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Opinion: Which party in B.C. benefits most from a federal Green meltdown?

Will a Green collapse take place?
Annamie Paul is the new leader of the Green Party of Canada, succeeding Elizabeth May. (via Green Party of Canada)

One of the sidebar issues in the federal election campaign (you know one is underway, right?) is how the Green Party will fare on voting day, particularly in B.C.

Most signs seem to point to the party not doing as well as it did in the 2019 election, when it won two B.C. ridings and may have affected the outcome in about 10 more.

For months, the Greens have been consumed by bitter infighting and an open and hostile revolt against party leader Annamie Paul. It also lost one of its three MPs when New Brunswick MP Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals.

Paul’s relationship with the remaining two MPs – Paul Manley from Nanaimo-Ladysmith and former leader Elizabeth May – seems frayed at best. Finally, the party spends more time tearing itself apart over the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is hardly an election issue.

Throw in some serious financial problems and the stage seems set for some kind of collapse in Green support.

If such a scenario does unfold, the question is which parties benefit the most from any slump in Green fortunes?

The Green voter’s identity has always been somewhat of a political mystery. Are they disaffected voters who used to support a different party, are they people who never voted previously and what issues motivate them to vote?

Many observers think the NDP would logically benefit the most from any defections from the Green camp, given that historically their stands on various issues most closely mirror each than that of the other parties. The B.C. Greens also propped up a minority provincial NDP government for more than three years.

However, over the past few years the federal Liberals have moved left on some issues and have put fighting climate change – political turf the Greens had almost all to themselves for a long time – at the top of their agenda.

So it would appear the Liberals could also benefit from any hemorrhage in Green support which could create some interesting election results come Sept. 20.

The Greens attracted almost 291,000 votes in B.C. in the 2019 federal election, and about 125,000 of them were scattered through about 16 ridings where any significant downward shift in the party’s vote could see some of those ridings change hands.

For example, the Greens took more than 3,500 votes in the riding of Cloverdale-Langley City, which was won by the Conservatives by about 1,300 votes. Would a decline in Green allow the Liberals (who have promised a SkyTrain extension through that riding) to vault over the incumbent Conservative?

Or what about the more than 4,600 voters who voted Green in the riding of Burnaby North-Seymour in 2019? As I have noted before, the NDP owns this territory at the provincial level so would any significant slide in Green numbers allow the NDP to take this back from the Liberals?

The Greens’ internal troubles may also threaten its hold on the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, which historically is an area that is a big part of the NDP’s political DNA.

Given the political sideshow the federal Greens have become over the past few months it is hard to see the party improving its position on Sept. 20. The question seems to be whether Liberal leader Justin Trudeau or NDP leader Jagmeet Singh will benefit the most from any potential meltdown.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.