GREEN PARTYElizabeth May: For Green and country
Posted: Mar 11, 2011 6:02 PM ET
Last Updated: Apr 1, 2011 11:22 AM ETBack to accessibility links
Supporting Story Content
End of Supporting Story ContentBack to accessibility links
Beginning of Story Content
Leader of the Green Party since 2006, Elizabeth May has brought increasing profile to the party and made herself a regular presence on Parliament Hill. She emerged as a recognizable federal party leader after fighting successfully to get into the televised leadership debates before the October 2008 election.
Despite a battle with the TV networks and the other party leaders, and even though her party had no elected seats in the House of Commons, May managed to grab a seat at the debate table. It was a glimpse of her tenacity, something she'll need as she takes on another cabinet minister to try to earn her first seat in the House of Commons.
After a defeat by now-Defence Minister Peter MacKay in the riding his father held before him, May will take on Minister of State for Amateur Sport Gary Lunn in Saanich-Gulf Islands just outside Victoria, B.C.
It was a mild groundswell and the fight to get May into the debates put her party on the front pages at a crucial time in the campaign.
When the debates finally rolled around, May's French performance was generally panned but she made a mark in the English debate in Ottawa when she took on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper regarding his request for more debate time on the economy.
"Both nights, I waited to hear what you thought you should do about the situation and wondered why you wanted the time because you offered nothing up, and tonight, you spent your time attacking the policies of others," she said.
But despite finishing third in a poll taken after the English debate and despite all of the press leading up to the debates, the Greens did not elect a member of Parliament and received only a slightly higher share of the votes gathered in the 2006 election.
People knew who May was, though, after the debate tussles and her high-profile election campaign train ride from British Columbia to Toronto.
A new direction
May was selected leader of the Green Party of Canada on Aug. 26, 2006, after serving as the longtime executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada.
The Greens have garnered the support of more than half a million Canadian voters in each of the past three general elections but have not elected a member of Parliament.
They did, however, have an MP for just a few months after Blair Wilson, a Vancouver-area Independent who quit the Liberal party, joined the Greens in late August 2008.
With climate change becoming a more prominent issue, and with one MP, the Greens were hoping for a breakthrough in the 2008 election, but the party managed just 6.8 per cent of the vote, slightly up from the 6.6 per cent support they garnered in 2006.
Wilson finished third in his riding in the 2008 election and May lost as well. She didn't pick an easy battle in 2008, running in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova against Peter MacKay, a high-profile cabinet minister in Harper's government and the minister responsible for East Coast matters. Her strong Nova Scotia roots, where she'd lived as a teen, weren't enough to help her beat a former foreign affairs minister.
It was a hard-fought campaign, but MacKay prevailed by just over 14 percentage points on election night.
The campaign's climax came during a riding debate attended by 600 people, as MacKay and May went at it soon after the introductions, with the Green leader being the aggressor much of the time.
She was forced onto the defensive, however, when pressed about a deal the Greens made with then Liberal leader Stéphane Dion to ensure no Liberal candidate ran against her in the riding.
Ready to take on battles
May has never been elected.
She came close, however, in a byelection in London, Ont., in November 2006, coming second to the incumbent Liberals with nearly 26 per cent of the votes cast.
A well-known environmental activist, May has friends in high places: former U.S. president Bill Clinton is a family friend and former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney is also someone with whom May has worked closely over the years.
Well-spoken and media savvy, she comes by her activism naturally. Her mother was a prominent nuclear opponent in Connecticut and a founder of the peace group SANE before the family moved to Cape Breton, N.S., when May was a teenager. In Nova Scotia, May came to prominence in the early 1980s as a young activist and lawyer trying to stop the spraying of the controversial defoliant Agent Orange by timber concerns. The resulting court case, however, cost her family dearly and they had to sell a large portion of their property to pay the legal bills.
In 1986, May was appointed senior policy adviser to federal environment minister Tom McMillan, a Conservative. She quit three years later, in 1989, when the Mulroney government exempted the Rafferty-Alameda dams in Saskatchewan from full environmental assessments.
That was when May became the founding executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, an offshoot of the venerable U.S. environmental group. Her most controversial action was a 17-day hunger strike on Parliament Hill in 2001 to protest government inaction on relocating families affected by their proximity to the Sydney, N.S., tar ponds.
Since the October 2008 election, May and her party have kept a fairly low profile after being shut out of the House of Commons.
In March 2009, May received the support of her party at the Greens' policy convention in Pictou, N.S., although reports cited some as expressing disappointment the party did not win a seat the previous October.
"I can honestly tell you I didn't expect that strong and unanimous sense of support and appreciation, and even forgiveness, for mistakes," May told the delegates.
May released a book in the spring of 2009 titled Losing Confidence: Power, Politics, and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy.
May was forced to fight to keep her leadership in August, 2010, when challenger Sylvie Lemieux took her on. But May supporters passed a resolution lengthening her term and gave her an 85 per cent approval in a leadership review vote.
End of Story ContentBack to accessibility links
Story Social Media
End of Story Social Media
Related News Content
Big Box Advertisement
Federal Election Results
Updated: May. 3, 2011, 3:40 AM EDT
|Party||Elected||Leading||Total||Vote Share (%)|
All results are unofficial until final ballot counts are verified by Elections Canada. CBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
What is truth in an election campaign?
by Ira Basen Apr. 30, 2011 3:47 PM
Fail At Reality Check we take what politicians say at face value. Maybe that's a mistake.
The cost of being tough on crime
by David McKie Apr. 30, 2011 9:54 AM
Fail The Conservatives have used their so-called tough-on-crime agenda to drive a wedge between themselves and their political opponents. But the issue here is cost.
The NDP's cap-and-trade plan: Brace for sticker shock
by Reality Check Team Apr. 29, 2011 5:10 PM
Fail The NDP wants to curb GHG emissions and raise billions in revenue by imposing cap-and-trade on big polluters. But these costs will be passed along.
The NDP and price of doctors
by Meagan Fitzpatrick Apr. 29, 2011 4:08 PM
50-50 The NDP is promising to add 1,200 doctors over the next 10 years and has a thought-out plan. But is it really accounting for all the additional costs to the health-care system?
What comes next? Post-election scenarios and the Constitution
by Laura Payton Apr. 29, 2011 1:03 PM
Pass The surprising increase in NDP popularity makes this election harder than usual to predict. But there are three main scenarios that could play out after election day.
Top News Headlines
- Record number of women elected
- There will be more female faces in the House of Commons following Monday's federal election that saw 76 women elected, the highest number of women ever. more »
- Layton defends inexperienced Quebec caucus
- NDP Leader Jack Layton defends his youngest, least-experienced caucus members after Quebec voters elect three McGill University students and a pub manager who doesn't speak French or live in the francophone riding she'll represent. more »
- Ignatieff quits as Liberal leader
- Michael Ignatieff is quitting as the Liberal leader after his party took an electoral drubbing on Monday night. more »
- Harper faces cabinet gaps
- With Parliament expected to return to work at the end of May, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will have openings to fill after losing several cabinet ministers on election night. more »