The Green Party’s Elizabeth May says her legacy so far has been “one of monumental failure” in the face of climate change, but she vows to push for genuine reform as she prepares to return to the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Saanich Gulf-Islands.
“I started working on climate change in 1986 and 87,” she recalled in an interview with Black Press Media, after being declared the winner in Monday’s election. “If the warnings of scientists had been heeded, we would not have wildfires, heat domes, thawing perma-frost and melting Arctic ice. We had a chance to actually avert all of this.”
That said, May said she does not think in terms of legacies.
“Right now, it’s a fight for survival and as long as a I draw breath of life, I’m not giving up on my grand-childrens’ future. So I don’t see that I have a choice but to keep going as long as my health permits.”
With 235 out of 236 polls reported, May had received 21,196 votes or 36.8 per cent of the vote, ahead of Conservative David Busch (13,025 votes, 22.6 per cent), New Democrat Sabina Singh (10,937, 19 per cent), Liberal Sherri Moore-Arbour (10,495 votes, 18.2 per cent), David Hilderman of the People’s Party of Canada (1,857 votes, 3.2 per cent) and Dock Currie of the Communist Party of Canada (127 votes, 0.2 per cent).
“I’m overwhelmed again,” May said. “I never take anything for granted, to be re-elected in 2021 after being re-elected in 2019, and 2015. The whole experience, to have so many people put trust in me is really humbling and I’m very grateful.”
But this personal victory for May comes amidst questions about the long-term future of the party.
While the Greens picked up their first ever federal seat in Ontario, current results show it losing the Vancouver Island riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, where incumbent Paul Manly finds himself trailing the New Democratic and Conservative candidates.
Green leader Annamie Paul failed to win her riding and the party did not run a full slate of candidates. It also secured fewer votes nationally (2.2 per cent) than in 2019 when it won 3.45 per cent.
“There will be a lot of discussion about leadership issues,” May said, noting the party had “some serious problems” heading into the election and will automatically review its campaign and leadership. She pointed to what she called exaggerated and sometimes untrue media coverage for creating the impression of chaos in the party. “We will continue to rebuild and do much better.”
Questions remain about the long-term direction of the party in the face of dropping support and growing support for the People’s Party of Canada. Diametrically opposed to the Greens, the latter won five per cent of the popular vote, albeit without winning any seats.
“The public in this country wants climate action, there is no doubt about that,” May said, noting that all parties except the PPC favour environmental action. “They (Canadians) also want Greens to be part of this discussion. So I’m not discouraged.”
She took comfort from the election’s overall outcome, which saw the Liberals return to government, but without a majority. She is glad “Justin Trudeau’s gamble” did not pay off.
“A minority parliament is better news than a false majority,” she told assembled reporters Monday as the results rolled in.
May struck a note of defiance, saying the Greens are not dead yet, adding Canadians need elected Greens now more than ever.
— Megan Atkins-Baker (@MeganAtkinss) September 21, 2021
It can also be argued that the Greens now need May than ever before. May, for her part, closed the door on returning to the top of the party. She signalled that voters would see her on the parliamentary benches rather the Speaker’s Chair. “It’s unlikely (that she would become Speaker), but I need to look at who’s elected. I need to talk to the caucus and I would never decide to do that (became speaker) without going back to the voters of Saanich-Gulf Islands.” This said, she did not entirely close the door on that possibility.
Officials started counting mail-in ballots on Tuesday.
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