The House

Elizabeth May pitches the Greens as key player in a minority Parliament

It was likely her one shot at standing across from Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau -- all at the same time. Now that her chance to debate her opponents is behind her, there's a lot at stake for Elizabeth May over the next 10 weeks. In the aftermath of the debate, the Green Party leader sits down with The House.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May speaks during the Maclean's National Leaders' debate in Toronto, Aug. 6, 2015. Canadians go to the polls in a national election on Oct. 19, 2015. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Elizabeth May wants Canadians to embrace the notion of a minority Parliament leading up to the October 19th federal election.

The Green Party leader said that was one of her key objectives in Thursday's national leaders' debate.

"I needed to communicate to Canadians that in a minority Parliament, Green Members of Parliament will make a huge difference", May said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House. 

She argued that a caucus of Greens can have "a definitive, decisive difference in moving us from a precarious two year fractious Parliament to a productive collaborative four year Parliament."

Minority governments can work

Unlike some of the other party leaders, May is not dismissing out of hand the idea of a coalition government if no one party wins a majority

Coalition or not, she said she is advocating greater cooperation across party lines, and an end to the acrimonious nature of the last session in the House of Commons. 

"We can roll up our sleeves, work together, and say 'look, once the election is over let's put away all the clubs and shields and let's actually do the people's work together in Parliament'."

She pointed to the minority government of Liberal Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in the 1960's as an example, saying it gave the country its health care system, the Canada Pension Plan, and the Canadian flag.

May said she's ready to work with any political party, but admits the current brand of conservatism practiced by Stephen Harper is problematic, especially on environmental issues.

"I've described Stephen Harper's government as tough on nature, he's a tough on nature guy."   

The Green Party leader won't commit to a number when asked about how many seats her party is looking to win this time out.  After Thursday's debate she would only say she hopes to win a "good number of seats".

Given the tight nature of the campaign, Liberals and New Democrats may be worried that the Green Party will siphon off enough votes in close races to allow the Conservatives to take the riding.

May acknowledged she's concerned that message may take root, but argues her party does better when voter turnout is increased. 

"We get people, who normally wouldn't vote at all, to decide it matters to vote," May said, adding that her party makes a point to reach out to voters other parties have written off.

May pointed to the roughly 40 per cent of Canadians who didn't vote in 2011. 

"That's the largest voting block in the country, that's more people than voted Conservative."

May hopes to attract NDP supporters in B.C. over pipelines

In Thursday's debate May challenged the NDP leader on pipelines

"Do you support Kinder Morgan?" the Green leader repeatedly asked Tom Mulcair.

Mulcair did not specifically say whether he would approve or reject the project, which would increase pipeline capacity between Alberta and British Columbia. Instead, he argued he would make sure it went through a rigorous review to determine whether it was in Canada's interest.

May is opposed to Kinder Morgan and other pipeline projects, and thinks Mulcair's stance puts him at odds with B.C. voters who want to defend the coastline from tankers loaded with material that, when spilled, she says is impossible to clean up.

"That is a defining difference between the Greens and NDP," she said.