Leader Elizabeth May says Green byelection win shows climate is top priority

Green Party candidate Paul Manly’s byelection victory in Nanaimo-Ladysmith demonstrates that climate change is a top priority for Canadians, says Elizabeth May.

The Green Party leader said the riding’s voters “sent a very clear message and clearly the prime minister heard it.”

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Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa that Manly’s win is a sign Canadians are “preoccupied” by climate change.

May said that’s a good “take-away” message from a byelection in which the Greens easily dispatched their opponents.

“That was a very, very decisive win and really is a credit to Paul Manly and everything that he has done and contributed to his community,” she said from Ottawa.

After finishing fourth in 2015, Manly leapfrogged past the other parties to wrest control of Nanaimo-Ladysmith away from the NDP and double the Greens’ seat count in the House of Commons.

Preliminary results from Elections Canada showed the filmmaker and communications specialist leading Conservative John Hirst and the NDP’s Bob Chamberlin by more than 5,000 votes with 251 of 254 polls reporting. Liberal candidate Michelle Corfield was more than 10,000 votes back.

Manly captured 37 per cent of the vote this time, compared with nearly 20 per cent in 2015. The Conservatives were at 25 per cent, the NDP at 23 per cent and the Liberals at 11 per cent.

May said the victory could assist her in recruiting high-profile candidates for the Oct. 21 general election. “This is certainly a good convincer that it’s not just me who could be elected as an MP for the Green Party of Canada,” she said.

She was more circumspect about whether Manly’s victory will help land former Liberals Jody Wilson-Raybould, Jane Philpott and Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who all sit as Independents. May said all three women congratulated her Tuesday on Manly’s win.

“They were obviously very happy and supportive of what it means to me personally to have help in the House of Commons,” she said. “Their decision-making is their decision-making, and I can only keep my fingers crossed.”

Wilson-Raybould also tweeted congratulations to Manly and the other candidates who put their names forward.

Daniel Westlake, a political science instructor at the University of Victoria, cautioned against reading too much into the byelection results. “This definitely bodes well for the Green Party in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and probably on the rest of Vancouver Island as well,” he said.

But Westlake said it’s unclear whether Manly pulled supporters from the other parties, or whether Green supporters simply turned out in greater numbers for this election than those who back the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives.

Elections Canada says the voter turnout was about 41 per cent for the byelection, compared to 75 per cent in the 2015 election.

It’s also unclear whether the Greens’ support will extend to other parts of the country, Westlake said. “The Green success here might not resonate in Ontario or in Quebec, and NDP or Liberal weakness might not be paralleled in Ontario and Quebec in necessarily the same way.”

That said, Westlake said the results in Nanaimo-Ladysmith are worrying for the NDP, particularly on Vancouver Island. “You might be thinking about implications for Victoria or Esquimalt — ridings that the NDP might have thought were safe ridings, and now they might be thinking these are NDP-Green contests,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be saying this is the end of the world for the NDP, but it’s not a good result.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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