NANAIMO — Green Party candidate Paul Manly was elected to the House of Commons overnight in a British Columbia riding that has both a strong New Democrat and Conservative base, in what some analysts coined as a “protest vote”.
Nanaimo-Ladysmith’s new member of parliament, Manly, will bring the population of the Green caucus in the House of Commons to two as he joins party leader Elizabeth May in Ottawa.
With about 93 per cent of the ballots counted in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection, Manly has taken about 38 per cent of the vote.
The riding was mashed together in 2012 from two strongholds for the Conservative and New Democrats, respectively, resulting in a new electoral district with active bases on two ends of the Canadian political spectrum. However, the New Democrats have consistently won the area in recent elections.
Manly was originally a New Democrat and his father was an NDP MP, but he was rejected by the party during a vetting process in 2014.
New Democrat Sheila Malcolm served as the MP for the Vancouver Island City from 2015 until January before she quit to run for a provincial by-election, winning the Nanaimo seat.
The by-election was triggered due to a five-term incumbent NDP provincial legislator, Leonard Krog, leaving to successfully run for mayor.
B.C. is no stranger to NDP and Green politicians. Currently the provincial government is made up of a coalition lead by John Horgan and his New Democrats and the Greens, who have three seats under leader Andrew Weaver — the pair replaced a Liberal government.
All four major federal leaders visited the riding ahead of the vote, but it was not enough for the losing parties. The Conservatives captured 24.8 per cent and the NDP 23.1 per cent. The Liberals lagged behind with 11 per cent.
The Green Party of Canada said the win “hailed the dawn of a new era in federal politics,” noting the riding had traditionally been an NDP stronghold in a statement released shortly after results were announced.
However, the New Democrats, who ran rookie candidate Bob Chamberlain, and some political analysts, hailed the results as a “protest vote”.
“This turnout isn’t the outcome we were hoping for … but we have a lot to be proud of as NDP tonight,” he said, as reported by the Canadian Press.
Manly tried the NDP route
Paul Manly, the newly elected MP in Nanaimo, tried to run for the NDP nomination in the run-up to the 2015 federal election but was denied over alleged intentions to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict an election issue.
Manly turned to the Greens, where he successfully claimed the candidacy and went on to come fourth — just around two percentage points behind the Liberals and Conservatives that year.
His father, a former New Democrat member of parliament in British Columbia appeared to ally himself with the Greens locally and supported his son in the last federal election.
The Guelph factor
In many ways, there are similarities between the Nanaimo riding and Guelph: One party has dominated the riding for several years, at least up until last year, and there is diversity in the political bases, so much so that it makes Guelph one-of-a-kind.
A Liberal MP, a Green MPP and a council made up of many on the right and left — Guelph is unique.
However, there is a few glaring differences between Nanaimo and Guelph in the form of Lloyd Longfield and the lack of governing Greens in the provincial legislature.
For the dominating New Democrats in Nanaimo, they lost a strong candidate, but in the Liberal stronghold here, Longfield is running for re-election with what is sure to be a well-funded campaign.
The fact Nanaimo’s new Green MP is originally an NDP supporter shows a potentially more left-wing tint than Dyck here in Guelph, as evidenced also by Manly’s speeches and social media.
One of the largest barriers for the Canadian Greens, the party itself has said, is that they have not spent any time in any official governing or opposition role — at least until very recently in Prince Edward Island, and the coalition in British Columbia.
People were not sure the Greens were electable in large numbers but now that glass ceiling has at least been punctured. The Greens are still a long way off from replacing the NDP as Canada’s third option but national polls have shown a steady rise.
But, Guelph showed last June that it could defy expectations if given the chance. Mike Schreiner was elected as the first-ever Green MPP in Ontario and has largely maintained his popularity as a media go-to and a loud voice, though, his legislative abilities are weak as a one-man party.
There is one similarity between the Nanaimo win and Schriener’s win that sticks out. CBC reports that Manly worked hard over many years and two elections to get the result he did.
The Green MP received 20 per cent of the vote in the 2015 federal election, just 2 per cent less than the NDP this election. Manly stuck around and was in campaign mode for many years before the writ was actually dropped.
The Green candidate, Steve Dyck, has done the same in terms of building his name in the Guelph community as an environmentally-conscious small business owner. But will it be enough?
Thank you @GuelphGreens volunteers for working to support @paulmanly. Persistence and courage are needed to protect future generations from #climatedestruction. @ElizabethMay we are working to earn the trust of Guelph voters – more too come #GreenWave https://t.co/IZmCqOS71o
— Steve Dyck (@SteveDyck) May 7, 2019
The first physical local polling, which may never happen, will likely reveal which was the wind is blowing. The New Democrats and the Conservatives should not be counted out, either.
Only come October will the truth be known.
Image of Paul Manly’s campaign from his Twitter.