Where the lack of Greens will matter

A quarter of ridings in Canada will have no Green candidate

For roughly one-in-four Canadians, the Green Party will not be an option on their ballot. That’s because, for the first time since the 2000 federal election, the Greens are not running a full or nearly-full slate of candidates.

Just 252 Greens will be on the ballot in this campaign, leaving 86 Green vacancies across the country.

Considering the turmoil the party has been through over the last few months, perhaps this is not surprising. Nevertheless, the Greens had been one of four parties (or five, if you count the Bloc Québécois running a full slate in Quebec) to run candidates in virtually every riding in the elections held between 2004 and 2019. No longer being included in that group is a knock on its mission to be considered a major party along with the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and Bloc.

So, considering we haven’t seen something like this happen in over 20 years, what impact will the lack of a full Green slate have on the election?

Where there are no Greens

Only in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are the Greens running a full slate of candidates.

The party is missing one in Saskatchewan, two in Nova Scotia, three in Manitoba, seven in both British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, 13 in Alberta, 22 in Quebec and 30 in Ontario. They also have no candidate in Nunavut.

This means that there are no Greens running in Newfoundland and Labrador and 38% of ridings in Alberta are without a Green candidate, including seven in and around Edmonton and in the smaller urban centres of Grande Prairie, Lethbridge and Red Deer.

What is The Writ?

All seven of the Green vacancies in B.C. are in the Lower Mainland. The Greens have nobody running in Brampton and have four vacancies in Scarborough. There is nobody running in Barrie’s two seats and London’s three seats have just one Green. Most of eastern Quebec has no Greens and there are 13 vacancies in and around Montreal.

So, in short, whole regions of the country will not have the option of casting a ballot for the Greens.

Now, most of these ridings were not particularly good ones for the party. The Greens captured 6.5% of the vote nationally in 2019 but averaged just 4.2% of the vote in the 86 ridings in which they don’t have a candidate this time.

But a few of them were pretty decent for the Greens. The party captured 13% of the vote in Ontario’s Barrie–Springwater–Oro-Medonte and Nova Scotia’s West Nova, 9% in the Ontario ridings of Perth–Wellington, Barrie–Innisfil and York–Simcoe and 8% in Ontario’s Haldimand–Norfolk, B.C.’s Pitt Meadows–Maple Ridge and South Surrey–White Rock and Cape Breton–Canso in Nova Scotia.

Where the vacancies might have mattered in 2019

However, most of the ridings in which the Greens do not have a candidate in 2021 were not all that competitive in 2019. In only 12 of the 86 vacancies was the Green Party’s vote share larger than the margin of victory for either the Conservatives or Liberals (the NDP and Bloc won none of these).

Only in West Nova, Port Moody–Coquitlam, Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam, Cloverdale–Langley City, Argenteuil–La Petite-Nation, Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill and Richmond Hill was the margin of victory less than half of the share of the Green vote. In the other ridings, it is a lot to ask that their vote break so significantly for one party o have turned the tide.

And in Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam, Argenteuil–La Petite-Nation and Richmond Hill the Liberals were the winners, so it is really only in West Nova, Port Moody–Coquitlam, Cloverdale–Langley City and Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill where the absence of a Green candidate probably would have made the difference, if we assume the Green vote would have broken disproportionately against the Conservatives.

We could also maybe throw Barrie–Springwater–Oro-Medonte and South Surrey–White Rock into the mix, but it would require nearly all of the abandoned Green vote to go to the Liberals, and very little of it to the Conservatives.

So, at most we’re talking about six ridings out of the 86 — based on 2019 numbers. But we’re not in 2019.

Where the vacancies might still matter in 2021

While they didn’t meet pre-campaign expectations, the results for the Greens in 2019 were pretty good, nearly matching their best-ever popular vote share of 6.8% in 2008 and electing three MPs for the first time.

These days, the Greens are not in great shape, regularly polling below 4% and behind the People’s Party in most parts of Canada.

