I’ll hand it to her: Elizabeth May is not stupid

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:

#1) Winnability

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.

18 Responses to “I’ll hand it to her: Elizabeth May is not stupid”

  1. 1 janfromthebruce 18 March, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    Using your own logic, she would have got the same profile running against any other high profile Harper Conservative. You seemed to leave out that it was a very popular NDP candidate who whittled down the vote count from 5,906 to 3,273 votes. A popular candidate who worked hard in this riding to make a name for herself, by living, working, and doing community development. Maybe you also think that this hard working cape bretianer should also hand over her voter data base and volunteer list, just to make sure that the Green’s have a base for their non- riding association.

  2. 2 Kuri 18 March, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    If anything, May’s choice of this riding increases Peter McKay’s chances of winning, for the reasons Jan states above. Before he has a strong NDP challenger on his tails who was collecting most of the anti-McKay votes. Now that will more likely be split, letting Peter walk to the finish.

  3. 3 paulitics 18 March, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    Jan – Let’s be civil here. Just because I said that I thought May’s move was strategically smart, doesn’t mean I like the Greens or would vote for them in the coming election.

    I mean, take a look at this blog. Does it look like I’m a capitalist to you?

    I admit that, if I had to chose between the four main parties, I’d hope for the New Democrats to win. But, then again, if given a true choice of any party, I wouldn’t vote either NDP OR Green as I feel that both are far too right wing and capitalistic.

    I also fully recognize that it was the hard work of the NDP candidate in the riding that earned the NDP the close second to MacKay. But why would I suggest that the NDP candidate be obliged to share voting material with May? Why does that naturally follow from my objective analysis of May’s strategy?


    Kuri – I think you’re right to point out the potential risk to May’s plan. You’re right that there is a risk that it could backfire and end up giving MacKay an even greater cakewalk than he’s ever enjoyed. My analysis was based on the operating assumption that May has a higher profile than Alexis MacDonald and that, regardless of whoever has a higher profile in the riding, May’s national profile will generate easy news stories for the mainstream media to replay again and again thus generating greater publicity for the Greens nationally even if May loses the seat locally.

    Which scenario works out in the end, I suppose only time will tell.

  4. 4 janfromthebruce 18 March, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Sorry, Paulitics. I get quite heated about an possible NDP candidate not getting in because they have to work darn hard to get elected. They don’t get the MSM attention, or if they do, it often isn’t flattering or basically ignored.
    In Ontario, I have been told repeatedly by liberal supporters, that if Howard Hampton ran as a liberal he would be the premier, as his likeability and integrity is so much more than McGuinty. I always point out that they like him because he speaks to their values and they needed to move beyond party labels. It makes me crazy.
    I ran as a candidate, and since that time, I have had many liberal voters in my area say, similarly, that they would vote for me if I ran as a liberal, and have encouraged me to do so. I wouldn’t think about it, but it tells me that NDPers have to work so darn hard, so it irks me to distraction to see Mae (within the informal support of the liberals to undermine the NDP) to walze into this riding, where she does not have a connection or a base (or a riding association) and say aren’t I great, I am taking on a big bad Con. What was Alexis McDonald doing, well taking on a big bad Con, through sheer hard work.

  5. 5 Malcolm 19 March, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Liberal Lizzie is running in Central Nova because that is what suits the electoral interests of the Liberal Party.

    Most of the NDP’s potential gains (or losses) in the next election are in Liberla – NDP marginals. Central Nova is one of the few Conservative – NDP marginals iotentially in play.

    The Liberals obviously wouldn’t want Liberal Lizzie to run in a seat where the Liberals had a shot. That left a small handful of NDP – Conservative marginals, and Central Nova was the easiest for Liberal Lizzie to spin.

    But the real goal is obvious – to block a potential NDP pick up.

    Like the Liberal lie of “stratgic voting,” the goal is not to defeat Conservatives and it certainly isn’t to elect Greens. The Liberal Party is playing the long gamke and the goal is to marginalize the NDP as a serious political party. The Liberals then believe that all of us NDP voters will march in lockstep to support the Liberals.

    Personally, I’d rather wallow in my own vomit than vote Liberal, and there is no way on God’s green earth that I will ever support the cesspool of corruption that is the Liberal Party. Hell, if I were to vote for a right wing party, I’d be more likely to vote for the Conservatives because at least they don’t lie to me about what they believe.

  6. 6 Ken Chapman 19 March, 2007 at 12:23 am

    Malcolm you are self delusional…think Income Trust, Emerson, Fortier and no child care spaces and no progress on gun registry …I could go on and on and on – and tell me you are not being lied to.

    My bets are the Liberals will not even run a candidate against May in that constituency and the left wing non-hardcore Dippers will by and large rather send a message to Harper and vote May to defeat McKay.

  7. 7 Saskboy 19 March, 2007 at 1:01 am

    You can sure spot the NDP commenters from a mile away (just like the Greens mind you ;-)

  8. 8 Feynman & Coulter's Love Child 19 March, 2007 at 3:53 am

    This whole thing sounds like a great idea to me. Worst case scenario: we get rid of Peter McKay (one good dog comment, and nothing but fluff since); best case scenario: we get rid of Elizabeth May.

