Republished from Brandon Sun Print edition Aug. 13. 2016
Elizabeth May could be the most powerful leader ever to represent a party of one.
Since she was first elected in 2011, the 62-year-old American-born Green Party leader has carved a niche for herself, and the Green Party movement in the House of Commons. Although unable to secure some familiar faces within the ranks of the Green Party in the 2015 election, she continues to be one of the most respected members in the House.
May is whip-smart, an officer of the Order of Canada, has been recognized by the United Nations for her environmental work, was said to be one of the world’s most influential women as compiled by Newsweek magazine, and would be one of the most coveted free agents in history should recent events cause her to sour on the party she has headed up for more than a decade.
The Green Party made waves over the past week for its controversial stance on possible sanctions against Israel for its role in the battle for position in the Middle East. Known as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, the resolution was adopted at convention without a thorough round of debate, and puts the Green leader in a troubling spot by having to support a document some call anti-Semitic.
To be fair, May is Green through and through and represents all the party’s hopes currently. She has stated she intends to run again as a Green candidate in 2019, but looking into the proverbial crystal ball, and playing a bit of MP fantasy football could be fun. Should May defect, she would be a coveted pick in seeking greener pastures — pun intended.
Clearly her greatest opportunity to garner some power in the House would come from a possible shift to the Liberals. May could easily fill a high-profile cabinet post in the government and would bring a plethora of experience to a number of files, including the fisheries post formerly held by Hunter Tootoo and currently managed by Trudeau’s boyhood friend, Dominic Leblanc.
May and Trudeau have been at times quite chummy, including the Green Party leader coming to Trudeau’s defence during the “Elbowgate” fiasco. Welcoming a person of May’s talents into the big-tent Liberal team would benefit the Grits and give them another foothold in a prime British Columbia riding.
Gazing further into the realm of divination, as a New Democrat May would stand the best chance to remain a leadership contender. The New Democrats are still more than a year away from replacing Tom Mulcair, and May presents a legitimate opportunity for the Dippers to again find relevance in the Canadian picture. She is probably not at all interested in heading a party on the rebuild — but if up to the challenge, her leadership could pose a threat to many softer Liberal ridings in 2019. Ideologically, the NDP would be a shift for May, so the likelihood of her defection to the Orange Crush is slim. But in Canadian politics, stranger things have happened — just ask Jean Charest.
In the long-shot category are the Conservatives. May was a very vocal opponent of the Harper years, and although the demagoguery that highlighted their final months in power has been silenced as of late, May is unlikely to do any favours for the party Stephen built.
If May chose to step down as Green leader, it would trigger a convention in the party ranks. And without the support of her party membership, May — for the first time in her career — would be a bit of an outsider herself.
Lastly, she could find a higher calling in Canadian politics.
If she chose to take a break, the prime minister could look to May as a replacement for Gov. Gen. David Johnston when his term expires in 2017. Johnston was a Harper appointee, and May taking on that role would show well for what the Liberals are hoping to accomplish. Trudeau views his government as consensus builders, and installing May as the new governor general would serve the notion he was intent on bringing people together. Perhaps after a small break, this would suit the needs of both politicians.
It is fun at times to prognosticate about what could happen in a hypothetical scenario, and clearly there are interesting days ahead for the Green Party. As the only elected party member, Elizabeth May has some control over her future. And for politicians, whether in a party of one or a mega majority, that is a pretty swell place to be.