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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.