Thursday, October 4, 2012

Elizabeth May: The Real Opposition?

I've never liked the Greens. I think that, while their cause might be noble, it's ultimately misguided and the federal variant is just a tad too left-wing for me. I also think Elizabeth May is someone of an autocrat within her own party, trading all the pan-Canadian support her party earned in 2008 by having a fairly strong national campaign, to instead win one riding in BC while support across the rest of the country collapsed by more than half. And it hasn't paid off - the Greens are consistently low in the polls, probably the lowest they've ever been. For a party that routinely trended near 10% before, they're now lucky to get above 6%. And remember, this party tends to get a couple of percentage points of boost in most polling.

So when this HuffPo article written, admittedly, by the Vice-président francophone du Parti vert, Pierre Tremblay (yeah, ask him how the Greens are doing in Quebec, see if he still thinks the party is doing well), comes out claiming that May is the "real Opposition leader" in the House of Commons, I scoff a little bit.
• Spoken in the House of Commons over 500 times; • Tabled three private member's bills; • Seconded or co-seconded 40 additional private member's bills and motions; • Tabled 140 petitions; • Submitted over 300 substantive amendments to Bill C-38 alone; • Voted in 441 out of 455 recorded votes; and • Done all of that, and yet claimed less than 2/3 of the allowable limit for personal expenses.
While I can't say its not impressive for what is essentially a one-person operation, I fail to see how any of it is actually important. Think about this:

- She spoke in the House over 500 times. So what? She could've talked about anything, the quantity of the times someone speaks in the House (where barely anyone from the public hears them) doesn't mean the quality is up to par. I've seen May ask some important questions, but I've also seen her ask absolutely pointless things as well.

- Tabled three private member's bills. Good for you. Did any of them pass or make headlines outside of green.ca?

- Tabled 140 petitions - again, good for you. Mauril BĂ©langer has tabled the same petition about a bridge in Ottawa, probably the same amount of times.

- The over-300 amendments to C-38. That is a pretty good number... but she does know that the Liberals used her status as basically an independent in the HoC to get hundreds of amendments, right? If being the "real" Opposition means being used by the Liberals as a convenience, then I suppose May is.

And on it goes. The most you can get from this clutch of statistics is that Elizabeth May is a hard-working MP without the support of large parties and research money behind her. I've got no problem with that - but to claim she's the real Opposition leader, as Tremblay and The Walrus are apparently claiming (that's Tremblay's example of "English-speaking media" fawning over May - a magazine most Canadians have never heard of) is simply stupid. These statistics prove nothing of the sort.

An Opposition leader is one who drives counter-narratives against the government - i.e., the government supports, lets say the Nexen takeover, and the New Democrats do not. While the Official Opposition does not and should not oppose everything from the government, its point is to offer a different vision to Canadians, effectively.

The Green Party of Canada does not effectively drive any narrative in Canadian politics. When I think of "who can lead the fight against the Harper government," I think of Mulcair and Rae - not Elizabeth May and her one-person party.

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