Sunday » August 27 » 2006
May wins leadership of federal Green party
Sunday, August 27, 2021
CREDIT: Kier Gilmour / Ottawa Citizen
Sharon Labchuk celebrates with newly chosen Green Party leader Elizabeth
May and May's daughter, Victoria-Cate May-Burton at the Green Party
of Canada 2006 Annual General Meeting at the Ottawa Congress Centre,
Aug. 26, 2006.
OTTAWA -- Environmental activist Elizabeth May has won a decisive
victory for leadership of the federal Greens with a promise to broaden
the fledgling party's appeal and finally get a toehold in the House
May won with 2,145 votes, or 65.34 per cent of the valid ballots cast,
party officials announced Saturday at a national convention before
400 cheering delegates.
She replaces outgoing leader Jim Harris, who has led the Greens since
2003 and will remain as a party strategist.
David Chernushenko, a consultant who advises organizations on becoming
environmentally friendly, placed second with 33.38 per cent of the
votes. Jim Fannon, a real estate agent and small businessperson, was
a distant third with under one per cent.
May, 52, former director of the Sierra Club, called for party unity
and said it must build a strong platform well before the next election.
She said some voters have chosen the Greens only as a protest vote.
"What we need to do is clearly build a method and a platform
so that they are not voting for `none of the above' but so that they
are voting for `all my dreams,' " May said.
The party, launched in 1983, has run full slates in the last two federal
elections but has not come close to winning a seat in the Commons.
The new leader said she would run in a Cape Breton riding unless there
is a byelection somewhere else first. May said she will be in the gallery
in Parliament during Question Period and will talk with the press.
"Since (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper isn't giving interviews,
maybe some of you have some free time," May joked to reporters
after her victory speech.
During the speech, May criticized the recent deal on softwood lumber
between Canada and the United States, saying it demonstrates why the
North American Free Trade Agreement needs to be renegotiated with the
U.S. and Mexico.
"In signing this deal, Mr. Harper has said, `If you push us enough
we will say uncle.' We're not against trade but trade must be fair
and carbon neutral."
May said she would also push for compliance with the Kyoto Protocol
on climate change.
"We must stand up to the big lie that Canada cannot meet its
Kyoto targets," she said.
To give the party more visibility, May said she is already talking
with supportive senators and parliamentarians about creating a "green
caucus" on Parliament Hill.
The Greens garnered 664,000 votes in the January election, or 4.5
per cent of the vote. That was only a slight improvement on its showing
in 2004, when it won 582,000 votes or 4.3 per cent.
But because of new federal financing rules in effect for both elections,
the party found itself on much stronger financial footing.
By surpassing the two per cent threshold required for party financing
under Elections Canada rules, the Greens were eligible for $1.75 for
each vote annually. That worked out to more than $1 million.
A Decima Research poll of 1,004 Canadians released earlier this month
suggested the party currently has seven per cent support nationally,
perhaps helped by a leadership campaign that increased party membership
to 8,694 from 5,517.
During the campaign, tensions rose when Chernushenko publicly demanded
an internal audit of May's campaign financing, saying he was concerned
speaking tours on the oil sands and to promote a book should have been
deemed electoral events, and their budgets included as May's campaign
The complaint upset May, who questioned why Chernushenko called for
an internal audit before the candidates' first financial audits were
In the end the squabble subsided, and both the May and Chernushenko
camps said they were satisfied with each others financial reporting.
Pollster Nik Nanos of SES Research says the party has a lot of goodwill
and potential, but needs the organization and infrastructure to translate
that into votes.
Surveys since the 2004 federal campaign suggest a third of Canadians
would consider voting Green, compared with 40 per cent who said the
same of the NDP, he said.
"The party is particularly strong with voters under 40, and could
make inroads in the west Quebec and Ontario."
May said she will make a special effort to reach out to youth, and
noted the sector was important for her leadership victory. Acknowledging
her French needs improvement, she said she hopes to take intensive
"I plan to be fluently bilingual by the time of the next leadership
debates," May said.
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