The Green Party’s growing popularity in the Yukon has the federal New Democrats worried about the environmental vote.
A recent poll on federal trends in the Yukon put the Greens in second place behind Liberal MP Larry Bagnell, who still dominates the pack by a two-to-one margin.
“There’s a factor of leakage to the Green Party,” said Brian Eaton, the president of the New Democratic riding association.
“We’re a natural constituency for people who have concerns over the environment and the Green Party does have an appeal for a younger demographic and a more environmentally oriented demographic,” said Eaton.
“There’s some leakage there on that basis.”
The Green party had the support of 23 per cent of Yukoners in a Datapath Systems poll done in late October. That’s up from 16 per cent in June and 13 per cent in the last election in October of 2008.
It’s a far cry from Bagnell’s solid lead at 54 per cent, but it trounces the New Democrats, who remain in the doldrums with nine per cent support.
“It was steady at nine per cent, so it wasn’t a drop,” said Eaton.
The New Democrats came in fourth place for the first time during the October 2008 election with Ken Bolton on the ballot.
They’ve remained in the same position in polls conducted over the last year, said pollster Donna Larsen.
But the Green’s John Streicker, who put his party in third place in that election, is carrying his momentum into the off-season.
“I attribute it to (Streicker) being out there and letting everyone know,” said Larsen.
Streicker is a civil engineer and a climate change expert. His presence at environmental awareness events has solidified trust in him, said Larsen.
“(Streicker’s) out there with a position that’s very popular in the Yukon right now,” she said. “We always see environmental issues coming up very high on issues that are very important to Yukon people.”
“He’s got a message and he’s remained consistent with it.”
It’s also beneficial for a party to stick to one candidate even without an election going on, said Larsen.
“I don’t know how rock solid the other parties are for who the candidate is going to be,” she said.
Back at Green Party headquarters, Streicker has put the Yukon on the map.
The party has put Yukon “very high on the list” of ridings that may one day go Green, said Streicker.
After the last election, the party’s executive put Streicker in their shadow cabinet as critic of northern affairs. He also chaired the party’s annual convention.
Streicker’s showing in the last election was double the Green Party’s national average, he said.
The party’s second-place showing should help it win over strategically minded voters who may have earlier seen the Greens as a lost cause, said Streiker.
“Once you get into second place, that becomes less a liability,” he said.
The New Democrats are also taking heed of what’s going on in the Yukon, said Eaton.
“You’ll see more initiatives by the federal party to point out more differences to explode some myths about the Green Party and what they’re about,” he said.
“There’s a common perception of the Green Party as a left-oriented party,” he said. “An examination of their party platform would lead more in the direction that they are in many respects a more conservative-oriented party than us.”
“Their stand on the HST – the harmonized sales tax – is more fiscally and socially conservative than us.”
Eaton also attributed the party’s paltry numbers to spillover from troubles at the territorial level.
“There’s a perception where people tend to equate the federal party with the territorial party and territorially we’re at a low point with leadership reorganization, losing MLAs and so on,” he said.
“There’s a renewal process in the territorial segment,” he said. “And that renewal process is being undertaken federally too.”
Eaton acknowledged that Streicker has boosted the Greens’ fortunes.
“They have an excellent candidate locally,” he said. “(Streicker) is politically astute, he knows his stuff, he does his homework and he’s a good guy.”
The Datapath poll put the Conservatives, who haven’t decided on a candidate should an election be called, in third place at 22 per cent support.
The non-commissioned poll was conducted with 181 Whitehorse residents and 128 non-Whitehorse residents between October 18 and 26. The data was weighted to accurately represent Yukoners based on the community they live in, their age and gender, said Larsen.
The chances are 19 out of 20 that the results are within plus or minus 5.5 percentage points of the true value of the whole population sampled.
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