British Columbia

Elizabeth May as environment minister? 3 petitions vote yes

Green Party leader Elizabeth May says she's "very encouraged" by the support of thousands of Canadians signing online petitions asking her to be environment minister, but calls it "unlikely."

May isn't ruling out the idea — and talked to Trudeau last night — but calls it 'unlikely'

Tens of thousands have signed petitions asking prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau, here seen at the 2014 Press Gallery dinner, to make Green Party leader Elizabeth May his environment minister. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Though the Green Party didn't make the breakthrough it hoped for, almost 60,000 of Elizabeth May's supporters hope the party's leader and lone MP could still join Justin Trudeau's cabinet.

At least three separate petitions were circulating Tuesday calling on Trudeau to make May his environment minister, and send her to Paris for the UN climate change summit next month.

"Please put aside partisan politics, and live up to your promise: Appoint the best people to your cabinet," wrote Gillian Turner of Timmins, Ont., who started a petition Wednesday morning. It had gained more than 28,000 signatures by late Wednesday morning.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May said Tuesday she's "very encouraged" by the support of thousands of Canadians wanting her to be environment minister, but calls it "unlikely." (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

"Be bold, Justin," declared a second petition. "At this pivotal moment in our country's history, the world needs you to be brave."

"You said you would listen to all parties and their ideas. That's why I voted for Liberal," wrote Orlando Ekkert of Richmond, B.C., on the largest of the three online petitions, started by Patricia Birch in Vancouver.

Birch closed the petition early Wednesday at 30,182 signatures.

Asked about the petitions, May didn't rule out the idea — and said she talked to Trudeau Tuesday night — but she called the proposition "unlikely."

Green Party leader Elizabeth May with her daughter, left, and defeated Green candidate for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke Frances Litman. (Duncan McCue/CBC)

"I'm very encouraged that so many Canadians should ask me to do that," said Elizabeth May in an interview on CBC Radio's B.C. Almanac.

Would mean working for Liberals

"I think it's unlikely that he would offer it to me … with as many new MPs as he has, and with the pressure to create a cabinet among his existing MPs," she said.

Last night, May also expressed reservations about working so closely with the Liberals she couldn't hold them to account.

"If I was to join the Liberal caucus, I would be working for the Liberal leader, and that's not what voters of Saanich-Gulf Islands asked for."

However, May said Tuesday she wants to arrange a meeting with Trudeau as soon as possible.

"I want to play a critical role in the climate negotiations, but not necessarily as environment minister."

Were May to somehow join Trudeau's cabinet, it could be considered a "coalition" of sorts, said UBC political science professor Gerald Baier.

Joining Trudeau's cabinet could be seen as 'pulling a David Emerson,' said UBC political scientist Gerald Baier, referring to the MP elected as a Liberal who quickly joined Stephen Harper's cabinet in 2006. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

But it would essentially mean giving up on the Greens and "pulling a David Emerson," said Baier, referring to the Vancouver politician elected as a Liberal MP in 2006, who quickly defected to join Stephen Harper's Conservative cabinet.

"I think she's right to kind of characterize it as being essentially co-opted into the Liberal caucus," he said.

Secrets, responsibility

Cabinet members have shared secrets and collective responsibility for the government's decisions, said Baier. That group could decide to, say, support a pipeline for economic reasons even if the environmental case weren't there.

"It's not something that you would just come in to talk about the environment …. The norm is every member of cabinet supports every decision by cabinet. And if you can't — or won't — then you leave cabinet."

Baier sees some kind of other role on environmental issues a more likely win-win — with May gaining influence, and lending credibility to the government.

However, it would also give a major platform to a government critic, which Trudeau might think twice about.

"If [Trudeau] appoints her as special envoy on the environment or something, and does stuff that she doesn't think is environmental, that's a risk," said Baier.

With files from B.C. Almanac