There has been a lot of interest and discussion within, (and without) Green Party ranks regarding the big question: “Where will Elizabeth May be running in the next election?” There have been some pretty open discussions about the relative merits, and electability in given riding’s, in a kind of a guessing game based on public utterances by Elizabeth, and whatever drip-pets of information come from informal internal sources. This discussion is healthy, and without question serves a useful purpose in drawing out strategic analysis of varying quality from people both within, and without the decision making loop.
I am afraid that most of us that I am aware of, (With the notable exception of Bill Hulett, a leading light and long time organiser in the Guelph EDA), have more or less ignored the consequences of talking it up so heavily. Cast your mind back to the 2004 election, with tons of hype by Jim Harris, and GPC hacks that Greens were poised to elect MP’s all over the place. Remember the public, and media reaction to the election outcome? “Greens fail to elect MP” is a reasonably representative headline for you to think about. Again, in 2005-6, Bruce Grey Owen Sound was trumpeted as the ‘breakthrough riding’, with predictable results when the election was said and done. London North Centre by-election? Same deal, with the added salacious fact that the shiny new media star had failed to win, even in a by-election. Central Nova? There was a broad reaction that despite the presence of Elizabeth in the debate, the Green Party still came nowhere near.
Over the past few weeks, Elizabeth May has been giving interviews charging that the Green Party has a single objective, that overrides all other concerns. Electing Elizabeth May to Parliament. If you actually sit back and consider the past consequences of failing to meet very demanding self imposed expectations, this starts to look like a very very risky communications fiasco in the making. The downsides for both Elizabeth May, and the Green Party are pretty big. If Elizabeth fails to get elected in SGI, then the Green Party has failed once again.
I don’t believe it will be fatal, or even particularly injurious to the GPC. We will continue to grow our strength in more and more EDA’s, because we do have many hundreds of dedicated local activists. Every election pours resources into well organised EDA’s, and the teams get broader, and deeper in skills, experience, and raw electoral resources like ID’d voter lists. Nonetheless, it will further damage our credibility, and will provide plenty of ammunition for our political foes. For Elizabeth May, it will be a big drag on her personal profile, and will devalue her once impressive stature as one of the foremost environment advocates in Canada. It is likely, even probable that Elizabeth would lose the leadership of the Party, with the attendant loss of prestige and credibility. Not a very good outcome for somebody whose future livelihood depends on the high profile that she has spent a lifetime building.
I have been as guilty as anybody in inflating the rhetoric surrounding the choice of riding’s. It’s a choice that needed to be made, and many people wanted to influence the decision, in a positive direction. I apologise if Elizabeth thought it was needful to quell criticism by acknowledging the Party’s wishes in this way. I wonder if it is too late to wind back the clock, and start managing expectations better? What would the best route be to backtrack, and start publicising equally important, but less ‘sexy’ objectives? Should we set up broader objectives to be given equal, (at least), prominence to the laudible, but very challenging task of electing an MP?