Elizabeth May: Difference between revisions

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May lives in [[New Glasgow, Nova Scotia]] with her daughter, Victoria Cate May (b. [[1991]]).
May lives in [[New Glasgow, Nova Scotia]] with her daughter, Victoria Cate May (b. [[1991]]).
May enjoys waving at traffic[[http://www.ngnews.ca/index.cfm?sid=172425&sc=51]].
May is studying [[theology]] at [[Saint Paul University]], and describes herself as a devout Christian.
May is studying [[theology]] at [[Saint Paul University]], and describes herself as a devout Christian.

Revision as of 01:08, 3 October 2008

Template:Future election candidate

Elizabeth May
Elizabeth May.jpg
Leader of the Green Party
Assumed office
August 26 2006
Preceded by Jim Harris
Personal details
Born (1954-06-09) June 9, 1954 (age 63)
Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Political party Green Party

Elizabeth May, OC (b. June 9 1954, Hartford, Connecticut)[1][2] is the current leader of the Green Party of Canada.

She is also an environmentalist, writer, activist and lawyer. She was the executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada from 1989 to 2006.


May was born in Hartford, Connecticut to a British father and American mother; she has a younger brother Geoffrey.[3][4] Her mother was a prominent anti-nuclear activist and one of the original founders of the peace group SANE while her father was Assistant Vice President of Aetna Life and Casualty.[5][6]

May attended the prestigious Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut. Her family was rooted in the Welsh Congregationalist tradition of free thinking on religious beliefs.[7]

The family moved to Margaree Harbour, Nova Scotia in 1972 following a summer vacation spent on Cape Breton Island. They purchased a restaurant and gift shop that was situated in a land-locked schooner, the Marion Elizabeth, located along the Cabot Trail. The business had been closed for several years before the Mays rehabilitated the facility, although financial difficulties saw May withdraw from her studies at Dalhousie University to help the family business. The restaurant and gift shop operated from 1974 until 2002 when the property was expropriated for an expanded highway bridge carrying Route 19 across the Margaree River.[8]

Following the move to Margaree Harbour, May became active in the fight against aerial herbicide spraying against the spruce budworm. May led a group of 15 landowners in a court fight against Swedish forestry giant Stora, which sought the spraying of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T.[citation needed]

To publicize non-nuclear issues, May banded with a group of like-minded candidates to run in the 1980 federal election. The Small Party, as they called themselves, ran in eleven ridings, with May trying to unseat Allan J. MacEachen in Cape Breton Highlands—Canso. May came woefully short in her effort, polling only 272 votes.[9]

In light of her legal action, May resumed her university studies as a mature student, majoring in law. She graduated from Dalhousie Law School in 1983. Following her graduation Mr. Justice Merlin Nunn delivered his decision on May's case with the verdict being given in Stora's favor. The judge ordered the group to pay the company damages and legal expenses running to an estimated $500,000.[10] Faced with losing their land and savings, in addition to the $180,000 they had already spent on the case, May led a group to Stora's headquarters in Stockholm to force the company into settling for a lesser amount. The group scored a public relations victory when Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme met with the group and expressed his displeasure with the company's plan to use herbicides that were banned in Sweden in one of their overseas operations. The resulting settlement gave relief to the landowners but not to May, who was out $15,000 in property and costs she had incurred while handling the case. Ironically, the herbicides May fought against were banned by the time the case was settled.[citation needed]

Following her defeat, May moved to Ottawa in 1985 where she became active with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, [11] as well as representing Pollution Probe [12] and Friends of the Earth.[13] During this time May helped found the Canadian Environmental Defence Fund with the aim of funding groups and individuals in environmental cases.[14]

She began work as an environmental lawyer advising Tom McMillan, Brian Mulroney's Environment minister in 1986. During this time she worked as a liaison between environmental groups and the government. Her time as a policy advisor was not without some controversy. Some environmental groups, at the time, suggested anonymously in The Toronto Star that May favoured Toronto-based applications and they may lose funding if they were not more favourable to the government's proposals.[15]

May received praise from David Suzuki for her work on the Ellesmere National Park (renamed Quttinirpaaq National Park on February 19, 2001), South Moresby National Park Reserve (renamed Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site on February 28, 1996), Grasslands National Park and the ozone protocol files.[16] She resigned, in 1988, from her post after learning that the government's plan for Grasslands National Park meant granting permits for the Rafferty-Alameda Project [17] in Saskatchewan without performing environmental assessments in exchange for the parkland and the translation of Saskatchewan's statutes into French.[18]

May's family home is in Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.[19] May is friends with Bill Clinton and is a supporter of the NGO Help Lesotho.[20]

May's French language skills have been described as poor [21].

