Green party 'has arrived' after finishing 2nd in byelection

Green Leader Elizabeth May sounded victorious Tuesday, saying her second-place finish in a federal byelection had won the party a place on Canada's political map.

Green Leader Elizabeth May soundedvictorious Tuesday, sayingher second-place finish in the federal byelection in London North Centre had won the party a place on Canada's political map.

"We are electable. We have a full party. The Green party really has arrived," she told CBC News a day after the byelection. "We can be taken seriously as a credible political alternative."

May won 26 per cent of the popular vote, placing second behind Liberal Glen Pearson, who won the seat with nearly 35 per cent. But May beat Tory Dianne Haskett, the former London mayor, who took 24 per cent of the vote.

May, a well-known environmental activist born in the U.S., said her strong showing is good news for the Greens because the party clearly increased its popular support from the last federal election.

In January, the party received about five per cent of the popular vote, with individual candidates managing to garner about 12 per cent in certain ridings. Now, the party is at about 10 per cent in the polls nationally.

May said she believes she finished second because of the Green platform, with its strong focus on the environment, and because of the way she conducted her campaign.

She said the party avoided smear tactics and mudslinging, or the "wages of spin," and she thinks the voters appreciated the civility of her campaign.

"The other parties better clean up their acts because we will steal a lot more votes from them in the next election."

Other partieslose ground

The Greens took votes from all parties in Monday's race. The Liberals and Conservatives have dropped five and six percentage points, respectively, since the January election.

NDP candidate Megan Walker, meanwhile,received only 14 per cent of the vote, a 10-point drop from the last election.

May acknowledged that byelections can be protest votes, not necessarily indicative of trends in federal politics, but said she is confident that the results bode well for the next federal election.

She said the issues in London North Centre were national issues, including the Canadian mission in Afghanistan and concern about the federal position on global warming.

The Greens have been highly critical of the clean air act, proposed legislation on global warming recently introduced by the Harper government. The act sets targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

"All of these issues played out here in London," she said.

May added she thinks she would have won the seat if the campaign had been longer.

"We had the momentum. Effective campaigning, when we had the voters' attention, was an all-too-brief two-week period between when the municipal election race ended on Nov. 13 and the vote on Nov. 27,"she said.

"The momentum we had was based onour message and we think that's a message that will play right across Canada."

London North Centre has belonged to the Liberals for 18 years. A byelection was called after Liberal MP Joe Fontana quit federal politics last spring to run in a failed mayoral bid.