When Elizabeth May announced her plan to challenge Peter MacKay in the next federal election, she came under immediate criticism. The move was seen as a stunt at best—the Green Party leader taking on the powerful cabinet minister being a David-and-Goliath fight designed to secure media coverage. At worst, it was considered political self-sabotage, evidence the Greens don’t really want to win seats in parliament. But the day after May’s March 18 announcement, a federal budget that kicks Nova Scotia in the crotch was released by Peter MacKay’s party. And rumours have since surfaced about other parties not running candidates in the Central Nova riding, so voters can focus on the choice between May and MacKay. With her chances improving from hopeless to mere longshot, May’s more charitable critics are wondering: Does she know something we don’t? As it turns out, she does.
“I’m hearing the same rumours,” says May in a phone interview this week from her Ottawa home. “And I have had one conversation with Stéphane Dion,” the Liberal Party leader. “It was the evening of March 18, so I had just announced that I was going to be running in Central Nova. In our phone call he said, ‘Well, this is wonderful that you’re challenging Peter MacKay. What could I do to help?’ And I said, ‘Well there’s a lot you could do to help, actually.’ So I think it’s under consideration. It’s an interesting prospect, and it is part of a kind of parliamentary tradition not to challenge leaders in their riding. It’s not a tradition that’s been observed before for the Green Party, but it certainly would be helpful.”
May hasn’t discussed getting such help with New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, whose left-leaning party is generally seen as having the most support to lose from a strong Green Party. “I have been trying actually for some months to get a meeting with Jack Layton,” she says. It hasn’t happened, although May wouldn’t mind if the Central Nova race provides an occasion for detente. “I know they have a number of people who are considering running, but since neither the Liberals nor the NDP have yet nominated someone, it’s open to them to decide that this would be a constructive thing to do for democracy.”
Support from other opposition parties isn’t the cornerstone of May’s campaign. Instead, she was always counting on the ruling Conservatives to provide a boost. They complied on March 19, when the budget came down from finance minister Jim Flaherty. That budget has a new formula for calculating equalization payments—cash spread around from wealthy provinces to the have-nots like Nova Scotia —and it breaks the Atlantic accord deal that governs money Nova Scotia and Newfoundland stand to earn from offshore oil and natural gas. And with it, poor Peter MacKay goes from being our star cabinet minister, voted Ottawa’s sexiest male MP eight years running, to the public face of the east coast getting shafted by the feds.
“I saw it coming,” says May. “Once I made up my mind that I really wanted to run in Central Nova, I wanted to make sure I announced before Jim Flaherty’s budget. Because it was clear from advance calculations of how Flaherty wanted to go after equalization, and it was also clear from Mr. Harper’s calculations of what he needs to do to form a government again, that Nova Scotia doesn’t count.”
Liquid paper: We have three things to clear up from last week’s issue. First, a mixup of digital files meant the wrong chapter of the “Accidentally on Purpose” strip ran on the Comics Page. The right one is on page 50. Second, Chris McCluskey accidentally (not on purpose) used the wrong name for a charity he mentioned in his Scene & Heard column. The organization is Water for People Canada, not WATERCAN. Finally, the Shop Talk item about Trident Booksellers and Cafe overstated a charitable act. Trident is donating 10 percent of book sales to the Ecology Action Centre for the month of March, not indefinitely as we implied. We apologize to all concerned.
Does Elizabeth May stand a chance against Peter MacKay? Send your theories to: firstname.lastname@example.org