Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Appealing To Greens

Yesterday, I made the point that Dion has the potential to expand Liberal support by targeting current Green supporters. As a point of clarification, I didn't mean that in the "arrogant Liberal" sense, I have tremendous respect for many in the Green fold. It was mentioned by this Green member, and in the comments, that the Greens are far from a "one trick pony", the platform includes a host of ideas, the environment is not the only focal point. Obviously true, no matter if any affinity develops on carbon policy, there are many areas where considerable distinction exists, too simplistic to view one issue as the only consideration in voter choice.

My only point here, from the Liberal prospective, and I think all parties calculate this way, quantifying where appeal may come from through policy development. If the Liberals essentially adopt the Green position on carbon, then it is natural to think that could provide some sway at the voter booth. When Jim Elve lists all the policy planks of the Greens in his post, it speaks to the depth of the party, but my point, outside of the core Green voter, what is the primary issue that resonates?

The comment section mentions a Globe and Mail poll, wherein the Greens were easily the top choice on the question of who was best able to deal with the environment and climate change:
Greens 30%
Liberals 17%
Conservatives 16%
NDP 10%

A very impressive total, considering overall voter intention, but also quite telling. If you look at the other issues mentioned in the poll, you see that the Greens don't fair near as well. In other words, the environment is the signature issue, voters don't have much identification with the party, apart from this issue. Further, it is no coincidence that Green support has surged in tandem with heightened awareness on the environment, the co-relation is solid. What findings such as the above real tell us, despite the solid platform of the Greens, the draw is the environment for many.

When I say the Liberals could "siphon off" soft Green support, it doesn't show a lack of respect, but it simply recognizes that by mirroring Green policy on the core identification issue, the Liberals have opportunity. If the Liberals are successful in showing leadership on the environment, if Dion presents a credible case, that draws on diverse expert support, then it presents a challenge for the Greens to get the message out on other issues, it negates the environment in a certain sense, or at the least has the potential to cut into any perceived advantage. You have the prospects of May agreeing with Dion on policy, which means the distinctions must come from elsewhere.

Many Green supporters will just ignore the Liberal plan, it won't sway them, and rightly so. However, it is also true that the casual voter isn't so invested, and that voter which has shown preference for the Greens can be moved. That is what I mean by soft, that is the target.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Steve.

Something that a few Greens have commented on regarding those stats you cited. Even though the GPC doesn't have a single MP or any track record in government, we are considered best able by 30%. Almost twice what the Liberals and Con's get. It's a bit bizarre.

I don't take too much issue with anything you're saying but I will rebut one point.

If the Liberals are successful in showing leadership on the environment, if Dion presents a credible case, that draws on diverse expert support, then it presents a challenge for the Greens to get the message out on other issues, it negates the environment in a certain sense, or at the least has the potential to cut into any perceived advantage.

I think the depth of our environmental policies goes way beyond the carbon tax. It's merely one part of a platform that is a wide variance with many Liberal policies. It's going to take adopting more than one policy to "negate" the environment as an issue between the two parties.

The list I published, btw, was not our whole platform or the whole of GPC policy. It was simply a list of 31 policies that are unique to the Greens. Now, there are only 30 items on that list. The entire current GPC policy is contained in Vision Green, a 156 page policy statement. There's a convention in September when some of those policies will be updated and new policies will be adopted (or not).

Jim Elve

Steve V said...

"It's going to take adopting more than one policy to "negate" the environment as an issue between the two parties."

Agreed, but it does give the Liberals more credibility.

Ames Way said...

Most people that I talk to who say that they support The Green Party aren't even aware of the Green Party's policies. When I tell them about the Green Party's economic policies they have no idea, so I tell them to check it out. Most switch their support to the Liberals or NDP.

Antonio said...

in some ridings they dont need 50% of the green vote to win, or 40%, or 20%, but as little as 10% to knock off a cabinet minister or two...

Im surprised 10% said the NDP, what have they ever done?

Steve V said...

"in some ridings they dont need 50% of the green vote to win, or 40%, or 20%, but as little as 10% to knock off a cabinet minister or two..."

Bingo! The margins are small, a couple points could turn a lot of ridings.

ottlib said...

Canadians tend to be traditionalists in politics. That is one of the reasons why federal elections in this country are always between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Other parties never go very far. The NDP has experienced more than 40 years of electoral futility and the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance finally had to swallow the old Progressive Conservative Party to have any hope of winning.

So, I would not expect any breakthrough for the Green Party during the next election. They may gain and concentrate enough support in BC to take one riding but that would be it.

So, depending on which poll you look at the Greens are polling at around 12%. If they drop down to their traditional 5 percent support and Mr. Dion's green policies brings that support over to the Liberals they could be in very good shape, provided of course that they maintain their current core of 30%. Throw in some of those voters who rented their votes to the NDP during the last election and the Liberals could be in very good shape.

There are of course way too many variables to make any kind of solid prediction except that I believe it is safe to say that the next election is going to be between the Liberals and the Conservatives. How they shake out is still up in the air.

Josh G said...

Canadians tend to be traditionalists in politics. That is one of the reasons why federal elections in this country are always between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Oh yes? Are you familiar with the Progressives? While it could be said Ontarians tend to be traditionalists in politics, the last 18 years haven't reflected that at all. Otherwise, the provincial Liberals in at least half of provinces are either unlike their federal cousins or else consigned to third-party status (BC, Sask, Manitoba, Quebec, NS).

Other parties never go very far. The NDP has experienced more than 40 years of electoral futility and the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance finally had to swallow the old Progressive Conservative Party to have any hope of winning.

And they accomplished that by nearly wiping the old PCs off the electoral map - traditionalist? For that matter, how about the Bloc?

