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Canadians want a Green MP, but will they elect one?

A majority of Canadians would like to see a Green MP elected to parliament, according to a poll released yesterday. That’s welcome news for a national party that’s never won a federal race – especially as its leader, Elizabeth May, gets ready for tonight’s French language leadership debate.

But in Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system, will that support translate into victory at the ballot box?

“Our electoral system does discriminate against broad, nation-based parties like the Greens,” party spokesperson Camille Labchuk told The Tyee. “That’s not going to stop us. We expect several Green MPs.”

In the Angus Reid poll released yesterday, 58 per cent of 1,004 respondents in a national online survey indicated that a Green MP would be good for Canada. The results also suggest that over two-thirds of Canadians (68 per cent) applaud May’s participation in the televised leadership debates (+/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20).

“We’re not surprised at such a strong majority,” Labchuk said. She pointed to the controversy generated by May’s initial exclusion from the debates and the concern caused by climate change as the main reasons for the support.

If the momentum continues through May’s debate spots tonight and tomorrow, Labchuk said the Greens could take 10 per cent of the popular vote on Oct 15. And she said she thinks that might just be enough to propel six front runner candidates into Parliament.

Labchuk said the party’s biggest hopes lie with its leader, who will be running in the Tory stronghold of Central Nova. Though May could benefit if she gives a stellar performance in the debates, she has to compete against Conservative Defence Minister Peter Mackay, whose father also held the riding.

Next on the list is Green Deputy Leader Adriane Carr, who has been polling well in the hotly contested riding of Vancouver-Centre. To win, she’ll need to push out long-time Liberal incumbent Hedy Fry, ward off former MLA and now Conservative Lorne Mayencourt and defeat well-known NDP candidate Michael Byers. Many commentators have said the riding is too close to call.

Liberal-turned-Independent Blair Wilson became the Greens’ first sitting MP when he joined the party days before Harper called the election. But he only won the 2006 race as a Liberal by 976 ballots and voters in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast might be turned off by the allegations of financial mismanagement that caused the Grits to dismiss him.

Green candidate John Fryer is a well-known labour leader and former NDP candidate who Labchuk pegged as a frontrunner in Nanaimo-Alberni. But he could have a hard time toppling Conservative incumbent James Lunney, who garnered 41 per cent of the 2006 vote and performed nearly as well in 2004.

Outside of B.C., Labchuk points to the North and the East. Recently announced Green candidate for Nunavut Peter Ittinuar has the distinction of being the first ever Inuk elected to Parliament. However, he left politics 24 years ago and now resides in Ontario, so it remains to be seen whether his name will still resonate with Northern voters.

And in Ontario, Labchuk said Green candidate Mike Nagy is running a “neck and neck” race for control of Guelph. Back at the beginning of September, polls placed Nagy in second place behind Liberal candidate Frank Valeriote. But in the last federal election the Green candidate only garnered 8.72 percent of the vote.

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for The Hook

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