So what kind of impact could these Green vacancies realistically have in the current context? In many cases, much of the Green vote has already drifted elsewhere. In which ridings are their remaining pools of now-liberated votes big enough to matter?

From the original dozen the list has been whittled down to six ridings where the estimated support for the Greens (in Saturday’s CBC Poll Tracker update, the Greens have since been removed from these riding estimates) was larger than the margin of victory in 2019.

It’s hard to see how the Greens failing to field a candidate in Argenteuil–La Petite-Nation or Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine will change much — both were won by the Liberals last time with the Bloc in second. It’s unlikely the Green vote will break for the Bloc, let alone in big enough numbers to matter.

The remaining Green vote in Richmond Hill was also likely to be quite small, so it might not make much of a difference, and the Liberals hold this seat anyway.

The three B.C. ridings, however, are interesting. The Greens were estimated to still have a decent chunk of the vote at between 6% and 7% in these ridings decided by 2.5 points or less in 2019.

Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam was won by the Liberals with the NDP well back in third, so if they can corral that Green vote they might be able to hold on against the Conservatives.

Cloverdale–Langley City is another Conservative-Liberal fight, so the Liberals could be helped in gaining the seat with that Green vote.

Port Moody–Coquitlam was a very close three-way race won by the Conservatives, so where the Green vote goes could decide whether the Liberals or the NDP can gain the seat.

So, we’re down to maybe three ridings where the lack of a Green candidate could matter.

Port Moody–Coquitlam the one that matters?

In the end, though, it looks like we might just be talking about a single riding: Port Moody–Coquitlam.

That’s because the polls do not suggest the Liberals are likely to benefit very much from the departed Green vote, making the lack of a Green candidate irrelevant to the outcome in Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam or Cloverdale–Langley City.

Three polls by the Angus Reid Institute, Innovative Research Group and Abacus Data all help us answer the question of how the Green vote will break. And it isn’t to the Liberals.

According to IRG, 26% of Green voters say the NDP is their second choice, while 17% choose the Liberals and 16% choose the Conservatives second. That means the NDP comes out ahead and the Liberals gain no net advantage over the Conservatives.

In the ARI poll, 52% of Green voters said their preferred outcome was an NDP minority or majority government. Just 25% chose a Conservative victory and 23% a Liberal victory — again, it’s advantage NDP and a wash for the Liberal/Conservative split.

And Abacus found that of 2019 Green voters, 25% are now backing the NDP, with both the Liberals and Conservatives each picking up 11%. No net gain for the Liberals there.

Now, there will be some local and regional variations in this. But the evidence points to the NDP being the only net beneficiaries from the Green vacancies — and only in Port Moody–Coquitlam are they in a position to turn that advantage into a seat win.

Where the People’s Party has no people

The PPC lacks candidates in 26 ridings, three more than in 2019. It’s unlikely that will have any significant impact.

The party is running full slates in most of Western Canada, with the exception of one riding in Alberta and throughout the north. They party is missing five candidates in Ontario (all in the GTA, two of them in Brampton) and one each in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. With 14 vacancies, the PPC is furthest from a full slate in Quebec.

Some of those are in Conservative-friendly areas, which should make things easier for the Conservatives. But the PPC’s share of the vote in these ridings was very small, so the benefit is tiny, at best.

The only riding where the PPC’s share of the vote was greater than the margin of victory was in Yukon, where the PPC took a bare 1.4% in a race decided by 0.8 points. With such a small PPC vote share and close margin, it is unlikely that the PPC vote is what will decide this election.

Only in four ridings where the PPC has no candidate did the party do better than its 1.6% national vote share. Beauport–Limoilou and Bellechasse–Les Etchemins–Lévis are both in the Quebec City region, which presumably would be fertile territory for the PPC — and is only a stone’s throw away from Beauce, where Maxime Bernier is running again. Louis-Hébert and Montmagny–L’Islet–Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup are other seats in the broader region without a PPC candidate, an odd omission.

So, PPC vacancies are probably not going to matter much. That they are running in 312 ridings, however, could prove to make a big difference — how and where, we’ll have to wait and see.