Canada's Green Party looks to build political sway beyond British Columbia

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The surprise role of power-broker played by British Columbia’s Green Party in the provincial election, which has pushed the party up in national polls, has seen an increase in people looking to run as candidates against Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, the federal Green leader said.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Greens in the Pacific Coast province, with just three seats in the knife-edge May 9 election, joined forces with the New Democrat Party (NDP) on May 29 to unseat the incumbent Liberals who had been in power for 16 years.

The Greens were wooed by both sides for two heady weeks before pitching their lot with the NDP, which agreed to take up issues they have in common in return for the support.

The Greens’ ability to govern alongside the left-leaning New Democrats will serve as a litmus test for other provincial and federal parties ahead of next year’s election in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, and a national election in 2019.

The party says it has long suffered from would-be supporters voting for parties they see as more likely to hold power.

“We’ve been fighting for years against the notion that a Green vote is a wasted vote,” federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May, the only Green member of Parliament, told Reuters.

“(Now) citizens across Canada get used to the idea that electing Greens actually helps you get better government.”

The spotlight on the Green Party in British Columbia helped drive the federal party, which has just one seat in Parliament, up in polls. Support for the federal Greens surged to 7.2 percent for the week ending May 26, according to Nanos Research, up from 4.2 percent the week ending May 5, just before the election.

The Greens captured just 3.4 percent of the vote in the 2015 election that saw Trudeau’s Liberals party take power.

“One of the natural things for the Greens to do would be to map over where they were successful in B.C. and see whether they can replicate it on the federal level,” said pollster Nik Nanos.

A strong performance from British Columbia Green leader Andrew Weaver could make candidates appear more credible when they are on the campaign trail, said Michael Prince, political scientist at the University of Victoria.

The provincial Greens in Ontario said the results have galvanized members, with the party targeting two seats in next year’s election. It currently holds none.

“It’s just energizing Greens across the country and sending the message that it’s possible to elect Greens,” said leader Mike Schreiner.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Diane Craft