Sierra Club of Canada executive director

In 1989, May became the founding executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada.[22] May sits on the boards of the International Institute of Sustainable Development [23] and Prevent Cancer Now! [24]. She is also a former vice-chair of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

In 2001, May went on a 17-day hunger strike to protest the government's failure to clean up the Sydney tar ponds in Cape Breton. As a result the federal government pledged to relocate people living nearby to a safer location.[25]

After that, May was involved in lobbying Paul Martin, then Minister of Finance, claiming that she was instrumental in convincing him that GDP was not a viable measure of economic performance, a position Martin clearly advanced in public in Canada through 2003.[26]

When Martin became Prime Minister of Canada in late 2003, he was however circumspect on this point, and his replacement in Finance, Ralph Goodale, was concerned mostly to cut Canada's debt to GDP ratio. May rallied and repeated her conversion feat, and by February 2005 Goodale announced "the greenest budget ever" with May at his side, representing the Green Budget Coalition.[27]

May was also involved in international lobbying. She said that the Montreal Action Plan (which came out of the 2005 UN Climate Change Conference[28]) was "a set of agreements that may well save the planet".[29] She counts Bill Clinton, who attended the Montreal Conference in 2005 at her request, among her contacts; Clinton became acquainted with May and her parents (then living in Connecticut) while a student at Yale University in the 1960s. In his conference speech Clinton thanked May for inviting him to Montreal. Clinton's presence was instrumental in getting the US to agree to talks on climate change for the first time.

May resigned as the Sierra Club's executive director in April 2006, intending to step down that June. As one of her last major acts in this post she participated in a poll of experts that determined that Brian Mulroney was Canada's "greenest" Prime Minister for an award presented by Corporate Knights magazine, due in part to his influence over the USA on acid rain. For her prominent role in this initiative, May took some criticism from leftist commentators and environmentalists. However, as Mulroney himself noted, she saw him as "the best of a bad bunch", and the timing of the event was calculated to pressure current Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper to improve his environmental policies in the spring 2006 federal budget. This was May's last public nonpartisan announcement.

Leader of Green Party of Canada

On May 9 2006 May entered the Green Party of Canada's leadership race. [30] She announced her intent to make the party "a force" and "would have influence" and "rock this country's politics in a way no other party ever has". She cited the "major planetary catastrophe" and "climate crisis" and the "crisis of democracy" as primary issues. "I find myself despairing when I see four men in suits engaging in a debate where nothing important is said… if the voters get to hear a whole bunch of really exciting new ideas, they might like them… instead of trying to do a calculation of who they hate the least." [31]

On August 26 2006, May won the leadership election on the first ballot. She tallied 65.3% of the votes beating her main rival, David Chernushenko (33.3%) and Jim Fannon (0.88%). She said one of the main platforms for the next election would be to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She also said that she would insist on the party being represented on the televised debates.[32] At the time of her election as leader, May said she intended to run in the riding of Cape Breton-Canso in the next federal election, although she also said she would stand in a federal byelection if one occurred prior to the next general election.[33]

London North Centre by-election

In the fall of 2006, London North Centre Member of Parliament Joe Fontana announced he was resigning his seat to run for Mayor of London, Ontario. Prime Minister Stephen Harper scheduled a by-election for that seat on November 27, 2006, and May stood as the candidate for the Green Party. She shocked some analysts when she finished second to Glen Pearson of the Liberal Party, ahead of the Conservative and NDP candidates. At the time, May's showing in this by-election was by far the best result, percentage-wise, ever achieved by the Green Party of Canada. She received 9,864 votes, about 26% of the total votes cast.[34]

