Green Party candidate Abra Brynne does not intend to step aside and ask her voters to support the NDP’s Wayne Stetski.
“The support I get in this riding drives me on,” she told about 200 people at meeting people in Nelson on Thursday evening.
“I would never be able to step aside and say all of your work and your votes and your hearts don’t matter. Out of respect for people supporting me and out of sharing a vision for a different Canada, a different way of living on the planet, I will continue.”
In the last federal election, Stetski edged the Conservative candidate by 238 votes in Kootenay-Columbia.
So non-Conservative voters are worried this time around: if they support the Greens (or the Liberals) that might cut into the NDP vote, thus electing the Conservatives.
Strategically voting for the NDP does not sit well with some Green supporters, so the Kootenay Alliance for the Climate invited Brynne and NDP candidate Wayne Stetski to a public meeting to talk about this.
Polls suggest that the Conservatives and the NDP are running neck and neck, within .1 per cent in the Kootenay-Columbia riding. The most recent poll by 338 Canada shows the Conservatives at 34.2 per cent, the NDP at 34.1 per cent, the Liberals at 14.3 per cent, the Green Party at 13.8 per cent and the People’s Party at 3.3 per cent.
Brynne and Stetski faced questions from the moderators and from the audience of Green and NDP supporters at the Hume Hotel.
Some voters at the event may have expected a spirit of conciliation or good will between the two candidates, but throughout most of the evening they campaigned against each other, albeit in a low-key and non-confrontational manner.
For and against strategic voting
Asked for the argument against strategic voting (Green supporters voting for the NDP to beat the Conservatives) Brynne said, “If we don’t send to Ottawa an indication of what we want, they are never going to know what we want. If we only vote against what we are afraid of, they can’t read through that. If we never tell Ottawa that the climate crisis is the most critical thing of this generation, how are they going to prioritize that?”
She said the Greens’ climate plan is the strongest one with the highest emissions reduction numbers. Stetski admitted the Greens’ emissions targets are more ambitious than the NDP’s.
“Even though Elizabeth May will not become prime minister unfortunately, they are going to know that is what people wanted,” Brynne said.
Stetski said he does believe in strategic voting because his main objective is to avoid a Conservative government.
“I don’t want you to vote for me strictly because of strategic voting. I have spent my entire life working for the environment. I want your vote not just because of how I have invested my life in the environment but because I can win this riding.”
Stetski read parts of a letter from former former B.C. MLA Corky Evans and Russell Precious calling strategic voting “survival voting.”
Brynne declared that she also has devoted her life to the environment, and challenged Stetski with a quote from his own leader, Jagmeet Singh: “Any party that scares you for your vote to hang on to power deserves neither.”
Brynne called into question the polling data presented by 338 Canada, the most oft-quoted poll.
“The polling data that has been released for this riding is not based on any data from this riding. It is based on election results last year and it takes national data and squishes it into our riding.
“We don’t know what is going to happen in this riding this election. We have youth calling us out, we have a massive increase in young voters, we have a whole ton of people approaching me and saying I am voting for you because I am sick of voting strategically.”
Should one party stand down if it appears to have no chance of winning?
Audience members referenced a Green candidate in Edmonton who recently stepped down so the NDP would have a greater chance of beating the Conservatives.
“I talked to Elizabeth May about this,” Stetski said, “but the Green Party has a constitution that says they will run a candidate in every riding. This is not true in a by-election – it was good of the Greens to step aside in the election of Jagmeet Singh.”
“For the NDP it would be possible,” he said. “It is not in the constitution.”
Brynne said she thinks Stetski has misinterpreted May.
“I don’t believe that our constitution obligates us,” she said. “I do know that there are various people in both parties that have encouraged these conversations but doing it in the thick of an election is not a good time. People in the public want us to have it, but it needs to start on maybe Oct. 23.”
What about a merger of the two parties?
Audience members asked of the NDP and the Greens should simply join.
They heard an entreaty from the Fridays for the Future youth group, to come to consensus on their climate and environmental policies and targets.
“I would like to see the conversation start for that,” Brynne said. “The parties are not identical and not interchangeable. There is a whole bunch of shared policy but there are differences, and this would have to be determined by the joint membership of the two parties.”
Stetski said he and Brynne would have to first bring a motion to their local riding associations to see if they would support it.
“Then it would go to a national convention,” he said, “and assuming both the NDP and the Greens at their national convention agree to explore this, that is when it would happen. But I am interested in the concept.”
The candidates and the audience also discussed fracking, LNG,reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, LGBTQ rights, the two parties’ climate plans, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and proportional representation.