Monday, February 10, 2014

Whither the Greens?

This is the third post in my series on the upcoming New Brunswick general election. The first looked at New Brunswick's newly redrawn ridings. The second looked at where the NDP might breakthrough.

This post looks at places for a possible Green breakthrough, something that is far less likely than a breakthrough for the NDP. Next will come a look at potential breakthroughs for the People's Alliance.

Unlike the PCs, Liberals and NDP, the Greens (and PANB) have little electoral history to look at to judge where they might do well, as they have only contested one previous election. With only one dataset, it is impossible to know which areas of strength were due to a natural affection for the Green Party and its positions, and which were due to unique circumstances, like the strength of the local Green candidate, the weakness of other parties' candidates, a fleeting local issue, etc.

That being the case, this analysis should be taken with several grains of thoughts (even more than my usual observations).


The Greens seem to be stuck at sub-5% in the opinion polls. This would suggest that they are unlikely to win a seat under our first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system. However, it is not impossible. If their efforts are very specifically focused, they could succeed. One needs look no further than the example of federal Green leader Elizabeth May who won a seat in the last federal election with a nationwide popular vote of 3.9%. Other examples of success with this level of support would be the BC Progressive Democrats (1 seat on 5.7% in 1996), the Alberta Representative Party (2 seats on 5.1% in 1986), the Manitoba Liberals (1 seat on 7.5% in 2011), Quebec Solidaire (1 seat on 3.8% in 2008), the Quebec Action Democratique (1 seat on 6.5% in 1994), the PEI NDP (1 seat on 7.8% in 1996), and the Newfoundland NDP (1 seat on 4.5% in 1996).

When one looks at the data, the first thing that stands out is that the Green strength is found Moncton and southeastern New Brunswick. In 2010, 6 of the Greens' 8 best ridings were in the Moncton area; as were 10 of their 14 best. This aligns with the other data source we can consider: federal elections. Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and Beauséjour have generally been the Greens best federal ridings since their breakthrough election of 2004.

In the 2010 election, under the new boundaries the Greens would have had 7 ridings where their vote more than doubled their provincewide popular vote. It is in these ridings that I'll focus my analysis.

Fredericton South

This would have been the Greens' strongest riding, scoring nearly 14% of the vote - well over 3 times their provincewide popular vote. It is therefore no surprise that Green leader David Coon is running in this riding. Adding to Coon's chances here is not only the strong Green base, but also the fact that this is the only riding in the province likely to see a 4-way race, which means someone could conceivably win the seat with less than 30% of the vote.


This would have been the Greens' next best riding. In fact, under the old boundaries Tantramar was the best riding for the Greens in 2010. Boundary changes make this area a bit weaker and Fredericton South a bit stronger. Like Fredericton South, there is a chance of a four-way race here, though it is somewhat less likely. The Liberals and NDP have not shown major strength here since there was a three-way PC/Liberal/NDP race in a 1998 by-election with each taking more han 30% of the vote.

Moncton South, Fredericton North and Moncton Centre

The Green Party would have taken more than 10% of the vote in each of these ridings in 2010. But without a four-way race, or a huge surge in Green support it is difficult to imagine the Greens taking any of these ridings. Fredericton North may be an outlier in this group as much of the Green strength here can be attributed to then party leader Jack MacDougall who is not expected to reoffer.

Moncton East and Moncton Northwest

The Green Party would have taken more than 9% of the vote in both of these ridings in 2010, which is better than double their provincewide share. Again, there is not much chance of four-way races here which is really what the Greens need to breakthrough at their current levels of support. In Moncton Northwest, a Tory stronghold, there is an outside chance of a moral victory for the Greens as they could place a distant second here under the right circumstances. That is highly unlikely however if the Liberals maintain the strong standing they've seen in recent polls.


At 5% of the popular vote, it would be a reach for the Greens to win any seats. However, there are 2 unique opportunities for the Greens. In Fredericton South and Memramcook-Tantramar the Greens have ridings which are both areas where they have a support base on which to build and potential four-way races that could allow them to sneak up the middle. The Greens would be well served to focus all of their resources on these two seats.

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