40th Canadian federal election

On March 17, 2007, May announced that she will run in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova, in the forthcoming federal election. [35] Central Nova is located on mainland Nova Scotia, rather than Cape Breton Island where May once lived. However, it is adjacent to the Cape Breton-Canso riding in which May previously expressed interest, and overlaps with the area covered by the former Cape Breton Highlands—Canso riding in which she ran in 1980 [36] as founder of the "Small Party", precursor to the Green Party of Canada. [37] It is currently held by Conservative National Defence Minister Peter MacKay. May has explained that she chose Central Nova to avoid running against a Liberal or NDP incumbent. [38] She acknowledged, however, that this would be a more difficult riding for her to win than others she had considered. [39] The Green Party received less than 2% of the vote in Central Nova in 2006. [40]

On April 12 2007, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion announced that the Liberals would not run a candidate in Central Nova in return for the Greens not running a candidate in Dion's safe Saint-Laurent—Cartierville riding. [41] [42] May earlier attempted to broker a deal with the NDP, by contacting Stephen Lewis to set up a meeting with party leader Jack Layton; both NDP figures rejected the notion outright. When the May-Dion deal was announced, it was criticized by the Conservatives and NDP, with Layton describing it as "backroom dealing", while former NDP leader Ed Broadbent said that it deprived voters of choice.[43] [44] One of May's paid political advisors, Dan Baril, also resigned over the deal. [45]

May was initially excluded from the televised leadership debated in the 2008 federal election. She argued that the TV network consortium's initial exclusion of the Green Party of Canada was "anti-democratic" and blamed it on "the decision-making of a small group of TV network executives".[46] The Conservatives and NDP had initially opposed her inclusion. May was eventually allowed to participate in the debates, after NDP leader Jack Layton reversed his earlier decision. Harper likewise reversed his decision soon after.[47]

Rod Love, former chief of staff to Ralph Klein, has suggested that the Greens could potentially cut into the NDP's support.[48]

Controversial statements

Stance on abortion

Although the Green Party's official policy on abortion is pro-choice, while speaking to the Sisters of St. Joseph during the London by-election, May stated that she personally sees the issue as a "moral dilemma" and not "clear-cut black-and-white". May, who is a Christian, further stated her personal views, "I'm against abortion. I don't think a woman has a frivolous right to choose".

In the past, May added, she "talked women out of having abortions". She further stated, "I would never have an abortion myself, not in a million years. I can't imagine the circumstances that would ever induce me to it". However May believes that abortion must be legal and available to those women who choose to have one, because "If we make them illegal, women will die".[49] Following reports of May's statements, prominent Canadian feminist Judy Rebick announced that she was withdrawing her previous support of May and the Green Party due to May's questioning "the most important victory of the women's movement of my generation". [50]

Responding to Judy Rebick’s open letter, May explicitly reaffirmed that she supported a woman's right to access a safe and legal abortion and that “I never said a woman's right to choose trivialized anything. Not ever.” To clarify the misunderstanding around the Green Party’s recently approved Pro-Choice/Pro-Life position, Elizabeth May further wrote “Some feminist scholars have pointed out that the slogan 'right to choose' focuses on too narrow a context. What are a woman's real rights in society? Where are our economic rights? While a woman must have the right to terminate a pregnancy, what of the larger context? What about the on-going struggle to create a truly equal relationship of sexual equality that might (would) help avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place? What about the responsibility of both sexual partners to avoid unwanted pregnancy (and while on the topic, to avoid sexually transmitted diseases that would be reduced through use of condoms)? I believe that respectful dialogue is possible even around such an emotionally charged issue as this. Not every opponent of legal abortions is unthinking. Neither is every supporter of legal abortion unwilling to acknowledge the moral complexity of the issue. Some common ground could be found, I believe, when the discussion shifts to a broader context”. [51]

Chamberlain analogy

In April 2007, Elizabeth May was reported to have made statements in a speech to a London, Ontario United Church of Canada congregation referring to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's stance on the environment as "a grievance worse than Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis". Her alleged statement drew criticism from the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Conservative Party that the use of Nazi analogies was inappropriate. While Opposition leader Stéphane Dion refused to respond to Harper's request for him to distance himself from May and these remarks during Question Period, Dion did state to reporters outside Commons that May should withdraw the remarks, and that the Nazi regime is beyond any comparison. [52]

In a Green Party of Canada press release May stated that she was referencing comments made by journalist George Monbiot a few days earlier at the Toronto Green Living Show[53], saying that he "echoed the views of many people around the world when he expressed his deep distress at Canada's abdication of responsibility in the current climate crisis. As a failure of leadership and moral courage, he compared it to the appeasement efforts of Neville Chamberlain. I made reference to Mr. Monbiot’s statement to highlight the damage being done to Canada’s international reputation, something that should concern all Canadians."[54][55] Both Prince Charles and Britain’s foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, are on record recently making similar analogies [56].

