Monday, January 5, 2009

Elizabeth May: worst federal politician of 2008

Elizabeth May takes top honours as my pick as Canada’s worst federal politician in 2008may. Ms. May wins by a country mile, topping NDP Leader Jack Layton and Tory Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in all categories, including level of incompetence, leadership skill, puffery and unrealistic and unearned sense of self-importance. All three would have been in a dead heat were “hypocrisy” the only criterion.

As party leader, Ms. May had the opportunity to become a strategists and organizer and to build her Green Party into a strong political machine capable of delivering seats, but chose instead to continue merely to be a political activist and self-promoter. Moreover, her stubborn refusal to run in a more winnable riding spoke volumes about her lack of appreciation for the big picture. Her quixotic battle to defeat Peter MacKay in Central Nova, N.S. did nothing for the party as a whole, but drain precious financial resources.

At the end of voting day, her party was left without a single voice in parliament. David Cotter, president of the Kitchener-Conestoga Green riding association, said:

quote-left-red-beige-bg[Former Green leader] Jim Harris ran a $60,000 campaign in 2006 and got 4.5 per cent of the national vote; we ran a $4 million campaign and won 6.8 per cent. You have to have 12 seats to be an official party: we have none. You need one seat for the leader; she chose to run against someone who can’t be beaten.quote-right-red-beige-bg

Sort of sums it all up, doesn’t it?

It’s curious that the Green Party’s share of the popular vote, at 6.8 per cent, fell so far below the 11 per cent that polls had been predicting a week earlier. Ms. May owns much of the blame for this, with her muddled message supporting strategic voting. Because of her ill advised public statements, the “Vote Green” message was not clear. Green messaging also lacked focus. Ms. May spent too much of her time indulging her obvious personal dislike of Stephen Harper and not enough on getting Green candidates elected.

Partway through the 2008 campaign, it became obvious that it was more important to Ms. May that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives be defeated than for Green candidates to be elected. A flawed strategy and a costly and reprehensible one for the leader of any political party to employ.

Her muddled messaging cost the Greens several hundred thousand dollars: each vote earns a party $1.95; candidates who achieve more than 10 per cent recoup 60 per cent of their campaign expenses. There were 19 ridings in which Green candidates got between nine and 10 per cent. Clearer, more focused messaging would probably have pushed many of these 19 ridings over the 10 per cent minimum and yielded final national vote results closer to the 11 per cent predicted by the polls.

For all her supposed charisma and intellect, in 2008 Ms. May demonstrated that she clearly lacks the leadership ability to inspire and the political acumen to get the “green” message across to voters.smleaf


  1. I doubt the Greens would have gotten any seats no matter who led the party. The Green supporters are really the lunatic fringe of the environmental movement and a small protest vote. They get 6-8% in every riding, which will never translate to a seat. That's why they are so in favour of proportional representation. 6% under PR would translate to 18 seats.
    Running in Nova against McKay, and the related "secret" deals with Dion was probably the only smart thing May did in the election. She knows she's unelectable. Making some kind of deal to get herself a patronage appointment should the Liberals win was her best hope of salvaging employment and a pension out of the election, albeit, it was a bit self-serving.

  2. I look at who performed above and below expectations.

    Jack Layton performed well. He was on-message most of the time. He knew that he had to reach out to people who don't normally vote NDP. He knew that his message had to be about Stephen Harper's governance. Layton will face a bigger challenge with Ignatieff in the next election. However, Iggy will move the Liberals to the centre giving Layton more room to stretch between the left and centre.

    Stephane Dion performed poorly. His Green Shift Tax was unclear. He was unclear on where he wanted to take Canada. I don't think language was his main problem. He didn't listen to his advisors on what to say in the campaign.

    The Green Party could have received at least one seat had Elizabeth May focused on 10-12 ridings of interest. She did make some intersting deal with Stephane Dion by having each party not run candidates in certain ridings. She did let down her own Green team when she supported Liberal candidates in some riding. One rule in politics is to always support your own candidates first. In the next election, May won't have the oppportunity to make a deal with Ignatieff. The Liberals will likely run candidates in every riding. Also, with a troubled economy, the environment won't be the top issue.

    Stephen Harper skates and stick handles campaigns fairly well. However, he is a puck-hog. He expects all Conservatives to run a uniform campaign and have them defer all decision-making to himself. He needs to trust his regional supporters more. The arts funding issue, while minor, irritated a lot of Quebeckers. He lost his majority because of that issue. He could have won a couple of seats in Toronto had he shown interest in the people living there. Harper will face a tougher battle against Ignatieff next time.

    Gilles Duceppe was lucky this time thanks to the arts funding issue.

    I give the award of worst federal politician to Dion, then Harper. Duceppe is neutral. I will give a little credit to May. Layton performed beyond expectations.

  3. Not to argue against May but I do think some of her runners up were not that far out of first place.

    Dion's Green Shafting coalition and his inability to run a descent resignation let alone a video camera.

    Boob Rae and his proposed Xcountry coalition supporting tour that fizzled with the departure of Dion.

    Jack Layton and his 'leftist separatism is better than Harper's unity in conservatism' sloganeering.

  4. She's the worst, period. The Greens must have been especially high on something when they elected her (or was she merely acclaimed -- I can't remember).

    I am hard-pressed to decide between her and Dion -- both are equally moronic and retarded (in the figurative and literal sense). Then again, they're an "item" anyway, so let's just say that "Mion" is the worst federal politician of 2008 (and all time so far).

  5. Excellent posting and very accurate with exception of one thing in your quoted area.... in 2006, Harris spent about $850,000 on the national campaign.

    As to Anon@4:45's comments - there are some who believed that Mike Nagy in Guelph, who placed only 11% behind the winner, may have had a chance to be elected if the messaging had been clearer. A couple of points from each of the other three contending parties (it was a four horse race) could have been enough to win the riding.