A quick superficial overview would say Andrew Weaver has no chance, but when you look deeper into the data it is not nearly as bleak as conventional wisdom would say. I looked at what I though his chances were in September of last year when he announced and I did not think it was realistic, but as the fall has gone on and I have seen how he is preparing for the election and how well the Greens are organizing locally, I think he now has a chance of winning.
Certainly the 2012 federal by-election showed the Greens in the Greater Victoria area are now a serious political force.
The Electoral History of Oak Bay Gordon Head over the last four elections:
Election Libs NDP Greens Others Non Voters
2009 11877 11316 2330 0 12731
2005 11566 11430 2232 439 about 11000
2001 14588 5789 4666 411 about 12500
1996 12340 11700 566 1881 about 11500
The Greens have put in no effort in past elections in Oak Bay Gordon Head, just the act of running a full campaign will have an impact on their vote and should raise it. Where will this vote come from?
Andrew Weaver is likely to take 2009 supporters from the NDP and the Liberals though I suspect much more strongly from the Liberals. This is the major change from my assumptions last fall and comes strongly from the sort of people the Greens are attracting as campaign volunteers and where their vote in the by-election seems to have come from.
A significant portion of 2009 Liberal voters will not be voting for the Liberals in 2013, my estimate is about 3600 people that voted for them in 2009 will not vote for them this time. I am estimating that about third of those people will not vote and most of the rest will vote for Andrew Weaver - I assume the BC Conservatives will only be a tiny factor here in Oak Bay Gordon Head.
I think that one in eight 2009 NDP supporters will move to Andrew Weaver, about 1,400.
At this point we are at:
Jessica Van der Veen NDP 9,900 40.7%
Ida Chong Liberal 8,300 34.2%
Andrew Weaver Green 6,100 25.1%
Andrew Weaver is still a long way out of winning, how does he get more votes if he is not taking them from the Liberals or the NDP?
Another place we can find votes is from the non-voters. Many people do not vote in every election and their impact on elections is a much bigger one than people changing which party they vote for. One can see this pattern in Oak Bay Gordon Head to come extent though other ridings show it much better.
In 2001 the vote for the NDP was down by 5,911 from 1996 but the Liberals only gained 2,248. The Greens did gain 3,991, many of which were disenchanted NDP voters, but not all of them. There were about 1500 more non voters in 2001, most of whom were likely 1996 NDP voters.
In 2005 the Liberal vote was down 1,677, the Green vote was down 2,434 but the NDP vote was up 5,641, the NDP gained more than the loses of the other parties, these were people who voted in 2005 but did not vote in 2001. Finally in 2009 the vote was down overall but the Greens did not lose vote, Liberal supporters clearly stayed home in the last election.
Based on research by Elections BC, the 12,731 non-voters from 2009 should have represent 8900 people that have voted in past elections and are willing to vote in this coming election. Looking at the impact on voter turn out by Elizabeth May in Saanich Gulf Islands in 2011 and Green candidate Donald Galloway in the 2012 Victoria by-election, strong campaigns from Greens can motivate people to come out and vote in higher numbers. Taking these two recent local races as a bit of a guideline, Andrew Weaver could bring in about 2,500 to 4,000 2009 non-voters. I am going to go with 3,300 for the moment
Greens can motivate people to vote much more easily than either the NDP or the Liberals because they are effectively something new as a serious option. The Greens have never seriously campaigned in Oak Bay Gordon Head in the past whereas the others have done so.
Here is where we are not (I have given the BC Conservatives 500 non voters from 2009)
Jessica Van der Veen NDP 9,900 35.2%
Andrew Weaver Green 9,400 33.5%
Ida Chong Liberal 8,300 29.5%
BC Conservative 500 1.8%
Now Andrew Weaver is getting close to beating Jessica Van der Veen. Also worth nothing is that even though Jessica Van der Veen's total vote did not change in the last two tables, her percentage of the vote went down.
When it starts to look like Ida Chong does not have a chance of winning is when it gets interesting for the Andrew Weaver. If soft supporters of Ida Chong and the BC Liberals see that their candidate is not going to win, many of them may consider making a different decision on election day. Many of them may decide to vote for Andrew Weaver in hopes of defeating the NDP. This is not as crazy an idea as it sounds.
In the 2012 federal by-election in Victoria the Conservatives and Liberals had abysmal results. The areas where those two parties had historically done the best were won by Donald Galloway of the Greens. It seems clear that many centre and centre right people decided in that by-election to vote for the Green because they thought that was the best chance to defeat the NDP.
If centre right people decide to vote for Andrew Weaver to defeat the NDP, this could be another 1,000 Liberal votes from 2009 that he could win.
Also, if the Andrew Weaver campaign is seen to be doing well and have a chance of winning, there will be people that were likely not to vote that will come out and vote. This could increase the non-voters voting for him to 4,000 instead of the 3,300 I was assuming above.
A final impact is the fact everyone knows the NDP is going to win a landslide of 60 to 70 seats and one more NDP MLA will make no impact, but elected a Green will have an impact. I do not know how to measure that number so will assign a small 500 vote value to it.
Overall with all the assumptions in play, the probable outcome and the ranges I see for the candidates:
Andrew Weaver Green 10,100 (8,600-11,600)
Jessica Van der Veen NDP 9,650 (9,400-9,900)
Ida Chong Liberal 7,800 (7,300-8,300)
BC Conservative 500
I think it is quite reasonable to see Andrew Weaver win though it will be a close race.