PICTOU, N.S. – The Green party emerged from its policy convention Sunday united behind Leader Elizabeth May, though some delegates conceded disappointment at failing to make a House of Commons breakthrough in last year’s election.
May thanked more than 200 Greens gathered at a waterfront convention centre in Pictou, N.S., for their approval and their endorsement.
“I can honestly tell you I didn’t expect that strong and unanimous sense of support and appreciation and even forgiveness for mistakes,” an emotional May said in her closing remarks, earning cheers and whistles from the crowd.
“That’s something that I will carry forward and which makes me feel so much stronger to carry forward your message and win the next election.”
May, who lost the rural riding of Central Nova to Defence Minister Peter MacKay in the Oct. 14 vote, said the party came out of its three-day convention more united than ever.
“I have the most unified party of any of the other parties,” she said in an interview. “There are always splits and divisions in political parties, and I’m enormously gratified by the resounding level of support for my leadership.”
Delegate Michael McFadden of Dartmouth, N.S., said he believes support for May among party ranks has grown since the last election.
“Everybody’s talked about how we could do things better and everything like that, but it’s always been a question of improving with Elizabeth May there,” said McFadden, who’s been a Green for about five years.
Will Munsey, a former Progressive Conservative from Alberta who went Green a couple of years ago, said May is in good shape to continue leading the party.
“Some people have been dissatisfied with some of the things that have happened in leadership, but that’s a given. You work through those things,” he said.
“This party does well being led by Elizabeth May.”
Delegates said the party’s growth was hard to deny during the convention, which attracted members from across the country. Many said the process of getting business done went more smoothly than in past conventions.
The Green’s national campaign chair said the seat-starved party would handle the next election campaign “on a much more professional planning basis.”
“(The party) can win seats. It’s not going to be a huge number of seats, but it can win seats if we’re concentrated in our efforts,” said Greg Morrow.
“You have to be able to target particular places and put the resources into that well in advance of the election and that’s what we’re working towards now.”
As far as May is concerned, she said she plans to run again in Central Nova in Nova Scotia, but she adds she will consider another riding if the party demands she move.
“I will run in a byelection somewhere else if one should arise before the next general election, and I am open to the idea of running somewhere else if the party really forces me,” she said.
“But they would have to force me because I don’t want to be anywhere but here.”
Wherever May runs, she’ll face extra competition.
In last fall’s election, May and former Liberal leader Stephane Dion struck a pact not to run a candidate in each other’s riding.
However, newly minted Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff has said that deal won’t be on the table the next time around – something May said doesn’t surprise her.
May also raised concerns about Ignatieff, saying that while she likes the Liberal leader personally, she’s worried about some of his environmental policies.
“I am concerned that in an effort – which I think is misguided – to win votes in Alberta, he will overly compromise the Liberal party towards supporting the tar sands, and I think that’s a mistake,” she said.
Last week, Ignatieff said supporting the oil sands was a question of national unity, but warned projects must become greener.
May said it seems as though Ignatieff is reducing the Liberals’ focus on their climate policy and stepping further away from the Green Shift – a move she called “unfortunate.”
The proposed carbon tax was the centrepiece of the Liberals’ last election platform under Dion, but the plan failed to connect with many Canadians.
Despite the differences among them, May said the Greens are willing to work with all parties.