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Greens’ Vancouver Island breakthrough fizzles, but party says it will ‘not relent’

Click to play video 'Federal Election 2019: Elizabeth May full concession speech' Federal Election 2019: Elizabeth May full concession speech
WATCH: Praising what she called a "historic" night for her party in the 2019 federal election, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May joked that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer owed her "50 bucks" after she predicted he would not form government.

To hear Elizabeth May tell it in her post-election speech on Monday night, the Green Party had a historic, record-breaking night with lots to celebrate.

“For the record books,” said the Green Party leader. “This is the best election result that any Green Party in any first-past-the-post system has ever had. This is the best result ever.”

WATCH: Green Party performance doesn’t live up to expectations

Click to play video 'Green Party performance doesn’t live up to expectations' Green Party performance doesn’t live up to expectations
Green Party performance doesn’t live up to expectations

That’s true, to an extent. The party tripled its seat share from the 2015 election — though it only actually added one seat, as Paul Manly hung onto Nanaimo-Ladysmith, captured in a byelection earlier this year — and it elected its first-ever MP outside of B.C., Fredericton’s Jenica Atwin.

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But underneath the positive spin, there was disappointment — visible in the tears of some supporters on stage as even as May spoke.

READ MORE: May says Greens can make ‘significant contribution’ in minority parliament

That’s because the party had set its sights on a major breakthrough on southern Vancouver Island, one that evaporated as the NDP surged late in the campaign.

In Victoria, the Greens’ Racelle Kooy sat close to 2,500 votes back from the NDP’s Laurel Collins. Kooy had hoped for a breakthrough as NDP incumbent Murray Rankin was not running again, and as the Greens had lost the riding by only about 700 votes in 2015.

Click to play video 'Federal Election 2019: May praises ‘historic’ outcome for Green party' Federal Election 2019: May praises ‘historic’ outcome for Green party
Federal Election 2019: May praises ‘historic’ outcome for Green party

Despite the setback, Kooy hinted on Monday night that she’s not going anywhere.

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READ MORE: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May wins re-election in Saanich-Gulf Islands

“We started a relationship, Victoria. I came here because it was a refuge after the 2017 wildfires and I remain committed to this beautiful riding and to this beautiful place,” Kooy told supporters.

“I stepped forward to honour our beautiful youth who were crying for help, asking us to adult. And I will not relent; that is my promise to you.”

Click to play video 'Federal Election 2019: Paul Manly on Greens working across party lines' Federal Election 2019: Paul Manly on Greens working across party lines
Federal Election 2019: Paul Manly on Greens working across party lines

Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke was another riding the Greens had squarely in their sights.

The party managed close to 20 per cent of the vote in 2015, but while candidate David Merner mounted a full-court press, he still finished more than 5,000 votes behind the NDP’s Randall Garrison.

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“Coming second is never great so it is disappointing, but it is also … [relief]. We’ve finished a very long campaign,” Merner told Global News.

“We were hoping four or five seats would have been good; if we had 10, we would have been thrilled so when we started off, that was what we were hoping for. But politics is strange, and it was hard to predict how it was going to end,” he said.

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Merner said despite the failure to break through, the party is confident it has advanced, collecting data on thousands of voters and training up volunteers for the next election’s get-out-the-vote effort.

As for talk that his name could be floated should May step aside as party leader in the future?

“It’s really unrealistic,” Merner said.

Other Vancouver Island ridings the Greens had eyed, such as Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and Courtenay—Alberni, also voted NDP by wide margins.

Click to play video 'Federal Election 2019: Jenica Atwin to become first Green MP from Canada’s east coast' Federal Election 2019: Jenica Atwin to become first Green MP from Canada’s east coast
Federal Election 2019: Jenica Atwin to become first Green MP from Canada’s east coast

The party also failed to break through on Prince Edward Island, where it forms the provincial government’s official Opposition, or Guelph, where Ontario’s Greens elected their first MPP in the 2018 provincial election.

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But national campaign manager Jonathan Dickie said the party remains pleased with the outcome.

“We would have liked to have picked up another seat or two at least, but we can leave with three being fairly happy with our effort,” he said.

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“We certainly faced an onslaught in the final week, especially from the NDP on Vancouver Island, so that probably blocked us from winning in a couple of the ridings.”

This year’s election marked perhaps the first campaign in which the Greens attracted serious national attention, both from the media and from other parties.

Dickie acknowledged the Greens had room to improve on future campaigns but said the party had learned plenty about how to fend off the competition as well.

And he said second-place finishes on Vancouver Island prove one thing: the Greens are a real threat to the other parties and will continue to be one.

“Certainly, in this campaign, especially the Liberals and the NDP realized that we were competing with them in some of their ridings,” he said.