Q & A

Elizabeth May sees 'clear two-way race' with Tory incumbent Gary Lunn

The Globe and Mail

Green Party leader Elizabeth May kicks off her national election campaign bright and early as the sun rose at Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse in Saanichton, near Victoria, British Columbia, on Saturday morning, March 26, 2011. (Deddeda Stemler/The Canadian Press/Deddeda Stemler/The Canadian Press)

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has the same political philosophy and sense of humour that served her well in the past election, but she has changed ridings and swapped coasts. And she is promising a very different result in British Columbia's Saanich-Gulf Islands than in Nova Scotia, when she finished a close second, and saw her party win a million votes nationwide but no seats. This time, she says, with the support of social networking and a new "me-first" strategy, she's going to make history.

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You were in church this morning. Did you have a chance to squeeze in a personal prayer?

I always pray for many, many things - but my prayers aren't necessarily political. I pray for my own ability to maintain good humour and strength of character and good judgment in the face of what I regard as a torture test of the political culture of anger and viciousness. I think it's just so appalling. It's a personal challenge to stay above it.

In 2008 you ran in Central Nova, now you are on the other side of the country trying again. Why the move?

Of course as with any move in one's life there are a number of reasons. My reasons were both personal and political. On the political side the Green Party decided after the 2008 election that perhaps they'd made a mistake not making my riding a priority. … The party had an epiphany … the council members were saying "good heavens, we did so well in this election, we got one million votes and all we're getting is abuse … people are saying we didn't elect the leader, but we weren't even trying to elect the leader!" It was kind of a thought bubble that stayed dangling over the room while people started thinking, "Why didn't we try to elect the leader? She got 32 per cent of the vote, came in second … maybe that would have been something we could have done." That led to a process where the party ended up asking me the question, "if we were to say that getting the leader elected was our top priority, would you be willing to move to a different riding?"

I said you have to do some research … and Saanich-Gulf Islands emerged in every analysis as the place in the country where more voters were … excited about, in large numbers, the idea of electing the leader of the Green Party.

The personal life thing that changed was my daughter was finished high school. I would never have relocated [without that] My daughter, my kids, my grandkids, family, they are far more important to me than anything in politics. And I would not have wrecked her high school years for anything. But the empty-nest category of my life had arrived - and I am certainly not the first woman in her late 50s to decide that living in Sidney, British Columbia is a pretty great idea. So things came together in a really nice way for me, so I moved out here in the summer of 2009, and I just love it.

Give me a sense of how you feel going into this election compared to where you were at the start of the last election, up against Peter MacKay, a star candidate for the Conservatives.

Well, I certainly knew going into that race that it wasn't anything like neck and neck. … It was one of those funny things. Funny as in ironic. [laughs] So many people said to me after the election, "Oh my gosh, if I'd only known how close you were, I would have voted for you." So I think it's really important that voters here do know how close I am … several polls in the last few months have placed me in a clear two-way race [with Conservative incumbent Gary Lunn]

What's on your schedule today and in the weeks ahead?

I'm now headed to what we call a meet-and-greet and it's being hosted by a gentleman who told me, on e-mail, "I used to be a Conservative voter and I've decided to support you and I want you to explain to my friends why this is a smart thing to do." Day by day I'm mostly knocking on doors, visiting people in their own homes, doing social media and national media through various virtual techniques so I can reach out across the country and support my candidates without physically flying all over the place. … I'll be everywhere across the country through the most sophisticated social-media campaign that I think Canada has ever seen.

Follow on Twitter: @markhumeglobe

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