Partisan bloggers from the Tories and the NDP have more or less panned Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s plan to run in the Nova Scotia Riding of Central Nova, but, leaving aside for the moment what I think of the rightward drifting of the Greens, I do have to hand it to Elizabeth May – this may be the most strategically impressive move I’ve seen from her yet.
The reason for this is two-fold:
Just about all the negative reactions to May’s announcement centre around the notion that Peter MacKay is powerful and that Central Nova is unwinnable. While most realistic projections would acknowledget that virtually EVERY riding in the country is unwinnable for any Green candidate given their current lack of concentrated support, I don’t see Central Nova as any worse than the rest and, potentially, could be a fair bit more winnable.
Take a closer look, Peter MacKay hasn’t won his riding with a majority of the vote in the past 7 years.
In 2006, he won his riding by only 3,273 votes. In 2004, he won his riding by 5,906 votes. Even in 2000, he won his riding, which at the time was called Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and didn’t contain many of the more progressive communities that Central Nova now contains, by only 5,345 votes. So it looks to me like MacKay’s hold on this riding is decreasing rather than increasing over time.
Moreover, none of his challengers in these elections has had as high profile as May.
#2) Strategy, optics and free-press
Even if we conclude that May has no chance in hell of winning Central Nova, I would still contend that, from a purely strategic perspective, May’s move is very intelligent.
May’s move means that Central Nova will be one of, if not the most watched ridings in the next election. That guarantees tons of free-press from all of the major news outlets for her and, by extention, for the Green Party – thus upping the party’s overall profile across the country. More likely than not, at least one or two newspapers will run process stories on her campaign (like they did in London – North Centre) thus giving her both a local and national boost in visibility.
Lastly, with this move, May effectively confines Peter MacKay to his riding for the duration of the campaign thus immobilizing the Conservative Party’s co-founder, and the most salient symbol of the old PC Party.
Thus, even if May loses the election, and let’s be honest, she most likely will – her move here is smart political manoevering at its purest. She guarantees a high profile for the party for the duration of the campaign and, consequently, more federal funding for each extra vote this move brings in; thus making her party that much more of a serious competitor for the next election.