When a loss can be a win: Green party defiant in face of disappointing Toronto election results

by Nino Meese-Tamuri, Centennial Journalism

The Green party picked a hip and cozy restaurant in downtown Toronto Thursday to celebrate the election night results. Going by the name of “Veritas”, which is Latin for truth, the location seemed to be an appropriate choice for Robin McKim, one of the many Green party candidates in Toronto’s ridings to experience the moment of truth together: the election night loss.

McKim, 27, the Green party candidate for the Scarborough Southwest riding, already has experience with these kind of moments. It was his second time running for the Green party, but it was his first time in Ontario. He ran in the 2009 provincial election in British Columbia, in a rural riding of Westside-Kelowna. Back then, he was able to secure 8.19 per cent of the vote. This time, he looked at a result of 2.33 per cent and was beaten by the incumbent Liberal candidate Lorenzo Berardinetti who managed to secure 44.09 per cent of the vote. McKim said that the numbers strongly suggested that many voters casted their ballot strategically to deny one of the main parties access to power.

“I was expecting between four and six percent,” McKim said. “This voting system does not allow people who want to vote Green to vote Green.” Listen to interview with McKim here.

He added that strong Green parties usually appear in countries with a voting system using proportional representation.

The party was struck a severe blow at the polls winning only 2.94 per cent of the vote. In the previous election of 2007, the Green party was able to secure eight per cent of the vote. The current numbers bring the party again back to levels of the 2003 Ontario election. Once again, the Greens won no seat. The Green Party of Ontario leader, Mike Schreiner lost to Donna Kenwell of the Liberals in his own riding of Simcoe-Grey.

Amidst this bad news, the party was still able to find some positive rallying points to stay motivated and upbeat. The party was able for the second time to feature a full slate of 107 candidates, one in every riding across Ontario. Also, the party received 50 per cent more donations than in previous elections and was also able to pride itself on a growing volunteer base.

One key component of the Green party’s political strategy was to attempt to influence the bigger mainstream parties to incorporate greener policies into their platform. In that regard, McKim said he believed the Green party had been very successful.

“Nights like these are important. Not that anybody gets elected, but that more votes go the green way,” McKim emphasized. “I think the Liberals have really taken a step forward in leading North America and I credit them with moving ahead with their green initiatives,” acknowledged McKim, referring to the endorsement of the Liberal party by environmental activist David Suzuki during this election. “Whether this comes from our influence or from corporate deals seen as profitable to the province does not concern me as much as that they are being implemented.”

Looking back at his campaign, McKim took away some lessons for the future.

“We wanted to get on top of social media, but we didn’t manage to as much as we would have liked,” McKim said. He also regretted not to have been able to circulate more flyers in the riding.

His Twitter feed as well as his campaign Facebook page were left neglected throughout the campaign. Being a last minute candidate, the preparation for his candidacy was rushed to the extent that the printed flyers were hard to read due to the selected font.

“I cannot say I am very proud of these,” commented McKim, after a campaign stop last month.

Robin McKim signs autographs for an enthusiastic crowd of students during a visit at Warden Public School. (Photo: Nino Meese-Tamuri)

On the bright side, McKim recalled his favourite moment of the campaign: A visit to Warden Public School. A Grade 5 class questioned him on political issues with topics such as “Why did you join the Green party?” and “What is your favourite junk food?”

The goal of the visit was to excite the children about politics and the election process and maybe plant a seed or two for greener voters in the future.

“The kids were incredible, the teacher was incredible and we just had a really good time that day,” McKim recalled. Even though he was the only candidate visiting the class, a mock election held on Oct. 5 placed him a close second with 16 per cent behind the eventual winner, the NDP’s Bruce Budd at 17 per cent. However, a similar mock election of about 170 students following an all-candidates debate at Birchmount Park High School gave McKim a strong 50 per cent win.

Is he going to wait for these young voters to become old enough to support him on the big stage?

“After the first time running in British Columbia, I thought I was probably not going to be doing that again, but now after having done it the second time, I would certainly not be hesitant in the future.”