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Green Party notables win office in municipal elections in Canada

Local government elections held on October 27, 2014 in Canada’s most populous province were punctuated with victories by three Green Party notables. One incumbent and two newcomers were elected in Ontario.

In the national capital city of Ottawa, former Green Party of Canada leadership candidate David Chernushenko was re-elected in Capital Ward with a commanding 76.36% portion of the popular vote. Chernushenko, who was first elected in 2010 and has served on the city’s Transportation and Environment committees, lost the 2006 federal party leadership contest to current leader Elizabeth May but has distinguished himself as a consensus-driven representative since winning public office four years ago.

In the comparatively-smaller municipal unit of McNab-Braeside, former Green Party of Canada President Mark MacKenzie finished second in a field of five candidates to win election to public office for the first time. The previous council had severely-restricted recreational and library facilities, thereby raising the ire of area residents. MacKenzie led a petition-drive effort that was ignored by the previous council. Not a single incumbent was returned to office.

Former Green Party of Ontario candidate Treat Hull was a first-time winner in his bid to capture a seat on the Prince Edward County municipal council. He placed second in a six-way race to claim one of two seats in Picton Ward. The ex-GPO standard bearer for the provincial riding of Prince Edward–Hastings wound up 183 votes ahead of the third place finisher.

Only two Canadian municipal units permit political parties to run official candidates: Vancouver and Montreal. In Ontario, candidates are officially non-affiliated but their partisan preferences are widely-known and once elected, they invariably congeal as like-minded voting blocs around key issues. The voting system in Ontario municipal elections is contingent on the guidelines set forth by each individual municipality. For instance, each specific geographic ward in Ottawa operates under a Single Member Plurality (SMP) system, while in other municipalities a pre-ordained amount of seats that cover the entirety of the municipal unit are up for grabs.

The next test for Canadian Greens seeking to hold elected office in local government occurs on November 15, 2014 when British Columbians go to the polls. The country’s only Green Party Mayor, Josie Osborne, is running unopposed for Tofino’s highest elected office. She first won election in 2010.

The former leader of the Green Party of British Columbia and ex-Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Canada, Adriane Carr, is seeking re-election to Vancouver City Council. A recent public opinion poll had Carr leading the race for the ten council seats. In 2010 she narrowly won election by finishing in tenth place. There is a distinct possibility that Carr may be joined on council by fellow Green Party candidates Cleta Brown and Pete Fry, both of whom are well-known community social justice advocates. Stuart MacKinnon and Michael Wiebe are seeking election to the Vancouver’s parks committee while Janet Fraser and Mischa Oak are the Green Party school board candidates. The seven candidates represent a record number of Vancouver Greens seeking election. The municipal party was first created in 1984.

This round of municipal elections in British Columbia and Ontario are occurring amid continued public discourse in Canada surrounding the role of local government. Constitutionally-speaking, Canadian municipalities are the responsibility of provincial governments. Historically this has meant municipal units were subservient to the provinces, although in the current era local governments in the land of the maple leaf are clamouring for more autonomy and taxation powers.

Chris Alders, formerly Director of Communications for the Green Party of Nova Scotia

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