She made the debate.
She won’t make the House of Commons.
At least not this time.
Despite a high profile breakthrough when two of the other leaders insisted she not take part in the English and French language debate – and then famously changed their minds – Green Party leader Elizabeth May was no match for a veteran Conservative on election night.
May failed to unseat high powered cabinet minister Peter MacKay in the New Glasgow, Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova Tuesday night. The Defence Minister has held his seat since 1997 and is a force to be reckoned with both in Ottawa and at home.
Her loss is doubly significant since Liberal leader Stephane Dion famously refused to run a candidate in her riding to allow her a better chance. It was that act that almost kept her from the debates, with Stephen Harper accusing the Greens of being Liberals shills.
In the end, though, she was impressive in that tete-a-tete – but not at the ballot box. May acknowledged the “David and Goliath” struggle that would have forced some 10,000 Grit supporters to go Green this year.
But this was not a Biblical ending – in this case, Goliath won again.
For MacKay, the Liberal Green Shift was the big difference in the campaign. “
“It was certainly a prominent issue in this riding, and throughout Atlantic Canada it was very unpopular,” he maintains. “Putting up the cost of everything was not something that people on their doorsteps wanted to hear. … This policy was not popular at all.”
For her part, May wasn’t making any excuses and was celebrating her second place showing as a kind of victory. “There is much to be done in our community to set things right,” she told cheering supporters. “I can’t do it in the short term as your Member of Parliament. I’ll continue to do it as a member of this community who knows that, as long as injustice lives within a community, we cannot call ourselves fortunate. We have an obligation to future generations to keep up our effort. When we say we vote for tomorrow, we did today, in large numbers; and next time we’ll make all the difference.”
As for her own future? “I’m not going anywhere,” she vows. “We will be in the House of Commons because it only makes sense. We will win our seats across this country, and we will win them in this election and we will win them in future elections. This is not an occasion for tears, friends. This is a celebration of a job well done!”
Still, it wasn’t a total loss. May’s whistlestop tour of the country onboard a train and her debate performance brought attention to a party many had once considered a ‘fringe’ entity. But after the 2008 election, there’s a good chance a lot fewer voters are thinking that way.