With news this week that the city's two ridings would not have a Green Party candidate in the federal election, that could leave more than 7,000 votes on the table in Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte (BSOM).
On Tuesday, BarrieToday reported the Green Party would not field candidates in either Barrie-Innisfil or BSOM after they were unable to meet Elections Canada's nomination deadline.
So what does this mean in BSOM, in particular, ahead of the Sept. 20 election?
BarrieToday spoke to a political analyst and the north-end riding’s other candidates for their thoughts on how the campaign proceeds from here.
Michael Johns, formerly of Laurentian University and now a visiting professor in the department of politics at York University, says it could have an effect on the final results depending on how things shake out.
“Think about 2015 when Conservative Party of Canada candidate Alex Nuttall won by under 100 votes. If the Green Party had not run a candidate then, it could have changed the election depending on how those votes went,” Johns said. “In 2019, it was a little more in favour of the Conservatives.
"It really depends on how those Green Party voters choose to vote on Sept. 20.”
What Johns says he finds most interesting is that, due to the makeup of the Green Party, it's not easy to gauge where their voters' second pick is.
“People who support the Green Party are, ideologically, not a uniformed group because they are an issue-based party,” Johns said. “They have both left-leaning and right-leaning people, but at the core, the environment is the main issue there.
"One has to wonder if they look at other party policies or immediately see who has the best environmental plan that suits their needs," he added.
In 2019, Green candidate Marty Lancaster garnered 7,066 votes to finish fourth in BSOM's five-person race with 13.1 per cent of the vote.
Johns says it will be “fascinating” to see where those Green voters go now once the votes are tallied later this month.
“One thing we know about the Green Party faithful is that these are people who vote with their conscience and not being concerned about voting against a candidate," he said. "They have voted for their Green Party candidate even though the chances of them winning was very low.
“We are going to see a group of voters possibly vote strategically for the first time and I believe that, of all the parties, Green voters are the group you’re least able to make predictions on,” Johns added.
The Green Party of Canada was founded in 1983 and, at 38 years old, is still very new to the game when compared to the other major three national parties.
Despite the recent revelations in the two Barrie ridings and being unable to secure candidates, Johns says he thinks the party is going to be fine and what we’re seeing is the typical "growing pains" as the Green Party finds its identity.
“It is a tough time for the Green Party; they have some internal divisions happening. What is happening is they are becoming a national party,” Johns said. “They have been a small national party, but they are now becoming closer to the mainstream. They’re going through growing pains as they try to come up with a coherent party platform that everyone can buy into.”
Johns says there are issues the party would have to look at, such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, national defense, budgets, infrastructure, and others.
And while he doesn't think the Green Party will have a problem finding local candidates in the future, not running any in Barrie will have a financial sting.
“One of the things that happens when you don't have candidates in a riding (is) you don’t get a lot of funding," said Johns. "The more votes you get nationally, the more funding you get. With at least two ridings empty, that will hurt financially."
In the long term, Johns says Green Party supporters shouldn't be too concerned, because their core issue — the environment — is becoming more relevant and prevalent.
“With the climate-change issue only becoming, more and more, one of the most important topics, the environmental policies of the party will only help the Greens,” he said. “Once they get through this wilderness they’re going through right now, nationally it is going to rebound and they will be able to find candidates.”
WHAT DO THE CANDIDATES THINK?
Some of the candidates from the other parties in BSOM are already angling for those votes.
Almost immediately after news broke that the Greens would not have a local candidate, the NDP made it clear they want those voters left without a party. The NDP issued a news release late Tuesday afternoon with the heading “Orange is the new Green.”
NDP candidate Sarah Lochhead told BarrieToday she hopes Green Party faithful will find inspiration from late leader Jack Layton’s climate-change initiatives to address environmental concerns.
“(Current NDP leader) Jagmeet Singh and the NDP continue the fight and are committed to helping stabilize the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius," Lochhead said. "To that end, we will set a target of reducing Canada’s emissions by at least 50 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
“We are working hard to share with all the voters our unwavering commitment to forming a government that is a trailblazer in energy efficiency, clean technologies and renewable energy use," Lochhead said, adding affordable housing and paid sick leave are also on the minds of Green supporters.
Meanwhile, incumbent Conservative MP Doug Shipley says the absence of a Green candidate in the riding doesn’t change his approach at all.
“I have humbly run for public office successfully several times and have always focused on the policies and people in the riding, rather than concern myself with what other candidates are doing," Shipley told BarrieToday. "I will continue working hard and campaigning based on the Conservative platform to secure Canada’s future.”
As for how he intends to get Green voters to possibly cast a ballot for the Conservatives, Shipley says his party has “an excellent environmental plan to protect our environment, but not on the backs of hard-working Canadians.”
Liberal candidate Tanya Saari also says she won’t be changing her approach on the campaign trail.
“Our plan for this campaign has always been to connect with as many members of our community as possible and show them what a meaningful voice in Ottawa can do for them,” she said. “The number of names on the ballot won’t change that.”
Saari believes the Liberal platform will be the one to attract voters.
“Our Liberal government has the most comprehensive plan for our environment, with an ambitious greenhouse gas reduction plan and action to protect our freshwater lakes by banning single-use plastics,” she said. “That’s why I’m in this race — to be a strong, progressive voice for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte.”
People’s Party candidate Chris Webb says all parties should have someone on the ballot and called the lack of a Green Party contender “political.”
“The Green Party has basically been absorbed by the other parties with their green platform stuff. The Green Party is dissolving as we speak on a national level because it's just like that,” he said.
Webb says he has ideas about how to attract those voters.
“Part of it is freedom, part of it is common-sense policies that put Canadians first,” he said. “Policies like less taxes, smaller government and getting rid of the carbon tax.”
The federal election takes place Sept. 20.