The announcement yesterday that Green Party leader Elizabeth May will run in Peter Mackay’s riding of Central Nova in the next federal election is interesting for a number of reasons. A locally fairly popular and high profile cabinet minister, it is certainly an interesting choice for May, who currently lives in Ontario. Unfortunately, I think her announcement serves to guarantee that he keeps his seat next time around, and I think he’s mighty glad to have her on board, as it were. Maybe I’m under-estimating the importance of the environment as a campaign issue, but I just don’t think it will cause enough votes to walk to a fringe candidate in that riding.
For those not familiar with Nova Scotia politics, voters are divided pretty much along rural (Conservative) and urban (NDP / Liberal) lines. Also, there is a tendancy towards voting for established political dynasties, provided the progeny prove to at least have opposable thumbs. Three current dynasties come to mind – Savage, Regan, and yes, Mackay. In addition, while it is a little unfair to say that all Bluenosers tend to vote as their parents did, it would not be far from the truth to say that rural ridings are less likely to warm quickly to new parties. Whether Peter Mackay is an effective minister or not is an open debate (hell, if any of them are effective is), but at the very least, he has not embarassed his home town, so he would seem to have a starting advantage over any opponent.
So why choose Central Nova?
First, the riding actually includes a couple of larger towns (Maritime-wise, that is) and also includes St. Francis Xavier University, so there is a fair proportion of young “hip” voters that might give the Greens a boost. At the very least, they would provide a population of potential volunteers should a vote be called during the school year. For a party that is likely going to run on a shoe-string budget, most of which will likely be spent in one riding, this has to be a consideration.
Also, in the last election, Alexis MacDonald, the NDP candidate, performed quite well, finishing second with 33% of the vote. There is a constituency in the riding that could well be swayed into the Green camp for sure.
However I feel it overly hopeful, if not downright silly to think that all or most of the NDP support, and a goodly chunk of the Liberals, would walk over to the Greens. Especially to a “come from away” candidate that does not live in the riding and has no real connection to the place. (Yes, I know Brian Mulroney won there, but he was Conservative, and the leader of a party that was a legitimate threat to become government. The Greens are neither.) Elizabeth May’s presence in this race will serve more to divide the non-Conservative vote and I fully expect that, without a massive gaffe from Mackay (never too far off to be sure), he will hold the riding with potentially a larger margin overall. Unless of course the Liberals plan to throw the riding altogether.
So really, why Central Nova?
Aye, that’s the question. May undoubtedly wants to make a good run for a seat, but surely there are safer ridings to get involved with. My feeling is that she wants to look tough, fight a good fight, but not win. It’s a passive-aggressive kind of move that will both raise her profile and not tie her to a behind-a-pillar seat in the House of Commons where she will rarely, if ever, be heard from or seen.
Also, it is a thumb in the eyes of the NDP, who could actually win that seat were the circumstances of the election call favourable.
Alas, it is not to be.