Why Elizabeth May doesn't want to win…

After the mocking this theory generated in some friendly conversations, I wish I’d blogged on this before it became official!

Ever since Elizabeth May said she would run against Peter MacKay I’ve thought something was up. Why would Elizabeth May run against a popular maritimer, in his home riding, in a province (and region) where environmentalism isn’t high on the agenda?

The answer. Elizabeth May is a pragmatist who doesn’t want to win. Not only that, she doesn’t even want the Green Party to do (too) well. Sound strange? Consider these five points:

  1. Elizabeth May is a liberal (former card carrying member) and beyond her frustration with their inactivity on the environment, she is broadly aligned with them ideologically, policy-wise and politically.
  2. Elizabeth May likely believes she can be more effective championing the environmental outside parliament then inside. Being one of 308 MPs, representing a party without official status (and the resources that come with it) all while burdened with constituency work and the need to log significant time in Ottawa would limit her ability to press her cause. She is freer, more powerful and more influential on the outside.
  3. Elizabeth doesn’t want to further split the centre/centre-left vote. However weak the Liberals environmental record she likely believes the greatest threat to the environment is the Conservatives. Creating a viable Green party increases the likelihood of a conservative majority and the negative environmental policies that come with it.
  4. Elizabeth May realizes her party will never be a viable alternative. The Green’s are a coalition of libertarians, red tories, socialists, and environmentalists. On issues other then the environment there is a lot of poor thinking, little coherence, and virtually no agreement on a broader agenda. This lesson must have been ground home during their most recent policy convention. To become a viable party the Green’s will have to be about more then just the environment and drafting a platform will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
  5. In the unlikely even that both Elizabeth May and the Liberals pull off upsets and win the election, she may have secured herself a cabinet position. If she doesn’t win her seat, she can continue to threaten to bleed votes from the Liberals if they don’t act swiftly and decisively enough, on the environment. From an influence perspective she is in a win-win situation.

In short, Elizabeth May doesn’t want to win elections or build a party. She wants to shape the national agenda and redefine the Liberals. That’s why she cut a deal with Dion and that’s why she’s running against the virtually undefeatable Peter MacKay.

10 thoughts on “Why Elizabeth May doesn't want to win…

  1. Lance

    Wow! and people call _me_ a cynic! :)

    Elizabeth May, actively sabotaging her own party, wilfully as opposed to stupidly. I’m not sure about that.

    Cheers,
    lance

    Reply
  2. David Eaves Post author

    Thank you for the post Lance! I’m not sure either of us has to be cynic though :)

    I’m sure Elizabeth would say she isn’t sabotaging her party. For May, the Green Party is probably just a vehicle for achieving stronger action on the environment.

    My assessment is that she has greater influence over individual voters (of which she can influence many) then votes in the house of commons (of which she can influence none). She is simply trading in her strongest currency. Is that cynical? I don’t think so… just pragmatic.

    Reply
  3. David Drapeau

    Imcumbent aside, there is much common sense to recommend her choice of riding—she’s lived there and has been politically active in local matters there.

    Reply
  4. Lance

    Wow! and people call _me_ a cynic! :)Elizabeth May, actively sabotaging her own party, wilfully as opposed to stupidly. I’m not sure about that.Cheers,lance

    Reply
  5. David Eaves

    Thank you for the post Lance! I’m not sure either of us has to be cynic though :)I’m sure Elizabeth would say she isn’t sabotaging her party. For May, the Green Party is probably just a vehicle for achieving stronger action on the environment. My assessment is that she has greater influence over individual voters (of which she can influence many) then votes in the house of commons (of which she can influence none). She is simply trading in her strongest currency. Is that cynical? I don’t think so… just pragmatic.

    Reply
  6. David Drapeau

    Imcumbent aside, there is much common sense to recommend her choice of riding—she’s lived there and has been politically active in local matters there.

    Reply
  7. Jason

    I'm an environmentalist and wish very much for a Green Party I could support – one that was pragmatic and practical instead of ideological, and one that had more to say than “the conservatives suck”. I believe totally she has no interest in winning and is using the party and position only to further her own ambitions.

    Reply
  8. Disenchanted

    Never again will I fall for the wiles of a politician who professes to care about the environment as Elizabeth May professed. I voted GREEN ….but wondered why on earth she would run against Peter McKay when she had other options. SHAME on you Elizabth May…and SHAME on me for voting for you. You haveopened my eyes to the manipultive ways politicians use the voter. I will vote conservative next election and will not be manipulated by the likes of you!!!

    Reply
  9. Disenchanted

    Never again will I fall for the wiles of a politician who professes to care about the environment as Elizabeth May professed. I voted GREEN ….but wondered why on earth she would run against Peter McKay when she had other options. SHAME on you Elizabth May…and SHAME on me for voting for you. You haveopened my eyes to the manipultive ways politicians use the voter. I will vote conservative next election and will not be manipulated by the likes of you!!!

    Reply
  10. J-M Toriel

    You're a damn good poker player, but you lack in clear judgement on political strategy amigo. I can assure you after recently returning from Pictou, NS for the GPC convention a couple of weeks ago that this could not be farther from the truth. She is very well known in her riding and gave it a really good shot. If you counted the NDP support in her favour, she would have beat Mackay. She also ran hard in London North-Centre and came 2nd there too. Her campaign office is in downtown New Glasgow, where she has lived for many years and truly wants to represent her constituents — she seems to know them all on a first name basis whether they support her or not! Small rural riding with tough demographics and I have no doubt that her intention is to get elected and be on the inside bringing Green resolutions into law (there were 200 passed in 2 days over the weekend btw — many of which she defended and encouraged vocally amongst members). I was a card carrying Liberal years ago and saw the writing on the wall many years ago as well. The fact of the matter is that none of the traditional parties have a holistic and systemic understanding of our national and international issues. The fact that the NDP and Liberals (as well as Bloc) do not represent the crucial solution-based policies that we so desperately need in matters outside the environment. There is indeed cohesion in policies that I helped adopt on a broad range of issues for our platform that cover social, economic, international as well as environmental (although the focus was primarily economic and energy. I welcome you to read the redux of the convention with her poignant speech here: http://tinyurl.com/dgu5f3 . The few times I've met her, I was genuinely impressed with her selfless nature and warm spirit. You underestimate her and the party's resergence as a strong political force that strengthens with each election. In fact, it was the only party to increase in popular votes across Canada last election. I have no doubt that she will win the next by-election — wherever and whenever the most pragmatic spot becomes available. If Mackay gets chosen to be NATOs new leader, it may just be in her own back yard! Her influence will carry in parliament more than you may lead your readers to believe. I look forward to our next duel at the poker table.

    Reply

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