Canada’s Nova MP?

As I type, I am watching Elizabeth May give a press conference at a cafe in Antigonish, NS announcing she will seek the Green Party nomination for the riding of Central Nova. There’s been a lot of speculation where she might run, and as she admitted in questioning today, if she had listened to the polling data she’d be running elsewhere, but the main reason she sighted for landing in Central Nova was to oppose Peter MacKay in the next election. While stating she was a friend of Peter’s, she was highly critical of his role in economic development of the riding, making a point of noting how his responsibilities in foreign affairs naturally take him away from time he could be spending specifically with Central Nova issues.

Leaving aside questions of the value of a cabinet minister as your MP (my MP, for example, is Monte Solberg, and I’ve yet to decide if the influence of a cabinet minister is a valid trade-off for lack of community focus), its clear, I think, that one of the things May wants to prove with this announcement is that she is a heavyweight, able to play in the big leagues. There are probably no “guaranteed ridings” for May like there might be for candidates in some of the more established parties, but there’s little doubt that running against someone with as high a profile as MacKay is a bigger risk than other ridings might have been. There are places in Canada she could have chosen for an easier run to the Commons, and the fact that didn’t chose an easier route says something about her character, IMO.

There’s no question of her historic connections to Nova Scotia, or of MacKay’s for that matter, so neither can be seen as the true local, nor painted as the carpet-bagging interloper. For May, the run in Central Nova is more in keeping with her roots than her previous riding of London North Centre, and that may help her in what will no doubt be an uphill climb. Even without the high-profile battle against MacKay, her quest to become the first Green MP ever elected to Canadian parliament is a difficult one … with the power and money of the MacKay and the Conservatives opposed to her, the difficult climb might become a sheer cliff.

But at the same time, that power and money might just be useful for May and while certain aspects of this may appear, on the surface, a bit crazy, we may end up seeing its “crazy like a fox” when all is said and done. One of the Green’s main problems in any election is always money … when even the NDP seem awash in cash compared to your own party, its clear your prospects for traditional publicity, advertising and message building are minimal. By running against MacKay, however, in such a high-profile riding, May guarantees herself a fairly high level of free publicity that she simply wouldn’t get in a no-name riding running against Joe MP. In an “easier” race, it would be May who would have to bring the media attention to the race, and while her profile will always guarantee her some media coverage, in a no-name riding that coverage would be limited, and focused on May being the high-profile candidate in the race … in Central Nova, the race against Peter MacKay generates huge amounts of media coverage by its very existence, and that coverage naturally casts May as the crusading underdog against the entrenched powers of government. That’s the sort of publicity May couldn’t dream of affording if she had to buy it … but the power and wealth of her opponent in this race will guarantee she gets it for free.

It may well be that she doesn’t have the power to beat MacKay, but as counter-intuitive as it may first seem, I think the run in Central Nova may be the best decision she could have made. Even if she doesn’t beat MacKay, she is guaranteed far more publicity there than anywhere else in Canada … nowhere else will she get the same publicity bang on her Green budget because the very presence of a cabinet minister guarantees the race a higher profile. I wish her luck in the coming election … although I pride myself on being specifically and rigorously non-partisan when it comes to my politics, the Greens come closer than any other party to a platform that I could stand on without concern, and May herself is someone who I think will make an excellent MP. I’m really looking forward to watching that race unfold whenever the election actually happens … Elizabeth May has certainly chosen a daunting challenge for the next election, but I think its one that will give Canadians one of the most exciting campaign races we’ve seen in awhile.


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