You May be seated
OTTAWA–The federal Green party is expecting an election this fall and the new, number-one strategic priority is to make sure leader Elizabeth May has a seat in the House of Commons when it's over.
"Now the party is convinced that our number-one goal is to elect me to the House of Commons. So that changes quite a lot of things," May told Green party members in Eastern Ontario yesterday at an election-preparedness briefing.
May says she's ready to switch ridings to make that happen and is now deciding whether she should run in Guelph, Owen Sound or on Vancouver Island in the next campaign.
Her short list also includes Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley in Nova Scotia, now vacant because of the retirement of independent MP Bill Casey, a former Conservative.
The Green leader confirmed publicly for the first time yesterday that she's unlikely to run again in Central Nova, where she was defeated by Defence Minister Peter MacKay in the 2008 election. (MacKay won 46 per cent of the vote in Central Nova, while May won 32 per cent.)
The party is polling and testing the ground, in an unprecedented way, May said, in ridings such as Guelph, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, and Saanich-Gulf Islands, where the Greens did well last year.
Having recently updated my election spreadsheet, I figured I'd have some fun and try and look at where May stands the best chance of winning.
To get a rough idea, I took the average vote totals from the past three elections, and made the following two assumptions:
1. The Green vote will double
2. May will convert half of everyone who currently has the Greens as their second choice. To get these numbers, I averaged out the second choice preferences of the final Ekos, Angus, and Decima 2008 election polls. For example, 18% of Conservative voters and 22.6% of Liberal voters listed the Greens as their second choice, so I transferred 9% of the Tory vote and 11.3% of the Liberal vote in every riding to the Greens.
This isn't intended to predict how May would fare...only to give a relative ranking of seats, based on how close the Greens are to winning the seat (projected Green vote - highest vote total of another party). I did try different variations of the above formulas, and the results were all similar.
So, based on this, what are the ten most winnable seats for the Greens?
1. Guelph (Lib)
2. Saanich-Gulf Islands (CPC)
3. Victoria (NDP)
4. Vancouver Centre (Lib)
5. Ottawa Centre (NDP)
6. Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound (CPC)
7. Esquimalt Juan De Fuca (Lib)
8. West Vancouver Sunshine Coast yada yada (CPC)
9. Central Nova (CPC)
10. BC Southern Interior (NDP)
Off the bat, we can strike Central Nova from the list - it's only there because of the increased May-vote in 2008. If you base this on only the 2004 and 2006 elections, it's the 146th best riding for May to run in, further illustrating just how awful a choice it was for her last time. Similarly, I tend to think the Greens are already punching a bit above their weight in Vancouver Centre, as they fielded a very strong campaign there last time, thanks to Adriane Carr.
Looking at the other 8 ridings, there's a case to be made for pretty much all of them, as most feature relatively weak incumbents, and were won on the strength of vote splitting. And the Greens seem to be on the right path, with the three ridings they're polling in (bolded above), all placing highly on my list.
Of the three, Guelph certainly seems the least daunting, with Green candidate Mike Nagy only 11% back last time - with the vote split there, May could take this riding with 30% of the vote. Running in Guelph would, however, mean tossing overboard a young man who has run for the Greens in the riding three times, growing their vote substantially over this period. It would also mean defeating a Liberal, or possibly handing the riding to the Conservatives off a Green-Liberal vote split. Given her previous statements, risking this would be out of character, but it could signal the begining of a shifting strategy where the Greens focus on running against the Liberals (and NDP), rather than the Tories.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the other two seats May is targeting are held by Conservatives. May would certainly enjoy giving Gary Lunn a go in Saanich Gulf Islands, as she has been highly critical of the man before. But, then again, knocking off a lower-profile target like Larry Miller (I'd wager most of his own family members haven't even heard of him) in Bruce, might be easier. On the flip side, the Green vote sky rocketed there last election, presumably on the strength of the candidate (former councilor Dick Hibma), the Greens had running.
So, taken all together, I'd expect May to make a run at Lunn. Either way, she should decide soon, and spend August and September tricycling through the riding, because direct voter contact will make a difference, and she simply won't have the time to do a lot of it during a national election campaign.