As Canada's first Green Party member of parliament took her seat in the House of Commons Thursday morning, the historic nature of the event was overshadowed by questions about what Elizabeth May — as the lone MP for her party — can really accomplish in a majority Conservative Parliament.
An undaunted May says a big priority for her is Parliamentary decorum.
"I want to change the culture of Parliament. I want to see us as 308 MPs work well together," says May.
That said, the Green Party leader understands the limits of what she can do, since she is considered an independent MP.
As such, she doesn't get as many questions during question period and is not guaranteed a seat on any committees. But she is looking for flexibilty in the number of questions she gets and she is looking for ways to get involved in committee work without getting a seat.
"My goal is to get changes in policy above getting credit," argues May.
One person who knows what it's like to lead a party without official party status is former NDP leader Alexa McDonough. When she took over the party in 1995, the New Democrats had nine seats in the House of Commons. Twelve are needed to be recognized as a party.
"It's true that if you're one or if you're nine, your opportunities are not nearly as great as when you have that official party status," warns McDonough.
The other challenge facing May is how to influence the Conservatives on environmental policy. She concedes that climate change and the Tories is a lost cause. Instead she will concentrate on National Parks and strengthening the marine portion of Canada's natural heritage.
Environment Minister Peter Kent thinks he can work with May.
"In the couple of times our paths have crossed it's been very cordial," says Kent.
May doesn't worry too much about a low profile or reduced workload. She takes the example of two former MPs for inspiration.
"For Parliamentary decorum and dignity, I model myself on [former Progressive Conservative Minister] Flora MacDonald. For having a Parliamentary office that makes a difference, that's a hotbed of activism, I model myself on the late [NDP MP] Jim Fulton," says May.