Green Party leader riding debate momentum

More money, support and volunteers coming to federal Greens following May’s debate performance.

Federal Green Party Leader and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands

Elizabeth May could struggle to get a place at upcoming federal leaders debates, but she certainly sees her performance at the Macleans magazine event two weeks ago as a boon to her party.

May was in Sidney last Thursday, Aug. 13, making a brief stop at home in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands before heading up-Island on the campaign trail. The PNR caught up with her as she was about to visit the Sidney Street Market.

Throughout the interview, she was stopped, asked for photos and told by various supporters how well she spoke and addressed her issues during that leadership debate.

“Since then, our poll numbers have been up, donations have been up, the reactions have been great,” May said. “For other Green Party candidates, they are seeing an increase in volunteers and support.”

It’s a classic case of publicity — and a solid performance in the public eye — doing wonders for an election campaign.

Yet, for political observers — and for May herself — while the recent praise is great, it should not have come as a surprise.

“I’m surprised how impressed people were at the debate,” May said. “I’ve been doing that for years in Parliament.”

Yet, she agreed that not everyone follows what goes on in Ottawa as closely as some, and said she’ll certainly take the compliment.

“It’s helping get voters watching,” she said. “Voters can see that we are part of this national campaign, that we’re not a one-issue party.

“Having this early debate made it clear that we have to continue to be visible, as a party [during the long campaign period].”

Maintaining the visibility — and the momentum — will get more difficult as the campaign period drags on. May said she has only been invited to two more debates — a French-language one on Sept. 24 and another that may not go ahead after Conservative leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper withdrew. Later, NDP leader Tom Mulcair also pulled out.

May said the latter’s move was disappointing, considering all the federal leaders, including Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, agreed they would continue with that event, even if Harper was not there. That debate now seems like it will not happen.

Locally, May said she hopes to fit in as many forums and candidate debates as possible in her home riding.

However, she admitted as the leader, she will be spending a lot of her campaign on the road in ridings across the country that the party feels have a strong chance of winning. That’s similar to what the other parties do on the national level and May said it will be gruelling.

By her side for her third election campaign is her daughter, Cate May-Burton, who was accompanying May during each of the last two election periods as well. May said her daughter not only helps keep her on schedule, but provides a grounding effect while on the road so long. She added, while she’s a staunch opponent of Stephen Harper, is was nice to see he also had family members with him at the Macleans debate.

May was scheduled to be campaigning in Victoria and Saanich this week.

In the riding of Saanich-Gulf-Islands, she faces competition from the NDP’s Alicia Cormier and the Liberals’ Tom Kane.