Anyway, this is a pretty shallow analysis - which doesn't mean that you're wrong about the Greens. Their main problem remains the same and that is overly dispersed, soft support. They lack any kind of geographic concentration and their professional activist of a leader chose a rural riding in a province that is one of if not the most inhospitable areas for the Green Party.

They've never managed to come close to winning a seat in any general election - not even provincially in BC. The environment is something of an NDP issue at times, yes, but it's hardly the defining issue - this article explains it well:

Then there's the new so-called carbon tax introduced by the suddenly green Gordon Campbell. It's green alright, if you are a corporation getting a major tax cut paid for by working stiffs at the pumps. Between large corporations, small business and banks and financial institutions, the total tax cut tab is a whopping $890 million when fully implemented, half the $1.8 billion the gas tax will raise.

Tailor-made for a populist NDP campaign against the B.C. Liberals, with community hall meetings across the province full of angry voters? Absolutely. Is it happening? Well, no.

The NDP rightly railed against the corporate tax cuts but was probably afraid to alienate the collection of ever-gullible environmental groups like the Sierra Club, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the Suzuki Foundation, who immediately chimed in with their support for the Liberals. So the biggest political gift the NDP has received in years remained unopened.

After all, why would the NDP want to upset David Suzuki and his pious Prius-driving pals? They might vote Green in the next election, or Liberal. If they haven't already, that is.

Mushroom said...

"Im surprised 10% said the NDP, what have they ever done?"

A big whopping six per cent behind the Cons. Maybe it is because the Dippers are too "anthropocentric"?

Wayward Son said...

Well that was a good post by Jim Elve, although I am a little confused about one thing. My history with the Greens (and I still am a card holder) remembers us always encouraging every other party to take the planks of our platform. We wanted them to. If I ask someone to take something of mine that isn't stealing.

However, it is a good thing for Jim and Elizabeth to outline the differences between the Greens and other parties and I think that many of those differences are great policies (although I think that 3 of the 31 are complete crap from a scientific and environmental standpoint. Although I won't get into those right now.) and the reason why I went to the Greens in the first place especially number 1:

A carbon tax, an indispensable step in getting the prices right in energy choices and allowing reduced income and payroll taxes.

Although that does not appear to be GPC-only anymore.

The other issue is whether people perceiving the Greens to be the "greenest" is enough. How many would vote for the party that they perceive as the second greenest when they prefer other aspects of the second greenest party over the green party? I don't know. How many will vote for the party that they perceive as the second greenest if they feel that their riding is a race only between the second greenest and least greenest? I don't know that either, but I suspect it could translate into a lot of votes.

I know that will anger a lot of greens who were really desperately hoping that the upcoming election would give them seats (It still might, and I really feel that the greens deserve seats and that Canada would benefit from it) and allow them a foothold to build upon, hopefully sometime managing to force through proportional representation - a very worthy goal. My position was always a little different - I never cared less whether we won seats as I felt - and I think that the evidence shows - that the GPC as a party held a lot of political influence without seats. When you are polling 12% at a time when 2 or 3% can make a world of difference to the Cons, Libs and NDP then you hold a lot of power and your ideas matter to the political landscape.

Steve V said...

"remembers us always encouraging every other party to take the planks of our platform. We wanted them to."

I've heard that sentiment too. How this all plays out is speculation, but I think this a key point:

"When you are polling 12% at a time when 2 or 3% can make a world of difference to the Cons, Libs and NDP then you hold a lot of power and your ideas matter to the political landscape."

In a way, Greens are driving the agenda, their strength is forcing people to notice, clearly part of the mix, which is a new threshold.

Wayward Son said...

The other criticism which I hear that I just don't understand is the NDP criticism that Dion is a flip-flopper on this issue.

So what. Am I the only person in the country who actually approves of people and politicians changing their minds when they decide or are presented with evidence that their previous position was wrong or unsound? I think we should be encouraged when someone has the intelligence and fortitude to look into new ideas that they were previously wary of and change their mind for the right reasons.

Now of course being elected on a certain platform and implementing the opposite is different. But this is a change before an election. That is encouraging to me.

Steve V said...

"The other criticism which I hear that I just don't understand is the NDP criticism that Dion is a flip-flopper on this issue."

That's on the Con website as well. I think that's a weak point, considering the actual idea in question. Is this some pander to get votes, a political calculation that speaks to a lack of conviction. It's a gutsy turn, nobody disputes that part, which to my mind insulates Dion from what he thought before. There isn't an obvious political motive, because it isn't necessarily popular, or at least no assurances. People actually want pragmatism, showing a capacity to adapt your view isn't a negative.

One thing to remember here, which makes Dion somewhat unique, he is running on a tougher path, he hasn't already been elected, saying one thing, then doing something different later.

Möbius said...

It's a gutsy turn, nobody disputes that part, which to my mind insulates Dion from what he thought before.

There are some mental gymnastics in that statement, for sure.

It will be used against him, as sure as shit, and there must be some reasonable defence.

Saskboy said...

If Liberals make a concerted effort to elect Greens in some ridings, I think some Greens should take that as a sign to elect some Liberals where they are in play. Then the top priority (along with the environment and sustainability planning/process, has to be electoral reform so we don't have to make these silly deals.

Steve V said...

"It will be used against him, as sure as shit, and there must be some reasonable defence."

Oh, they will try, but I'm not really worried on that score. The defence? I've come to see that this is the best path moving forward. You won't get much mileage from claiming a "flip flop", when the "flop" comes with great personal political risk. You might thing that is "gymnastics", but this isn't pandering to curry favor, this is "bold", "courageous", "pragmatic".

That dog won't hunt, stick to keep using "tax" at every turn.