Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/1/2016 (1476 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There's a leader in Manitoba with the unenviable task of shoring up a hopelessly long-shot party. The leader is a young lawyer, telegenic and personable, who did surprisingly well in a debate against two experienced political rivals but who has struggled to create a viable, well-funded political organization.
No, not Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari, who seems to be hoovering up the support of left-leaning voters fed up with the NDP.
I'm talking about Green Leader James Beddome, who can't seem to hoover up anything.
This should be his moment, his party's single best chance at relevance — the moment where huge swaths of voters are casting around for a comfortable place to land that isn't the musty old NDP.
Instead, those voters seem poised to take a chance on the Liberals for the first time in nearly 30 years. The Liberals have a roster of pretty impressive candidates and are now polling second province-wide, tied for second with the NDP in Winnipeg. That new support is nearly all siphoned from the NDP.
Meanwhile, the Greens are stuck, as usual, at about six per cent in provincial opinion polls. They earned no perceptible bump in support last year, lured in few disaffected New Democrats. The Greens have only five candidates nominated for the April election, where other parties, even the Liberals, have dozens.
The Greens were invisible during last fall's Manitoba legislative session, unable to offer timely comment on issues making headlines and still prone to whining about their lack of media coverage after the fact. Beddome was left out of the first leaders debate in Brandon last November, and no one really noticed. They still have no full-time staff and little money — about $14,000 in the bank, according to the most recent available financial returns.
For a party with important things to say, this is a wasted political opportunity to build on some tiny successes here and elsewhere.
In the last federal election, University of Winnipeg forest ecology professor Andy Park ran probably the best-organized and best-funded Green campaign in Manitoba. The excellent quality of candidates in Winnipeg South Centre already offered left-leaning voters an embarrassment of riches from which to choose, and Park's final vote tally was blunted by strategic voting, but it should have given the party momentum heading into the April campaign.
It's in provincial elections the Greens have made their biggest gains, with three MLAs elected across Canada.
Beddome, a young lawyer who focuses on First Nations and environmental issues, is every bit as qualified to be premier as Bokhari. This is his second stint as party leader, which makes it impossible to question his commitment, and he shocked the jaded local Twitterati when he held his own and delivered some zingers during a televised leaders debate in 2011.
Among their tiny roster of nominated candidates, the Greens have some credible ones, including Kate Storey in Dauphin and Dave Nickarz in Wolseley, and they dumped Minto candidate Don Woodstock, the unpredictable rabble-rouser who ran for the federal party in Winnipeg Centre last fall.
Beddome refused to say why the party's council voted to turf Woodstock, but Woodstock says it's because he ruffled too many feathers taking on then-NDP MP Pat Martin. Woodstock was relentlessly single-minded in his accusation Martin resided on British Columbia's Salt Spring Island, and it was a race filled with cringeworthy drama.
In any case, the Greens seem to have made at least one wise move toward a more professional party that's not just a loose collection of marginalia. But there's not much evidence yet the Greens are remotely ready and able to woo discontented New Democrats the way the Liberals have — though there may be some hope not of their own making.
As the real Manitoba election campaign begins, as scrutiny increases of the leaders and their platforms, it's unclear whether Bokhari's support will hold. She lacks depth, a fault made all the more glaring when she's compared with the one-man policy show that is Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister or Premier Greg Selinger, a wonk himself.
Bokhari's new promises are populist but sparse on details, and her public pronouncements tend toward vague boosterism instead of substance. If the media largely ignores the Greens, it's so far treated Bokhari gently in her freshman years. That's over now.
As voters start to pay real attention, they may not be quite as willing to park their protest vote with the Liberals. They might look elsewhere.
The Greens better start looking sharp fast.
Updated on Thursday, January 7, 2016 at 11:26 AM CST: Photo added.