Parties outside the mainstream rarely make inroads in federal elections.
The Green Party of Canada went into the Oct. 21 vote with high hopes but only managed to increase its seat count in the House of Commons from two to three. Despite plenty of talk about the environment and its promotion as a top-of-mind issue, the Greens collected only 6.5 per cent of the popular vote.
Brooke Martin, the Green candidate in Haldimand-Norfolk, was part of this pattern. The unofficial tally says Martin collected 4,788 votes Monday. This was 22,500 fewer than the winner – incumbent Conservative MP Diane Finley – but Martin says the exercise was worthwhile.
“Coming from the Green Party, obviously a lot of people chatted with me about the environment,” Martin said election night. “Especially because our economy here is so based around the environment with the agriculture, and tourism based on beaches, waterways and trails.
“I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to meet so many great people in Haldimand and Norfolk. They’re very concerned about their future regardless of their political background.”
The election also impressed on the People’s Party of Canada the difficulty of disrupting traditional voting trends.
Despite fielding candidates in nearly every riding, the PPC elected zero MPs. That includes party founder and former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who lost his grip on the Quebec riding of Beauce.
It’s been a long fall for Bernier, who came within a hair of winning the Conservative Party leadership that ultimately went to Andrew Scheer in 2017.
In Haldimand-Norfolk, PPC candidate Bob Forbes finished fifth with 1,228 votes. Forbes was philosophical about his chances Monday, saying the important thing was ensuring that PPC policies were part of the local discussion.
Forbes came away from the campaign with the impression that many voters in Haldimand-Norfolk are set in their ways. He doubts Liberal leader Justin Trudeau or Conservative leader Scheer moved the needle much locally since the writ dropped in September.
“Even though the credit card is full, the parties intend to keep spending, spending, spending,” Forbes said. “It’s tough to swallow.”
Finishing sixth in Haldimand-Norfolk was Harold Stewart Jr. of the Veterans Coalition Party of Canada. Stewart collected 1,059 votes. He says Monday’s ballot was a dry run for the day when Trudeau’s minority government falls and is forced to call another election.
When that happens, Stewart says the VCP will be ready. He said the VCP intended to run 265 candidates Monday but 240 of them did not file the required paperwork in time to meet Elections Canada’s Sept. 30 deadline.
Stewart was one of 25 VCP candidates to make it onto the ballot. When the time comes, he predicts the party will have candidates in all 338 ridings in Canada.
“There could be a Christmas or a New Year’s election,” Stewart said. “I’ve heard six months to a year. I’ve heard that from a few sources.”
With 802 votes, Lily Eggink of Port Dover brought up the rear in Haldimand-Norfolk on behalf of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada.
Eggink says reproductive rights were a frequent topic of discussion on the campaign trail.
“I’m finding that – surprisingly – many people are willing to talk about the abortion debate, even though the media says the debate is closed,” she said.
Eggink added few voters in Haldimand-Norfolk were interested in the Liberals’ carbon tax. Conversely, health care, pharmacare, eye care, seniors care and cancer treatment were top-of-mind issues wherever she went.
“That’s what most people bring up,” Eggink said.
On election night, both Eggink and Finley commented that there is a great deal of concern in the riding about legal, third-party grow operations that produce cannabis for prescription holders in facilities with little to no regard for security and odour and light control.
Residents, Eggink said, want substantial setbacks enforced in areas where cannabis greenhouses conflict with sensitive land uses such as homes, schools, daycares and the like.
— with files from Ashley Taylor