Green Party victory in Saanich-Gulf Islands marks a milestone
Elizabeth May made history Monday night by becoming the first Green Party member elected to Parliament. She clutched her daughter’s hand as she gave her victory speech to a shrieking audience of 300, that hushed every time she spoke, and erupted in applause and chants of “May, May, May” at every pause.
“It’s clear Canadians want real change … but the work is just beginning,” the federal Green leader told the crowd.
With an elected party of one, it isn’t all glitter and green for the young party. Overall, Green support fell from seven per cent in 2008 to four per cent this year. However, May insisted, “One politician not steeped in cynicism really can make a difference.”
“We can no longer be denied our place in any aspect of Canadian democracy,” May told the media. “On this foundation we will build and we will show Canadians there is a real alternative to the old parties. The Green Party will continue to grow, addressing the critical issues the other parties ignore.”
Despite the enthusiasm of the celebratory election-night crowd at the Viscount Aero Centre Hangar in Sidney, May’s final landslide triumph of 31,900 to 24,451 against Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn shocked even her biggest supporters.
“I was quite confident, without being overly confident,” May told Monday in a phone interview Tuesday. “Certainly, the results nationally were very sobering, and I had to pull together a smile. It’s important we celebrate this victory, though. I’ll just have to fight all the harder.”
As for the Tories capturing a majority government with 167 seats, May adds, “It’s important that Canadians understand this is a false Conservative majority. Canada hasn’t changed. Only 61 per cent of voters cast their ballots, and only 39.6 per cent of those people chose Harper. It presents a different set of challenges, but it’s not insurmountable.”
May plans to quickly set up her constituency office and prepare to become “one of the most accessible MPs” while using technology to find ways of reducing air travel. Also, she’ll have her number-one team mate — 20-year-old daughter Victoria Cate — with her every step of the way.
“We’ve been a team from the beginning,” May says. “I’ve been a single mom since Victoria Cate was two, and I never would have even run for the Green Party leadership if she wasn’t on board with the idea. She remains one of the biggest influences in my life.”
On election night, roars echoed through the hanger as nearly 300 people watched a big screen flash electoral numbers with the impending Green victory.
“It’s because of the commitment you — the 2,000-plus volunteers — have shown that we’ve made a real change today,” said Marilyn Redivo, Green Party volunteer coordinator. “So what is commitment? Commitment is canvassing out in a cold rainy night when there is no election … Commitment is getting up at 6:30 a.m. when you’re not a morning person, just to wave at voters … Commitment is signing up to volunteer on election day instead of accepting that summer job.”
While onlookers cried, hugged and screamed for their new MP, May, 56, barely had a quiver in her voice as she announced: “I will never shrink from speaking truth to power, nor will I embrace the politics of spin. We need hope over fear, and we need compassion over competition. We need to recognize that Canadians deserve a government where 308 MPs figure out how to work together.”
Environmental advocate Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance called out to the crowd to say that while May 1 is known as May Day all over the world, May 2 will now be “Elizabeth May Day.”
“This is the most informed I’ve ever been about voting. For once, I feel like I’ve made the right choice,” said Gordon Head resident Tyler Strazza, 26.
Nancy Starkiewicz, 56, has been helping out with the Green cause for months. “I’m elated to see her win. I was never worried. I live in this riding and I knew she stood a great chance,” Starkiewicz said. “She’s an educated, intelligent, outspoken woman, and she actually answers questions and talks about solutions. She’s easy to understand and even easier to jump on board with.”
Richard Lucier-Larson, a 77-year-old Métis man from Sidney, says that while he’s been a member of the Green Party for the last six years, he has been helping May’s campaign for the last few months by canvassing and driving people to vote.
“It’s just what we wanted to see happen,” he said. “It put a big smile on my face.” M