  9. 9 elronsteele 19 March, 2007 at 10:43 am

    GMTA … I tend to think there is no other place in Canada she can be seen as a homegirl, and also attract the level of free publicity she will here. If she’s crazy, I think it just might be crazy like a fox …

  10. 10 J Porter 20 March, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Leading political commentators (so far its a unanimous 3/3 on the top 50 columnists page at Macleans) are saying this move is downright terrible, and this was my own opinion from the start. She will get tons of attention for herself and the party, but she will certainly lose even if the liberals agree to drop their own candidate in a backroom alliance (and prevent another more likely progressive from winning). Since May is the most likely Green MP to be elected, and the environment focus is at the highest it may be during an election (though it appears to now be neutralized with all parties claiming action), its now or never for the Greens and they appear to be missing the boat – without any realistic wins next election.

  11. 11 Hugh MacIntyre 20 March, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    She’s the leader of a national party with 10% support. If she needs to pull a stunt like this to get free press they should hire a new publisist. The only chance that the Greens had was if they ran the leader in a friendly BC riding. The electorate mught think “Hey lets send the Green leader to parliament!” But now anyone who thinks like that would think, “Why send a nobody when we have a For Min representing us?”

  12. 12 Chris 29 March, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Is anyone that’s writing here FROM Nova Scotia at all? Peter MacKay isn’t the God sent MP that you all make him out to be. At the ECMA’s he thought he was in Toronto or Ottawa first. His anti-women commentary during the last election to Alexa McDounough didn’t ingratiate him to people here either. Also remember now he’s in control of Foreign Affairs, and look how many Nova Scotians have come back in caskets.

    And for those talking about the NDP strength, Alexis a) Has a name very close to Alexa which did confuse some people and b) She’s moving to Halifax so won’t be running in that riding in the next election.

    You have no NDP or Liberal candidate yet, with the Greens working on the ground already in the riding. There are even Liberals (look on Facebook) that are wondering if locally they even want to run a candidate or back May.

    And looking at this from a personal point of view, if I were ever to run for office, I would do it in my home riding of Beausejour. I know this is comparing apples and oranges here since I’m no Elizabeth May, but I very much understand her want for a familiar area to campaign in.

    And talking about BC ridings, it’s not like she’d have a cakewalk there either. It would be easier, but this is where her heart is. Talk with the Maritimers in Fort McMurray, Alberta. They make their money in Alberta, but home is out East.

    But, I’m glad that people are counting her out right now. It makes it less likely the Cons will put the extra work into the riding before the writ drops.

    For anyone who is in the area, the nomination meeting is April 10th.

  13. 13 paulitics 29 March, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Just a word of clarification on one point you made Chris, I don’t know if your anecdote about wanting to run in your home riding of Beausejour was intended as a reference to May’s decision to run in her home riding, but if that was the case I just wanted to point out that May was born in Connecticut and, when she did live in Nova Scotia (which she did up until about 20 years ago), she lived in Cape Breton, not Central Nova. So the media’s claim that she has the “homegirl” in Central Nova is perhaps slightly disingenuous.

    If it wasn’t intended as a reference to May, then just ignore this post.

  14. 14 Denis 2 April, 2007 at 11:01 am

    “She’s the leader of a national party with 10% support. If she needs to pull a stunt like this to get free press they should hire a new publisist.”

    No money for that.

  15. 15 Idealistic Pragmatistic 30 November, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    “If she needs to pull a stunt like this to get free press they should hire a new publisist.” “No money for that.”

    Actually there’s plenty. The Green Party of Canada has been wasting money by the ton, and many members are extremely mad about it. A group of insiders led by ex Tory David Scrymgeour has been trying to limit May’s spending power and referring to her and the people around her as a “bunker” that listens to no one. Some of them disapprove of her deal with Dion and believe she is planning to join the Liberals if she wins. They’re worried she’ll leave the party “bunkrupt”.

    Meanwhile another group, which includes some Atlantic Canadians, is quietly subverting May’s efforts to recruit star candidates to bolster her team in nearby ridings, which is mostly losers.

    This other group wants the GPC to kick out Wayne Crookes and his “gang of Crookes” for distorting the political process and the party’s own internal elections using a pile of weak “SLAPP” lawsuits.

    Apparently May or the party broke some promise to fund some defenses against him. See libelchill.ca for the details.

    And see the “website” linked to my name for more details on this race. There’s some insiders posting interesting stuff.

  1. 1 I am now a Progressive Blogger « View From the Edge Trackback on 19 March, 2007 at 10:37 am
  2. 2 View from the Edge » Blog Archive » I am now a Progressive Blogger Trackback on 19 March, 2007 at 11:32 am
  3. 3 Tories tank in the East, NDP hits 1 year high nationally « Paulitics: Paul’s Socialist Investigations Trackback on 31 July, 2007 at 10:34 pm

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