Canada Kicks Ass
Red light for the Green Party


Patrick_Ross @ Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:36 am ... 9-460.html

Red light for the Green Party

Elizabeth May doesn’t stand a chance against Peter McKay in Central Nova

Last week Green Party leader Elizabeth May announced her intention to run in Central Nova, NS—Peter Mackay’s riding—in the next federal election. Well good luck, I say, because constituents there will pick MacKay over an upstart environmentalist any day.

While May’s confidence is commendable—she’s running head-first into the Conservative Party’s golden boy—her tactic is political suicide. Having grown up in PEI, I can tell you that politics in the Maritimes is a blood sport. You’re born into either a Tory-blue or Grits-red legacy—it’s as simple as that. And when party lines run that deep, you need a lot more than cheery optimism.

This is not to say that May is unqualified. A member of the Order of Canada, she holds a law degree, was awarded two honourary doctorates and is nationally recognized for her environmental work. She’s also the author of several books, including 2006’s How to Save the World in Your Free Time. No one said she wasn’t ambitious.

May first ran in Nova Scotia in 1980 at age 25, back when she still worked as a waitress. She challenged then-deputy prime minister Alan J MacEachern in the nearby riding Cape Breton Highlands-Canso. May alluded to this past attempt recently by taking a stab at her opponent, stating that, “To be brutally honest, Peter MacKay is no Allan MacEachern.”

May made her announcement from the Tall and Small Café, an independently owned Fair Trade coffee shop home to local hippies and students in the heart of Antigonish—easily the most left-leaning part of Central Nova. May told the small crowd, “This where I am from and this is where my heart’s at, and I wanted to run where I am comfortable.” Not surprisingly, May found a receptive audience at a liberal refuge in what is an otherwise traditional conservative riding.

But to many constituents, May isn’t at home in this region, because she never lived in Central Nova. While she grew up on Cape Breton Island, she was actually born in the US. In Atlantic-Canadian discourse, she’s still “from away,” meaning she is, and will remain, an outsider. In contrast, MacKay comes from a wealthy farming family in the region—one that also happens to lead a local political dynasty. MacKay’s father, Elmer, held the seat for Central Nova from 1971–1993, and many constituents still vote for “Elmer’s boy.”

What’s more, the Green Party has virtually no presence or credibility in Central Nova, or the rest of the Maritimes that matter. Last January, the Green Party registered just 2.6 per cent of the vote in Nova Scotia, compared to 5.5 per cent nationally. In Central Nova, Green candidate David Orton received 671 votes—a mere 1.6 per cent. This doesn’t exactly make for an environmental hotbed.

Even if May already had a strong national presence, it’s unlikely she could mobilize a victory based on her position as a figurehead for a party that has no seats in the House of Commons. Perhaps May’s only hope is that she can capture the NDP vote and convince Liberals to support her platform to come in a healthy second place.

Unfortunately, May will lose simply because it will be too much for the majority of the population in Central Nova to vote for an untested female candidate running for a party that still holds connotations of pot-smoking hippies, idealistic environmentalists, troublesome protesters and outspoken students.

Central Nova still thinks it needs MacKay and that Atlantic Canada needs a high-profile Cabinet Minister to prevent Ottawa from forgetting them completely. This isn’t entirely without merit. But what the people of Atlantic Canada also need is a government who will acknowledge the crippling effects of a high unemployment rate, faltering social programs and the potential devastation on an agriculture- and fish-based economy if the environment doesn’t become a priority.

Don’t try telling that to the backroom boys of local politics, though: they made up their minds the day they were born. Better luck next time May.


BluesBud @ Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:06 pm

Brave move but the wrong one. I would rather see her get into the house with a seat than do this just to get media buzz.


Patrick_Ross @ Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:18 pm

I don't see this as a move that will work out well for May herself. She's going to lose.

But, she could bite the bullet, mount a feirce battle against McKay in Central Nova, and use that to garner attention for the Green Party as a whole, which could lead to as many as seven seats for the party nationally (but this is merely a guess based on gut instinct).

May doesn't necessarily have to win a seat the first time out to be successful. Recall that Reform's first parliamentarian was Deborah Grey, and she won her seat during a by-election.


BluesBud @ Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:27 pm

You may have a god point there. Just getting any foot into the house is a victory for The Greens. That is where you build from.


Patrick_Ross @ Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:37 pm

They're in good position to do it. The recent polls have them wavering anywhere from 11 to 15% of popular support. That's bound to translate into some seats.


Rihx @ Sun Apr 08, 2007 4:54 pm

While I strongly doubt she can win, I know she will put up a good fight and probably get enough media attention to take part in the leaders debates.

Its seems to me that the media has held back the green party on purpose by not allowing them in the debates.