Opinion: Greens face grim future with loss of party leaders

Many political parties are engaged in navel-gazing assessments of their futures these days, but none more than the federal and provincial Green parties.

The departures of the leaders of both parties – Elizabeth May has already stepped down from the federal post while Andrew Weaver is on his way in B.C. – means they must tackle some big internal issues to forge a new identity.

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Each party’s “brand” has become strongly identified with their leaders in recent years, so it will be a challenge to overcome the loss of their two most visible assets. It took several years for May and Weaver to establish some kind of credibility in their respective arenas, and their successors will face a stiff challenge trying to repeat their efforts.

The Greens do not have a lot of time, at either level of government. The next elections at both the federal and provincial levels will be critical ones for both parties.

While they have made breakthroughs of sorts by electing some candidates, they amount to tiny breakthroughs.

Winning just three seats at either level simply does not get it done when it comes to arguing that it is in the political big leagues.

The party ran a dismal federal election campaign, marked by a number of gaffes by May and some candidates.

While the party won two seats in B.C., a closer look at the election results showed the party is still a long ways from being regarded as a major player. The Greens finished fourth (or worse) in 33 of the province’s 42 ridings, and most of those were very distant fourths.

Andrew Weaver
B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver. - NOW files

Its only area of perceived strength remains parts of Vancouver Island.

The federal party will soon find itself marginalized in the next minority Parliament. With just three seats, it does not have the numerical heft to be part of any conversation Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to have with other parties to remain in power.

Provincially, things look a little brighter, but not that much. Weaver’s looming departure will be a major blow and I would not bet on the Greens being able to hang onto his Oak Bay-Gordon Head seat, as both the BC Liberals and the NDP – both of which held that riding for decades – will prioritize winning there in 2021.

While sitting Green MLAs Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen have to be considered favoured to hold their seats in 2021, the rest of the political landscape looks fairly bleak for the party.

The Greens finished a distant third in more than 70 of the provinces’ 87 ridings.

So the question has to be asked: is this the high water mark for both the federal and provincial Green parties? Can both parties expand their popularity and reach without the two individuals who have led them to minor electoral success?

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC





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