The federal Green Party candidate for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke says his party’s goal is to hold the balance of power in the next Parliament.
David Merner made that comment in an interview with the Saanich News, with the federal election less than two months away. Election prediction site 338.com currently predicts that no single party will win a majority of seats, with the federal Liberals under current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau winning at least 156 seats (if rounded up) and the Conservatives under leader Andrew Scheer winning at least 145 seats (if rounded up). The site awards the New Democrats just under 20 seats, the Bloc Quebecois 13 seats and the federal Greens 4.4 seats.
One of those Green seats could be Merner, as 338.com currently shows Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke riding as a toss up, with Merner’s party set to win at least 29.1 per cent. The site projects incumbent New Democrat Randall Garrison to win 25.5 per cent of the vote, followed by the Liberals and their candidate Jamie Hammond winning 24.5 per cent. The riding, in other words, is competitive, and Merner said he and his team have been campaigning door to door seven days a week. The party establishment has also recognized the importance of the riding with federal leader Elizabeth May also knocking on doors.
Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly, who joined May in the House of Commons earlier this year as only the second elected Green MP, and Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, have also knocked on doors on behalf of Merner, who says enthusiasm and knowledge about the election among voters is high.
Federal Greens certainly have reason to feel confident about the election. The environment has emerged as a defining issue, and parts of the progressive electorate has peeled off towards the Greens, as evident by the recent defection of Pierre Nantel from the New Democrats to the Greens. Nantel had won two elections in Quebec, only to jump ship in August.
“There is a real sense that the NDP is in a slide,” said Merner, who fears that the Tories might end up running up the middle if the left side of the political spectrum divides itself.
But even if the Greens can increase their share of the vote, the question ultimately remains: what can a handful of Green MPs in the House of Commons ultimately accomplish, especially if one of the more traditional parties ends up winning a majority or close to it.
Merner acknowledged that question, but insists that the Greens can play the role of a “strong moral conscience” in the House of Commons, especially on issues such as the environment and justice, where he has been pushing for changes that make the justice system less adversarial and more focused on social justice.
But Merner did not distance himself from the prospect that his party could end up making a more substantial difference in case of a minority government, by holding the balance of power, like the provincial Greens in British Columbia.
“Of course, we are hoping that we could hold that balance of power,” he said.