Green Party candidate Paul Manly shocked all the experts by winning a May 6 by-election in the Vancouver Island riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Manly joins party leader Elizabeth May as the second Green Party MP in the House of Commons.
Green fever appears to be spreading east also with two candidates already registered for the party nomination in Burlington and reasonable hope for as many as four contestants.
Dr. John Hewson, former head of the Intensive Care Unit at Hamilton General Hospital, and Gareth Williams, former chair of the City of Burlington’s sustainable development committee, are the first two candidates to declare. The nomination meeting is set for July 16.
Hewson, a lifelong Liberal, was born in Montreal and graduated from McGill University.
“I’m feeling disappointed with the Liberals, almost in a moral way,” Hewson said. “The omnibus bill which would be in place to get SNC Lavalin off the hook – that’s hypocrisy. It’s the same thing they criticized the Conservatives for a few years ago.
“We need a meaningful presence of Green Party MPs in Ottawa to pressure whichever party forms the next government to take their heads out of the sand and get us off fossil fuels intelligently.”
Williams, an information technology specialist, ran for council unsuccessfully last October in Ward 3, placing second behind Rory Nisan.
“I have put my name forward because I feel I am well equipped to bring the positive message of Vision Green to the people of Burlington,” he said. “I believe voters are looking for a serious response to the threat of climate change, one that isn’t being delivered by the current government. I am also personally disappointed in the Liberals for breaking their promise on electoral reform , which is an issue I’ve been a long-time advocate for.”
Only 2,449 votes separated winner Karina Gould (Liberal) and runner-up Mike Wallace (Conservative) in Burlington in the 2015 federal election.
That 3.49 percentage of all votes cast is only slightly more than the 2.44 per cent of the overall ballots cast for Green Party candidate Vince Fiorito.
As a result of an increasing awareness in climate change over the last four years, the latest Angus-Reid Poll shows the Green Party at 11 per cent nationally, a partial indication the Greens could hold the balance of power in Burlington and even supplant the NDP as third-place finishers in the city.
New Democrats have yet to nominate a candidate.
Conservative Jane Michael, former chair of the Halton Catholic School Board, is trying to unseat Gould, the current Minister of Democratic Institutions.
Amy Schnurr, executive director of Burlington Green, a non-partisan charity, said her organization does not endorse any political party.
“I’d like to hope the general population is going to be focused on action for climate needs to be their top priority when they go to the polls,” she said. “That’s not separate from the economy, they’re inter-linked.”
Schnurr said Burlington Green’s reach has grown significantly over the last five years.
“We had a record number of 17,000 people register for our flagship event, a city-wide cleanup and tree-planting in April.”
Over the course of a week about 40 schools participated, she said.
In addition, close to 400 people attended an all-candidates meeting hosted by Burlington Green prior to the October, 2018 municipal election. The group is talking about holding another one before this fall’s federal election.
Schnurr also said Burlington Green introduced former mayor Rick Goldring to Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, resulting in Burlington’s adopting a community energy plan similar to the one in Guelph. Goldring actually ran for the Green Party in the federal election of 2006 before being elected to council.
“And before Burlington Green existed, there were no community gardens in Burlilngton,” Schnurr said. “We partnered with the City and the Province to get the first one established in Central Park and 100 per cent of the crop of one of the plots there goes to local food banks.”
Although Michael should benefit from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s current decline in popularity, she faces the challenge of uniting local Tories to support her.
After losing the provincial Progressive Conservative nomination to Jane McKenna in 2017, she claimed she had notified the riding executive she intended to seek the nomination well in advance, but was not approved to run until the night before the vote.
After the vote Colin Pye, then chair of the riding association, alleged in a letter to the party that the meeting was “tainted” by numerous breaches of party rules. He asked for a formal hearing and a new vote, but was rebuffed.
Since the Green Party started running federal election candidates in Burlington in 2000, the party has polled anywhere from 1.6 per cent to 6.93 per cent of the popular vote locally.