wants to elect MPs to advance them, or do they want to merely fight the good fight, speak to those issues, and then allow or encourage their vote to melt away to more mainstream contenders?

Because I don't see how you can do both. And if the Greens are going to consolidate their gains and continue their growth, at some point they'll need to start acting like an actual political party that actually wants to elect people. For the Greens, strategic voting doesn't make sense. There's no riding where you can make the strategic argument to vote Green, and there never will be if they keep sending those mixed signals.

If your primary consideration is stopping Conservatives, join the party with the best chance of doing so. If you're concerned about vote-splitting on the left, then enter talks with the other parties about cooperation, or electoral reform. But if you're going to run candidates, you need to support all of them, not just some.

Leadership issues: I think Elizabeth May is offside with much of her party on these issues. Many of those that shared her views took the logical step of joining other parties and advancing the Green cause from within them. Many of those left stayed Green for a reason. If she's to stay as leader, they need to work these things out.

The Bloc Quebecois

This party has been written off more times than I can count. They were supposed to fade away after Dion and Chretien’s post-referendum initiatives and a Jean Charest provincial government contributed to a waning of support for sovereignty, but them sponsorship gave them a reprieve.

This election a surging Conservative Party was poised to decimate them, having spent two years and billions of dollars wooing Quebec nationalists, but two small missteps on culture and youth crime and a misread of the Quebecois gave the BQ new life. They also seemed to benefit more from the NDP's aggressive Quebec attack ads than the NDP did.

Much was made of a surging BQ in this election that would decimate the Conservatives in Quebec. That didn't materialize. The Quebec picture ended-up much the same as it was before the election, and actually down one seat from their 2006 result. However, the recovery of BQ support was enough to deny the Conservatives the majority the rest of the country voted them.

So once again a new lease on life for the BQ, but they still face questions about their continued reason for existence, and unless they can define themselves one wonders if Harper won't get it right in Quebec next time, and finally wipe them out. And praying for divine intervention once again doesn't seem like much of a strategy.

Since the BQ doesn't talk about sovereignty much anymore anyway, perhaps there is room for a Quebec-only nationalist party on the political scene. Reform was successful as a Western party, it was their desire to expand into Ontario (and challenge for government) that led to their struggles. How the BQ carry themselves in this parliament will be a test for them.

It seems to me though they're fighting over one (large) piece of the Quebec vote with the Conservatives and now the NDP, who both court that nationalist vote. The Conservatives can deliver things the BQ never will be able to. Unless they carve out a role of some sort, it's hard to see their future, particularly if the Liberals ever get their act together in Quebec.

Leadership issues: I can't see Gilles Duceppe being under pressure from within, but then I don't know that party. But it seems to me if he wants to keep the job, it's his. I just wonder how long he'll want it. What is there left for him to accomplish? At times, it just seems like he's going through the motions.

Tomorrow: Part Two: The NDP

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

1 comment:

Mike514 said...

At times, it just seems like he's going through the motions.

Exactly. Duceppe doesn't want to be in Ottawa. His real motivation is to run for the PQ leadership, but unless Pauline Marois steps down or is forced to quit (unlikely before the next Quebec election), Duceppe will stay as BQ leader, taking up space in the House.

Has anyone studied the Bloc's % of vote since 1993? They got about 37.5% of Quebec votes this week. I haven't done the research, but it seems like it keeps dropping with each passing election.