The Green Party is developing an election strategy built around Canada’s urban centres, hoping to capitalize on promising internal polling results that have them in second or third place with double-digit support in some key ridings.

Multiple senior party strategists believe Annamie Paul, elected as party leader in October, is lifting the Greens’ prospects in cities. In a series of interviews, Green officials said they’ve never seen polling numbers like the ones they’re seeing in certain core Toronto seats.

The seats that party strategists have set their sights on are by and large held by the Liberals, not the NDP, despite recent news stories and op-eds suggesting the Greens are singling out NDP seats for competition.

"I don't know of any strategy that is targeting NDP seats," said Paul Manly, the Green MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, in an interview. “Our strategy is to run in 338 ridings, and we had really good returns in a number of ridings where the Liberals and Conservatives won seats, and we’ll be focusing on all of those areas.”

At the same time, the party is talking up issues like universal basic income, a "national housing affordability and homelessness emergency" and a "humanitarian crisis in long-term care" that Paul has linked to gaps in Canada's social programs exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that people are hearing that we’re not just focused on environmental issues, but we’re actually leading the discussion in a number of other areas for social programs, for health care, and economic issues,” said Manly.

In Toronto Centre, Paul came in second place to Liberal MP Marci Ien in the October byelection, with 33 per cent of the vote to Ien's 42 per cent. A poll from December had the Greens holding on to second place with 30 per cent, while the Liberals had extended their lead to 45 per cent, and the Conservatives and NDP battled for third and fourth place at 14 per cent and 11 per cent.

Paul said in February that she is running in Toronto Centre again. Party officials say she was convinced by the strength of the Toronto numbers to stick around.

The Greens are also looking at Toronto-Danforth, held by Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin, where another poll from January had the Greens in third place at 20 per cent, behind the incumbent Liberals at 33 per cent, and the NDP at 37 per cent. There are 15 per cent of voters in Toronto-Danforth that are undecided, that poll found.

A third Toronto riding being examined is Spadina-Fort York, held by Liberal MP Adam Vaughan. The Greens are in third place there with 16 per cent, behind the NDP at 30 per cent and the incumbent Liberals at 43 per cent. There are 17 per cent of voters who are undecided in that riding.

Sitting at 20 per cent and 16 per cent in those two Toronto ridings before an election campaign is underway is "just incredible," one senior Green official said.

The Green Party is developing an election strategy built around Canada’s urban centres, hoping to capitalize on promising internal polling results that have them in second or third place with double-digit support in some key ridings. #cdnpoli

Another poll that has the Greens excited came on March 8, when an Ipsos poll for Global News had the party at 10 per cent nationally, up two points. Crossing the 10-per-cent barrier is a major morale booster for the party.

As of March 16, CBC's aggregate poll tracker had Green support at 6.6 per cent. Still, strategists are keen to portray the Ipsos poll as not a fluke, but the result of more sophisticated electoral preparation and Paul's national presence.

“Polls are polls, and the only one that really counts is the one that happens on election day,” said Manly, “but I think honestly that Annamie Paul has had a real presence on the national stage and in the media, and that’s making an impact.”

Green MP Paul Manly points to leader Annamie Paul's image on the national stage as helping the party's poll numbers. Photo by Kamara Morozuk

Building on provincial successes

The Greens are careful to note that they are not gunning for an election. Paul warned other federal political parties in January about the need to work together to meet the needs of people in Canada, and to not let themselves become “myopic” in their electoral quest.

The trick will be successfully holding on to their support and building over the coming weeks and months, until an election comes, while maintaining their base elsewhere in B.C. and in places like southern Ontario, P.E.I., and New Brunswick.

Across the country, the party hopes to draw upon the organizational capacity of provincially elected Greens and focus on issues that resonate particularly with locals.

In Guelph, about an hour’s drive west of Toronto, the party expects to emphasize affordable housing, a major issue in a city that has seen its homes nearly double in market value over the last five years. Guelph is also the home base of Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner, who holds that party’s only seat at Queen’s Park.

The federal riding of Guelph is held by Liberal MP Lloyd Longfield. A December poll had the Greens in second place there at 27 per cent, behind the Liberals at 40 per cent and ahead of the Conservatives at 18 per cent and the NDP at 15 per cent, with 15 per cent of voters undecided.

In the West, Greens are eyeing the federal riding of Victoria, held by NDP MP Laurel Collins. A poll there shows the NDP leading at 35 per cent support, with the Greens close behind at 29 per cent, and ahead of the Liberals at 25 per cent. B.C. is home to Manly and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May, the party’s parliamentary leader, as well as Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen in the provincial legislature.

