BRIAN KIERAN: Green Party needs collapse of Liberals

With the Liberal brand in tatters and the NDP’s potential vote maxed, the B.C. Green Party actually has a fighting chance...

With the Liberal brand in tatters and the NDP’s potential vote maxed at 53 per cent of Vancouver Island, the B.C. Green Party actually has a fighting chance in a handful of Greater Victoria ridings.

It would be nice to credit Green Party Leader Jane Sterk for some of the party’s polling gains on the Island, but that’s a tough sell. Sterk has utterly failed to capture the imagination of the media and the voting public at large. In fairness, wedging into the political news cycle is always a challenge for an also-ran, but in Sterk’s case she has done nothing compelling to shift the focus away, even briefly, from the gasping Liberals and surging NDP.

The polling twins — Ipsos and Angus Reid — confirm this month that Sterk seems powerless to pump excitement into her leadership. The Ipsos Reid poll finds that a majority of voters (56 per cent) say they have no impression of the job Sterk is doing as Green Party leader. Angus Reid reports that a mere four per cent of the electorate think she would make the best premier. And, when it comes to dealing with governance issues, other than the environment, Sterk barely gets her head above the margin of error registering two-to-three per cent approval on the big ticket items like health care.

Worse, Sterk’s personal leadership momentum has been slipping for three months and she isn’t attracting refugees from war-torn Liberal ranks.

Still, the over-arching numbers are encouraging. On the Island, the Green Party is moving into contention with numbers that rival the Liberals. The Angus Reid poll finds that the Greens have 18-per-cent support on the Island compared to the Liberals’ 20. Amongst the eco-aware 18 to 34-year-old demographic, the Greens are tied with the Liberals at 19 per cent.

If Sterk has a prayer, it is in the prospect that the Liberal death spiral has not bottomed out. Going into the election campaign, the Liberals have a paltry 24 per cent of the women’s vote. And, 21 per cent of voters who supported the Liberals in 2009 have migrated to the NDP.

Finally, more than 60 per cent of all voters say it is time for a change of government. Fully a third of 2009 Liberal supporters are in that camp. On the flip side, only half of 2009 Liberal supporters say it is not time for a change.

Sterk has great expectations for three of her candidates: Andrew Weaver in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Susan Low in Esquimalt-Royal Roads and Adam Olsen in Saanich North and the Islands. She also muses about grabbing Victoria-Beacon Hill for herself, but that is dreaming in HD unless she can lock incumbent NDP MLA Carole James in a closet for the duration.

If the Greens have a chance, I think it will be in either Oak Bay-Gordon Head where incumbent Liberal Ida Chong is in a dither or in Saanich North and the (green) Islands where the Liberals have nominated unknown Salt Spring Islander Stephen Roberts to replace retiring Murray Coell.

However, it will take nothing short of a collapse of the Liberal vote into single digits for the Green candidates to have any chance of out-flanking the NDP in these seats. It will also take a flawless, tsunami-scale, get-out-the-vote campaign by the Greens in May. M

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