Greens unveil former Liberal as first MP

Blair Wilson of B.C.'s West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding crosses the floor to join the Green Party. Green Party press release

"Today we make history," said Ms. May. "I am grateful for Mr. Wilson's principled belief that the Green Party deserves a voice in Parliament and for his firm commitment to democracy. With a Green MP sitting in the House of Commons, it will now be impossible to exclude the Green Party from the televised leaders' debates in the next election."

Other reports: CTV, CBC

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Do the Greens even HAVE a copyright reform policy?

The NDP has Charlie Angus, but I've yet to hear a peep from the GPC on this important subject...

More about me at

Green copyright policy

The short answer is no, they don't have a copyright policy. They do have a pro-FLOSS plank in at least one of their policy documents (see this, for example). To be consistent with this would presumably imply a few things about copyright. But their policy-definition mechanism is pretty open, and it's not obvious that it necessarily guarantees consistency.

I recently met with Jen Hunter, the GPC candidate in Ottawa Centre. I think one could best describe her personal position as undefined, but sympathetic. She was interested in what I had to say about the subject, and she places a great deal of value on collective intelligence and collaboration.

When I asked about party policy, she basically punted the question, noting that they have a convention starting on September 19, so really anything in the existing policies is subject to change. She did promise to raise the issue within the ranks, find out who in their shadow structure would be responsible for it, and get back to me. Of course if they don't take a position until the end of September, it may be too late for anyone to really notice.

Look at the people, not the parties...

As I wrote in Canada’s Copyright party is … the NDP?, this issue really comes down to individual people and not the parties. The NDP have a good position at the moment on copyright, but if different NDP members get elected then this can change pretty quickly (They were strong opponents to our policy direction in the past). The same with the other parties where we need to get to know and promote specific candidates.

Ideal would be is if we help elect a few pro-copyright-modernization members from each of the parties who want to work on copyright, and thus we won't be playing the numbers game with how many members each party has. Issues like this really are left to a handful of the 308 members.

Note: Due to our horse-and-buggy first past the post electoral system the growth of a credible 4'th party nationally, and 5'th party in Quebec, will mean vote splitting between parties with some similar values. Many of what was previously the Progressive Conservatives had already left for the Liberals and Greens during the last election, suggesting to me that increased votes for the Greens will come at the expense of the NDP and Liberals (and not the Conservatives).

I was surprised to see a Conservative last night complaining that the Green leader would be in the televised debates considering that it will only help the Conservatives. I do hope this will cause the Liberals to get with the times and rather than complain this time about vote splitting to instead have electoral reform as part of their platform. Otherwise, their whining about vote splitting has absolutely no meaning given the Liberals more than any other party have been delaying electoral modernization.

(BTW: I'm not suggesting any specific system, but since BC is doing their referendum on Single Transferable Vote then that is an obvious solution to vote-splitting to more closely explore).

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.

electoral reform

The experience in Ontario did not leave me optimistic about the prospects for electoral reform. The public just didn't seem particularly interested in even thinking about the question, and largely did not agree there was a problem with the status quo. The situation in BC does look somewhat more promising.

In any case, looking for support for electoral reform from the Liberals seems rather like looking for support for copyright reform from Disney: if they did offer it, it probably won't be for the kind of reform you or I would appreciate. The Liberal party's "natural ruling party" status, such as it is, relies on the first past the post system.

Natural ruling party may be historical thinking.

As one of the answers to a recent town hall in Halton, Dion was talking about ranked ballots and STV. There is interest in the party from those who have spent the time to understand the issues.

I think a few Conservative governments later and the Liberals will be crying for electoral reform. I think any attempt they try of a "unite the left" or "vote-split scare the left into submission" (If such a 'left' exists) will fail. As Dion said their polling suggested that they were many people's 2'nd or 3'rd, or 4'th choices.

After electoral reform we might also see a Progressive Conservative party re-create itself after the whole "unite the right" concept is recognized as no longer necessary. I think this would be of great benefit to Canada as well.

I guess my main thought is to encourage people to deflect any whining and anti-Conservative scare mongering from the Liberals about vote-splitting given they are the main reason such an antiquated concept still exists in Canada. I think peoples views are moving past the two-party system and that the old way of periodic flips between those two big tend parties may not be seen in the future.

The Ontario situation was the Ontario situation. The ruling party wanted the referendum to fail, so it did. They cut required funding and resources for education, and even the people from Elections Ontario were misinformed (IE: they were claiming to people in Northern Ontario that they would be losing seats, even though a previously passed bill would need to be revoked to do so and no party suggested that this would be done).

Of course, I could just be too biased and we could see a non-Conservative government form, and even form a majority again in the future. I doubt it, though...

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.

voting trends

I'm not convinced there's such a dramatic shift in voting patterns. The evidence is mixed. Take a look at this chart. What this shows is the popular vote percentages, nationally, going back to 1993. In order to make comparisons easier, I've combined the PC+Reform and PC+CA votes, where necessary. For the sake of argument, I'm not interested in which party won, so first and second place are presented anonymously.