Beyond those specific ridings, the Greens are looking at Prince Edward Island, where provincial Greens are the official Opposition with eight seats, and New Brunswick, where Greens have three provincial seats as well as federal Green MP Jenica Atwin in Fredericton.

In February, Paul announced the launch of a nationwide campaign called Time to Run. Paul described it as an attempt to build a Parliament “as diverse as the Canadians it represents.”

Manly said party volunteers are already making phone calls in his riding, reaching out to the base and beyond, and the party was gearing up to ensure it has all its candidates nominated as quickly as possible.

“We’re ready to go," he said.

Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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There's no doubt that electing some Green Pary MPs would be a good thing for Canada. As matters currently stand, the Greens are the only party that's truly serious about combatitng climate change, and Paul is the only leader who recognizes to the need for a guarenteed annual income for Canadians; the pandemic makes that need undenialable. More Green members in Parliament would also exert pressure on all the parties to get real about climate change and modernizing social safety nets.

Here we go again-- the usual narcissism of small differences among progressives, smugly splitting the vote at a time when we can least afford to, stubbornly pretending that numbers aren't ultimately the thing. There used to be talk about uniting the left, so why isn't there now when the right wing is such a clear and present danger? The old saying, "there are two kinds of people in the world" has new relevance now.
Also, the left are supposed to be the smart ones, so why in hell are they keeping their heads in the sand on this? I would suggest that they are too precious by half, steadfastly insisting on viewing electoral voting as just another form of all-important personal expression, and more of their vacuous "virtue signaling." How about we stop the clubbiness and the cult of personality? It's increasingly and completely irresponsible, not to mention wildly hypocritical, draining the credibility of any and all claims to actually CARE about us people when we're teetering on such a knife-edge here.
The only salient issue in politics has arguably become uniting progressives once and for all when we are in fact the majority in Canada. No more games. Please.

I get your frustration Tris Pargeter. Making deals has been a common way for time immemorial and usually is just feed stock for compromise and corruption. I think the only valid way forward is through proportional representation. Only then will an adequate number of seats (votes in legislature) be given and only then can the will of the peoples, as varied and storied as we all are, be heard and heeded.

It's beyond frustrating. I keep hoping that "truth" having a moment in the face of the debacle in the States will make IT part of some new, winning political strategy, or new media context. I keep writing to suggest that to a couple of these online startups, like "Passage" and "The Sprawl" in Calgary, using pushing back on religion as a perfect example of the original "big lie" and "fake news" but was ignored of course. It's "social conservatism" now, not religion, and then there's the both sidesism where conservatism of ANY stripe deserves an ounce of respect at this point.
Pinning our hopes on proportional representation is another pipe dream, although I love the idea of flattening the egos of these guys who want to WIN no matter what so they can rule the world....

??? "Valid" ???? Please explain.
Frankly, all the crappola about every tiny left faction standing on its own uniquely correct perfection (of which there is none in the universe, least of all in politics) is destroying us.
What part of "we're all in this together" is it, that the Greens and the NDP not not get ???
If they weren't trying to pull NDP vote, they'd not run where NDP didn't beat them last time.
Tris Pargeter said it far better than I could.

Valid in the more democratic sense. Valid in the sense that we are all in this together and yet in the current binary electoral scheme ALL of the "non-winning" votes (think peoples with views) have zero influence on policy and governance. With PR, "The percentage of seats that a party will occupy in the House of Commons corresponds to the percentage of votes received. All votes count equally. "
The current electoral scheme in Canada perpetuates inequality and non-representation.
Proportion Representation is not about us/them, left/right, blue/red/; it's about a better way of governing.

Please, Green Party, give us someone credible to vote for in Vancouver Granville, not just another paper candidate who looks the other way while your riding members actually work on another candidate's campaign.

I voted for Jody Wilson Raybould twice. The first time as the Liberal candidate purely as a strategy to defeat Harper. We did the cold, hard math and concluded after two lifetimes of progressive voting that numbers defeated principles more often than not. Strategic voting worked marvellously for getting rid of one Dark Ages government, but then we got SNC Lavelin, an AG who was forced out, loads of shallow rhetoric but pathetic action on climate change, and the people's pipeline with another. The second time around Jody switched to running as an Independent and was the beneficiary of hundreds of hours of free campaign labour by Green Party workers (see above), even though she first rejected running as a Green when begged by her good friend, Elizabeth May. Once elected, Jody disappeared. Part of that could be due to COVID.

I would be at a loss if the Greens failed again to convince Jody to run as a member next time. I fear splitting the vote by marking my X for the NDP if the Greens ran another no-candidate candidate and eroded their credibility even further. I will not vote for a pipeline party unless it was the very last resort to keep the Conservatives out.

Yeah, it's a quandary.

