Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has won her B.C. riding, earning her party's first elected seat in Parliament and unseating a longtime incumbent Conservative.

May defeated former cabinet minister Gary Lunn by more than 7,000 votes in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, capturing 46 per cent of the vote share.

"Today we proved that Canadians want change in politics," May said during a victory speech from her riding.

"I will never shrink from speaking truth to power nor will I embrace the politics of spin. We need hope over fear, we need compassion over competition, we need to recognize that Canadians deserve a government where 308 MPs figure out how to work together.

"Whether a majority or a minority, we are 308 MPs and we are elected to serve the people of Canada, not any one political ideology."

'Most inspiring story'

May called her win a boon for democracy.

"What we did in Saanich-Gulf Islands tonight is in many ways … the most inspiring story to come out of this election," she said.

"No one gave me very good chances of taking a seat from a cabinet minister when this began, but the enthusiasm of voters across this riding has just been spectacular."

The Green Party leader said her first order of business will be to improve the political discourse in the House of Commons, a key piece of her election campaign.

"My number one immediate goal, because I know one MP can do it, is to end heckling in question period," she said. "I think that will be a very worthy first goal going out the door," she said.

May also took a shot at critics who suggested she would not win the seat, saying "Amateurs built the ark and professionals built the Titanic."

National Green vote plummets

Political analyst David Mitchell called it a "triumphant night" for May, but said the party has limited influence with just one seat.

"By pouring all of the Green Party's efforts into one riding, they've achieved that historic breakthrough but there's been a cost with that," he said.

"Their total votes across Canada had been reduced almost in half. If the political party funding formula continues, that means less than half the funding that the Green Party had since 2008, since the last election."

The Green Party received 574,922 votes throughout the country this election, capturing 3.9 per cent of the national vote share. That's down from 941,097 in 2008, when the party got 6.8 per cent of the vote share.

Mitchell also pointed out that parties need 12 elected members in order to achieve official party status in the House of Commons.

But when asked by CBC News how much difference one MP could make, May responded by saying, "I don't even want to quote Pierre Trudeau, but 'Just watch me.' "

May spent most of her time campaigning in her home riding, saying her focus was winning the party its first elected seat, not leading the national Green Party campaign.

The strategy was criticized by observers who said the stakes for the party were high because it would have meant a much smaller budget for the party in the future had the strategy backfired.