What I see here is that the first place party's popular vote is essentially flat. There is a trend to narrow the gap between the two front-runner parties and the rest, but it's weak, and the second place party is giving up ground faster than the winner. Extrapolation is tricky, since the x positions ignore the unevenness in time, but it looks to me like it would be at least a decade before a third party got up to the "big leagues". And that's without factoring in the distortions caused by the first past the post system, and assuming that the "trends" on the chart continue.

There's data going back to 1867 presented here. Clearly things change when new parties come on the scene, but that looks to me like a fairly stable pattern, disrupted by the fragmentation and redistribution of the PCs in 93, the effects of which are still playing out.

Considering that there are limits to the BQ's potential for growth (assuming they don't start running candidates outside of Québec), that the NDP have really returned roughly to their historical average popular vote from an anomalous low, and that the Greens have already absorbed essentially all of the "other" vote, I could easily believe that things would instead stabilize around a new equilibrium point.

Of course this doesn't contradict the hypothesis that majorities will be rare, going forward. In the absence of electoral reform, that, naturally, comes down to how the votes are distributed across ridings. But there is at least a weak trend towards a smaller gap between the major and minor parties. I think you may well be right that there is a real structural change there that won't just vanish. I think it is quite possible that the next few elections will have results very similar to the last two.

I sometimes wonder about the possibility of a repeat of the 1990 Ontario Rae election, on a federal scale. If something like that happened, I suspect it would scare the general public enough for them to run back to the two majors. But I think the likelihood of that kind of result is pretty low for the foreseeable future. Still, it might mean that the best chance for electoral reform would come from the minors not growing too effectively.

The trends missed a massive change...

"And that's without factoring in the distortions caused by the first past the post system, and assuming that the "trends" on the chart continue."

Ummm-- I think that merging the Reform party with the PC party numbers misses what happened, which is that a third party came up from nowhere and replaced one of the top two.

The PC party was reduced to a 2-seater in the 1993 federal election. Not because Canadians actually abandoned them, but largely because of FPTP distortions.

After some vote-splitting FPTP elections the situation eventually forced the people who remained with the PC party to head off in different directions (Some to Liberals, some to the Reform renamed to the Canadian Alliance, some to the Greens which is how they became as strong as they are today). The PC party was then closed (called "merged", but whatever -- that going badly is how we got the Progressive Canadian party). The Canadian Alliance renamed yet again to the "Conservative" party, but contrary to what is often said in the House of Commons this is not the same as the party that Mulroney was leader of. This is not a matter of the Progressive Conservative party dropping the word "Progressive" from their name.

These third parties may not form government, but they can cause massive change to the makeup of the big-tent parties. I'm a big fan of the more well defined parties than the big tents, as you better know where they stand and whether you can stand with them on various issues.

(Copyright seems to be an exception where it is about the individual person, not the party).

I think the Greens are having a massive impact on the Liberals, even without a -- umm -- "merge". The Greens getting a seat or two in the next house might just get me the green tax shift tax cut that I think those of us who are "lighter on the planet" really deserve.

I wonder if there was ever a Canadian Red-Green Alliance party whether there meetings would be at the Possum Lodge.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.

The decline of the Red Tory wing

"Ummm-- I think that merging the Reform party with the PC party numbers misses what happened, which is that a third party came up from nowhere and replaced one of the top two."

I think this overstates the significance of what is really part of a bigger phenomenon--the Red Tory wing has been in decline at least since Diefenbaker. Sure, the Harper Conservatives aren't the same party as the Mulroney PCs; but neither were the Mulroney PCs the same party as the Stanfield PCs, really. (The Stanfield PCs never would have bought into Free Trade, for example.) So, while the reduction of the PCs to a rump and the takeover from within by the western faction is interesting, I don't see it as being a "massive" change.

Most notably, I don't think it changed anything in particular in Parliament. With the exception of the 1993 election, where the vote splitting was strong enough to put the Bloc into Official Opposition status, there has been a reasonably evident distinction between the Liberal and not-Liberal parties, even though the latter keeps changing names, and is sometimes sitting in two different parts of the House. I'd have to go back and run the numbers to check, but my recollection is that the geographical separation was strong enough that vote-splitting alone did not win the 1997 election for the Liberals, despite the near-tie in popular vote.

If anything, I think the emergence of the Bloc is more significant, as a structural effect. That really does change the balance in the big-tent parties, and really does make it substantially harder to form a majority government. But this affects both the Liberal and not-Liberal parties, since both have relied on appealing to (or appeasing, depending on one's perspective) Québec to form big-tent majorities in the past.

And I agree that the GPC has the potential to shake things up even more. Although I suspect they will have difficulty breaking through the 15-17% ceiling that the NDP ran into, and for similar reasons--that's about the limit of the protest vote.

Interestingly, if one extrapolates exponential growth to the GPC vote from that same data, they would hit that level around 2010 and would obtain a plurality around 2013. It's not a credible forecast, for a variety of reasons--notably that it doesn't constrain the total votes to 100%. But it does raise the possibility of the GPC beginning to displace the NDP as early as this election.