The reaction to May's comments led to a Macleans.ca story[57] recounting several instances of politicians on record using Chamberlain analogies, including NDP leader Jack Layton, Liberal MP Robert Thibault and Conservative MP Peter MacKay. [58]

TVO controversy

In February, 2007, May was part of a panel discussion on climate change and the economy as part of TVO's show The Audit. Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor took an audio clip of May off this website, and created a short video, which he posted to YouTube.[59] She was asked why there was so little political will for a carbon tax. She appears to respond by saying "all the politicians are scared to death to mention the word tax and [I/they] think Canadians are stupid and cannot ... and I fundamentally agree with that assessment [...]" [60] Many commentators questioned whether she said "I" or "they".[61] TVO later posted the full video clip of the incident, and indicated that May said "they", not I". Journalist Kevin Libin later indicated that May's subsequent remark, "I agree with that", appeared to be an unrelated statement, made as a digression to another panel member. TVO suggested that the incident may have been a "tempest in a teapot". [62][63]

Personal life

May lives in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia with her daughter, Victoria Cate May (b. 1991).

May enjoys waving at traffic[[4]]. May is studying theology at Saint Paul University, and describes herself as a devout Christian.

She indicates that her devout religious position and path towards becoming an ordained minister with the Anglican Church does not clash with her role in the Green Party of Canada, and sees a clear separation between religion and politics.[64]

Electoral record

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Template:Canadian elections/LiberalsTemplate:Canadian elections/GreenTemplate:Canadian elections/ConservativeTemplate:Canadian elections/NDPTemplate:Canadian elections/Progressive CanadianTemplate:Canadian elections/IndependentTemplate:Canadian elections/Canadian Action

London North Centre by-election, November 27, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Glen Pearson 13,285 34.86% -5.28%
Elizabeth May 9,845 25.84% +20.38%
Dianne Haskett 9,327 24.48% -5.48%
Megan Walker 5,365 14.08% -9.62%
Steven Hunter 146 0.38% -0.09%
Robert Ede 78 0.20% -
Will Arlow 53 0.14% -
Total 38,123 100.00%

Template:Canadian elections/LiberalsTemplate:Canadian elections/Progressive ConservativesTemplate:Canadian elections/NDPTemplate:Canadian elections/Independent

Cape Breton Highlands—Canso federal election, 1980
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Allan J. MacEachen 18,262 50.40% +2.30%
Bill Kelly 12,799 35.32% -3.44%
William J. Woodfine 4,902 13.53% +0.39%
Elizabeth May 272 0.75% *

Honours and awards

Selected works

  • Budworm battles : the fight to stop the aerial insecticide spraying of the forests of eastern Canada (with Richard E.L. Rogers). 1982. Four East Publications. ISBN 0-969-0041-5-X
  • Paradise Won: the struggle for South Moresby. 1990. McClelland & Stewart. ISBN 0-7710-5772-5
  • Frederick Street: life and death on Canada's Love Canal (with Maude Barlow). 2000. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-00-200036-9
  • At the cutting edge: the crisis in Canada's forests. 2005. Key Porter Books. ISBN 1-55263-645-3
  • How to Save the World in Your Spare Time. 2006. Key Porter Books. ISBN 1-55263-781-6


