Election 2008: Greens celebrate small victories

The grass may not be greener in Parliament, but the grass is growing, say Toronto Green Party candidates.

Green candidates gained seven per cent of the vote in the Oct. 14 federal election, but no seats. Despite that, the atmosphere felt victorious at the Toronto Green election night party at the Supermarket in Toronto.

Nine candidates from across the GTA and close to 100 Green supporters celebrated the increase in Green votes. With every showing of Green candidates on the big screen, the bar filled with cheers and applause.

Simply gaining votes was reason enough to celebrate, said Attila Nagy, candidate for Scarborough-Rouge River.

“Each year, support goes up. People are coming over from all the other parties towards out cause,” Nagy said. “Sooner or later we’ll make headway into the double digits.”

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green party, is part of the reason people are switching to Green candidates, said Sharon Howarth, candidate for Toronto-Danforth.

“(May) is fantastic. We wouldn’t be where we are without her,” Howarth said. “She has come to the Green party as someone who says it and people have no one to answer to but themselves. She delivers (the Green message) matter-of-factly and with power because she believes it.”

One of the larger gains in votes for the Green party in Toronto included Howarth’s riding of Toronto-Danforth. Howarth began campaigning last year by knocking on doors. She has lived in the riding for over 30 years and says she knows which issues need more attention.

Running against Jack Layton, incumbent and NDP leader, wasn’t an issue for Howarth and was part of the reason she decided to run.

“I wanted to do this to tell people…nobody owns a riding,” she said. “Voting for someone you don’t like just so someone else you don’t like less gets in? That’s like giving away my vote…. I’m going to vote for the party that has the best solutions for my issues.”

When Howarth went door-to-door asking about people’s issues, she would always have a Green party solution ready. Trinity-Spadina candidate Stephen La Frenie thinks Howarth’s strategy worked well in the Layton-loyal riding.

“It’s great to pat yourself on the back when we’re up to almost 10 per cent from 0.9 percent in 2006, but look at Sharon Howarth,” La Frenie said. “Sharon was running against Jack Layton and scoring over 3,000 votes in that riding. Incredible.”

La Frenie and Howarth both believe this is only the beginning for the Green party. This was the first campaign for federal seats for the Green party and included organizers and executives with a plan, La Frenie noted.

“This time we’re firing on all cylinders. We had fundraising and money,” La Frenie said. “We know what to do with this money now.”

“Green is just getting started,” Howarth said. “The party is just beginning.”