Not any more

May wants in: Green leader sets sights on getting elected

In Canada on August 23, 2010 at 10:21

The Green Party of Canada emerged “reinvigorated” from its weekend policy convention Sunday with Leader Elizabeth May saying its focus is now firmly on winning a seat in Parliament in the next election.

After delegates overwhelmingly affirmed their support for her at the Toronto convention, May said her party’s top priority is getting her elected — hopefully in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding in British Columbia.

“Electing Green MPs is the game-changer,” she told supporters and media. “Electing Green MPs in our House of Commons in Canada will change everything.”

It’s a more direct tone for the Green leader, who says she’s learned a lot since her debut outing at the party’s helm in the 2008 federal election.

May said in that vote — when she waged a David-versus-Goliath battle to knock off Defence Minister Peter MacKay in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova — getting elected wasn’t the only priority.

As party leader, she said, she had to split her time between campaigning in her own riding and hitting the hustings for candidates all across the country.

The Greens failed to win any seats, despite the party’s high expectations and a spot at the televised debates.

But May said it was a learning process — for the party, and, in particular, for her when it came to dealing with the media.

“I don’t like short, pat, sloganeering,” she said. “I like to engage people in a conversation that can be nuanced. I like trying to help people find a middle ground.”

She said that worked against her at times, such as when she urged left-leaning voters to support the Liberals in the face of a Conservative victory — comments she said were misconstrued by some and led to accusations that the Green party was serving as a straw man for the Liberals.

“Things had a way of spiralling out of control,” she said.

This time out, May will be running in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, a seat currently held by Conservative MP Gary Lunn.

She said the riding represents the best chance for her party to win a seat.

“We know in terms of popular support that the support is there (in the riding),” said May. “But you have to build something to take on a Conservative machine.”

Despite early signs of promise, the Greens have routinely polled under the 10 per cent support mark.

Asked whether she had considered merging with one of the other mainstream parties, May said: “We tend to preoccupy ourselves in Canada with vote-splitting. The far bigger problem is vote abandoning.”

Citing the first-ever election of a Green MP to Australia’s lower house of parliament this week, May said the key to a mainstream breakthrough is to “create a merger with the 41 per cent of the Canadians that didn’t vote.”

The leader said she’s spent much time in the past two years on university and college campuses, talking to younger voters who she says may have been turned off by the partisan nature of a minority Parliament. May said she’s committed herself to discourse with the party’s growing youth wing.

In other business at the weekend convention, delegates rejected term limits in favour of keeping May at the helm for the next federal vote. It also saw them address a plethora of issues, focusing on the environment, and the slightly more offbeat. Delegates, for example, overwhelmingly rejected a motion to decriminalize polygamy.

May said she’s confident the future of her party is bright.

“The people were feeling it on both the policy front, the structuring and institutional maturation of the party, and support for me as a leader was quite overwhelming,” she said.

“Overall, a very strong and reinvigorating kind of gathering.”

May said the party will again run a full slate of 308 candidates in the next election, and will hold a leadership convention after those results come in.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

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