Poll numbers three months ahead of a federal election should always be treated with caution. That’s not to say they don’t speak to the prevailing mood in the country, and offer hints of what might be on the minds of voters come election time.
On that score, the numbers are indicating that among the major parties, there is one that is gaining traction with the electorate: the Greens.
CBC’s Canada Poll Tracker, which is an aggregate of all available polling data, shows the Green Party with about 11-per-cent support nationally in recent public-opinion surveys. The party has been on a continual climb since the beginning of the year when support was about 6 per cent in most polls, which is about the level of backing the party has traditionally enjoyed with the public in recent years.
A couple of things happened to give the Greens a boost: In April, the provincial Greens in Prince Edward Island formed the Official Opposition. And then in May, the federal party pulled off a stunning upset in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May would no doubt love to win 12 seats in the fall, which would give the Greens official party status and the extra funding that comes with that. However, the CBC’s recent aggregate numbers show the party would win five seats if an election were held today, up from the two they currently hold.
But this isn’t a column about how wonderful the Greens are. It’s about the implications of a Green surge, especially under a scenario where Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are looking for partners with which to form a government should his party fail to win a majority in October. Of course, if Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives win a majority, all of what I’m about to say would become irrelevant.
Should Mr. Trudeau need the help of Ms. May and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to prop up a minority government, it would obviously come at a cost. And that cost is almost certainly going to be in the area of the environment. Yes, we are talking about a state of affairs that would be Jason Kenney’s worst nightmare. Because if the Alberta Premier thinks Mr. Trudeau is a raving, oil-hating tree-hugger now, he hasn’t seen anything yet.
Mr. Singh has talked about setting a CO2 emissions-reduction target that would be in line with measures necessary to help stabilize the global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees C. That would entail slashing emissions roughly between 40 per cent and 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Greens, meantime, are committed to cutting them by 60 per cent below 2005 marks by the same deadline.
The Liberals have pledged to reduce them 30 per cent below 2005 amounts in the same time frame.
Both the Greens and NDP are against fracking. They both talk about transitioning off fossil fuels to a new, greener economy on a much more expedited pace than the Liberals. The NDP wants to end federal subsidies of the oil industry. Mr. Singh is against any new pipelines. Ms. May isn’t necessarily, but takes the position that there can’t be any new pipelines that carry bitumen – it would have to be refined first.
Albertans have long memories. Some still remember 1972, when Pierre Trudeau needed the support of the NDP to govern. And what was the price? The birth of Petro-Canada, the state-owned company despised in Wild Rose Country. I’m sure there are more than a few people, including Mr. Kenney, who already fear the implications of a minority Liberal government in which Ms. May and Mr. Singh play the role of puppet masters.
On the other hand, if 60 per cent of the country, for example, cast their votes for parties that have strong environmental platforms and programs to fight climate change, then why shouldn’t they be implemented in some form? A poll released on Tuesday by the Angus Reid Institute showed the environment and climate change as the top issue on the minds of those surveyed – easily outdistancing health care.
Those who are unhappy with the Liberals for buying a pipeline may give their vote to the Greens or NDP without qualms.
There was much hand-wringing in Alberta when it was revealed that Mr. Trudeau had persuaded prominent Quebec environmental activist Steven Guilbeault – who opposes all pipelines – to run for the Liberals in the fall election.
After the fall votes are counted, Mr. Guilbeault might be the least of Alberta’s concerns.
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