In a Greenless world, would the NDP have won?

To decide, look at 13 lost New Democrat ridings where the Greens factored in.
By Tom Barrett
May 15, 2013

NDP: Stolen victory? Judge for yourself. Photo by Joshua Berson.
NDP: Stolen victory? Judge for yourself. Photo by Joshua Berson.

Imagine a British Columbia without the Green party. It’s a fantasy that many angry New Democrats are indulging in today.

That’s because, if you take the Green party out of Tuesday’s election and assume that every vote cast for the Greens would have gone instead to the NDP, you’re looking at a hefty NDP majority government.

Pending absentee ballots and possible recounts, Tuesday’s results were: 50 seats for the BC Liberals, 33 NDP, one Green and one independent.

The NDP lost in 13 ridings where the combined NDP and Green vote was greater than the BC Liberal vote. Switch all those seats to the NDP and you get 46 NDP, 37 Liberals, no Greens and one independent.

However, the assumption underlying this fantasy Greenless world is a bit iffy.

Those 13 ridings include Oak Bay-Gordon Head, where Andrew Weaver took 40 per cent of the vote. The NDP came third, just behind former Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong. Can you really say Weaver split the NDP vote?

For the sake of argument, let’s give this riding to the NDP in our fantasy legislature. That leaves 12 ridings where the NDP came second to the Liberals and would have won if all the Green votes had gone to them. How likely is that? Can you assume that every Green voter would have voted NDP if the Greens didn’t exist?

How many Green voters would just stay home? How many would vote for an independent candidate or even the Liberals? These are tough questions to answer.

Judge for yourself

To decide whether the Greens stole a victory from the NDP, let’s look at those 12 ridings. The table below shows the percentage of the Green vote that would have to switch to the NDP in each riding for a New Democrat victory. For the sake of argument, these calculations assume that no Green votes would go to the Liberals.

Even if we give Oak Bay-Gordon Head to the NDP, the New Democrats still have to take nine of the seats below to form a majority government.

You have to decide how likely that is. Certainly, it’s reasonable to imagine the NDP taking, say, the first three ridings on the table with no Greens in the picture. Does it seem reasonable that the NDP would get half the Green votes if there were no Green candidate? Two-thirds?

Remember, in this scenario no Green votes go the Liberals.

Think about it and decide: did the Greens cost the NDP the election?

Riding Per cent
Coquitlam-Maillardville 6
Delta North 26
Surrey-Fleetwood 26
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows 35
Port Moody-Coquitlam 36
Vancouver-Fraserview 52
Comox Valley 55
Burnaby North 61
North Vancouver-Lonsdale 62
Fraser-Nicola 64
Boundary-Similkameen 81
Maple Ridge-Mission 83

By the way, all of this ignores an important point that often gets missed when people talk about vote-splitting: third parties like the Greens wouldn’t exist if their supporters found what they were looking for in the main parties.

And one final bit of trivia: in Cariboo North, independent Bob Simpson took 37.28 per cent of the vote and the NDP 21.46 per cent. The Liberals won the seat with 41.26 per cent.

Did the NDP split the Simpson vote?

Find Tyee election reporting team member and contributing editor Tom Barrett’s previous Tyee articles here. Find him on Twitter or email him.

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