  1. ^ Curry, Bill (8 September 2008), On the Train: A Q&A with Elizabeth May, Toronto, Ontario: globeandmail.com. 
  2. ^ Elizabeth May Profile, London, Ontario: London Free Press, 27 August 2006, p. A8.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ Curry, Bill (8 September 2008), On the Train: A Q&A with Elizabeth May, Toronto, Ontario: globeandmail.com 
  4. ^ Elizabeth May Profile, London, Ontario: London Free Press, 27 August 2006, p. A8.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  5. ^ Elizabeth May - biography, Green Party of Canada, 2008 
  6. ^ Elizabeth May Profile, London, Ontario: London Free Press, 27 August 2006, p. A8.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  7. ^ Callwood, June (12 March 1986), "Young lawyer's resolve honed by bitter environmental fight", Toronto, Ontario: The Globe and Mail, p. A2  .
  8. ^ Elizabeth May - biography, Green Party of Canada, 2008 
  9. ^ May vs. MacKay
  10. ^ Palmer v. Nova Scotia Forest Industries, (1982), 60 N.S.R. (2d) 271, 26 C.C.L.T. 22, 12 C.E.L.R. 157, 2 D.L.R. (4th) 397 (S.C.).
  11. ^ Public Interest Advocacy Centre
  12. ^ Pollution Probe
  13. ^ Friends of the Earth
  14. ^ Environmental Defence
  15. ^ David Israelson , "Dispute over Ontario pollution bill is part of rift in ecology momement", Toronto Star, December 28, 1986, p. B7.
  16. ^ David Suzuki, "She helped keep Cape Breton free of pesticide spraying", Globe and Mail, March 4, 1989, p. D4.
  17. ^ Rafferty-Alameda Project
  18. ^ If only Milton Had Visited South Moresby
  19. ^ May ponders battle with Baird
  20. ^ Help Lesotho
  21. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/news/canadavotes/story/2008/10/01/debate-french.html
  22. ^ Library of Canada biography
  23. ^ International Institute of Sustainable Development
  24. ^ Prevent Cancer Now!
  25. ^ Sierra Club news release on hunger strike
  26. ^ Green Party Leadership Debate, June 21, 2006
  27. ^ Liberal budget announcement, 2005
  28. ^ 2005 UN Climate Change Conference
  29. ^ Climate change conference ends with key deals
  30. ^ Elizabeth May considers running for Green Party
  31. ^ Quotes from a CBC Radio One replay of her announcement on May 9, 2006.
  32. ^ Renegotiate NAFTA, new Green party leader says
  33. ^ New Green leader to try for a seat in Cape Breton
  34. ^ London North Centre 2006 byelection results
  35. ^ Greens' May to fight MacKay in next election
  36. ^ Parliament of Canada, History of Federal Ridings
  37. ^ Green Party of Canada history article
  38. ^ Taking on MacKay: Is it May madness?
  39. ^ May vs. MacKay. See also May tilts at wrong political windmill
  40. ^ Central Nova 2006 general election results
  41. ^ The Liberal leader and the Green party leader have agreed not to run candidates against each other.
  42. ^ Liberals agree not to run candidate against Green leader
  43. ^ Globe and Mail (2007-04-13). "Dion, May confirm election deal". 
  44. ^ New Democratic Party (2007-04-13). "Jack Layton on the Liberal – Green deal". 
  45. ^ Allan Woods, "Green party strategist resigns over pact", Toronto Star, April 17, 2007.
  46. ^ [1]
  47. ^ [2]
  48. ^ [3]
  49. ^ Elizabeth May and abortion
  50. ^ Rebick withdraws any support for May
  51. ^ Elizabeth May: Looking for common ground
  52. ^ PM invites Dion to distance himself from May's 'Nazi analogies'
  53. ^ Call him Mr. Green
  54. ^ Green Party Leader dismayed that comments were distorted
  55. ^ May gets backing from Brits in comparing climate change to Second World War
  56. ^ Prince Charles echoes May’s view
  57. ^ Let he who has not made a Neville Chamberlain reference cast the first stone
  58. ^ House of Commons Debates, STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
  59. ^ Elizabeth May on Canadians
  60. ^ National Post: Kevin Libin: Elizabeth May lowers the boom on bothersome blogger
  61. ^ "Kevin Libin: Elizabeth May lowers the boom on bothersome blogger". National Post. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  62. ^ "Elizabeth May, the blogosphere, and pronoun trouble". TVO website. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  63. ^ National Post: Kevin Libin: Elizabeth May lowers the boom on bothersome blogger
  64. ^ May responds to critics of her devout religious beliefs
  65. ^ Library of Canada biography
  66. ^ Mount Saint Vincent University honour roll
  67. ^ Renowned Environmental Leader To Speak At UNB's Renaissance College
  68. ^ UN Global 500 directory
  69. ^ Order of Canada citation

See also

External links