Not the main quandary though. "Politics is the art of the possible" makes idealism not only a luxury we can no longer afford, but truly dangerous when we're faced with a right wing that has demonstrably lost its mind. The "Proud Boys" started here in Canada, and Erin O'Toole's digital campaign manager was the guy who started "Ontario Proud." I live in Alberta, where we are living the nightmare that is current conservatism. So I am making the case for voting in a more utilitarian, strategic manner. ABC. After all, we never talk about a conservative democracy, only a liberal one, so I'd say underlying philosophy is what we need to be guided by.

As much as I respect and appreciate diverse progressive thought when considering the political choice out there, strategic voting is a powerful tool that works. The proof is seen in the 2015 election where Harper was soundly defeated, ~500,000 strategic voters across the land being part of that result, and in 2019 when The Kid was demoted to a minority with PO'd progressives holding the balance of power.

But we do need credible candidates running in ridings who acknowledge when they are cancelling out other progressive candidates. If they do not admit their role in the electoral math, which is actually purer than principles within the rules of first-past-the-post game playing, then strategic voters will act according to their ability to add and subtract any progressive candidate on the list to achieve ABC.

Greens, please talk to the NDP and work something out that's acceptable to millions of supporters.

Where results are crucially important, pragmatism rules.
In fairness, the Conservatives aren't conservative: they're huge spenders, and the Liberals do not indulge much in liberal democracy (i.e., governing to promote social, legal and electoral equality, and economic well-being of "the governed") but rather indulge the downtrodden and otherwise disadvantaged with nice talk, but put their money much where Conservatives do. It's mainly a matter of how upfront they are.

The best thing the Greens could do is get out of Federal and Provincial elections and concentrate on Municipal Elections. Because voter turnout in municipal elections is low, the Greens could hold power in most urban centers in Canada. Where they could implement their Green Policies, Otherwise they are electing Conservatives Provincially and Federally.

That's a great idea.

Good idea; should be another arrow in the quiver.

Municipally, they'd also split the vote, and we'd end up with a never-ending run of corporatists.

Indeed. Or never-ending running in circles defeating viable solutions, preserving the status quo and giving the loudest NIMBYs their attention.

Well, that hasn't really worked well in Vancouver. The Greens on council have a confusing voting record. They have voted down extremely rare and desperately needed rental housing in favour of a mansion on a massive piece of real estate in the wealthiest neighbourhood (40:1 in terms of units), seemingly giving the loudest voices their ear for cheap political gain even though those voices are not speaking for the neighbourhood majority every time, and too often contrary to what is genuinely needed in this city. There is a distinct anti-development / pro-NIMBY taint in the Green record on otherwise worthwhile projects, to the point where a former director of the Planning Department asked, How green is it to vote against so much housing?

We have a huge housing affordability crisis in Vancouver. The demographics indicate a steady growth rate of 13% over the last 10 years (over 80,000 people). The central preoccupation is with foreign money, some if it corrupt, and developer speculation. But that obsession detracts from other concerns, namely the fact that Vancouver has run out of land despite the conversion of industrial and downtown land and rapid transit oriented mall sites to high-density towers.

A big part of the problem is that ~80% of all residential land legally accommodates just ~30% of all housing since the '50s. In other words, legislated sprawl. And of course the largest West Side lots with detached houses currently sell for $5-6 million and get all the press, even though they do not represent the majority of housing types or lot sizes.

The Greens too often join the right-of-centre party to vote down planning policy that would diversify housing and increase supply mainly through moderate density infill of larger lots. I personally promote 'Missing Middle' housing types in my writing on urbanism, such as fee simple / freehold rowhouses, modest detached houses on small lots, more lane houses, and low-rise apartment blocks within two blocks either side of arterials. All of these would utilize land subdivided from existing low density large lots.

When promoting practical solutions to Vancouver's housing crisis and increasing urban efficacy, I suggest the evidence indicates that you can't trust the supposedly progressive Green Party. Instead, next time vote for One City candidates like Christine Boyle and mayor Kennedy Stewart who are consistently progressive but willing to break the paradigm of sprawl and bring on the infill we desperately need. As far as I can see, the Vancouver Green Party belongs in suburbia when it comes to housing.

I’m really disgusted that National Observer would publish a story on Green Party Canada citing “senior sources” in the Green Party. As a former journalist and GPC member, I always admired this National Observer writer, but this is questionable when our party is undergoing difficult changes.
This looks like a PR piece to satisfy some of our leader’s supporters in some of its content.
The senior sources should not appear alongside our respected distinguished MP Paul Manly. Come on, National Observer, particularly in times of crisis, stick to pure journalism practices.
These so-called senior sources are who exactly? If you can’t name em, don’t publish em.