Greens elect MPs in New Brunswick and B.C., but barely increase seat total

VICTORIA — Green Leader Elizabeth May says increasing her party's seat total by one in Monday's federal election is a bigger victory than it seems and should not be considered a disappointment.

The Greens were hoping for a big breakthrough, but will become a force with three MPs, said May.

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"We've done better in Canada than any Green party under the first-past-the-post system," she said, adding there are 19 Greens who have been elected across Canada when provincially elected politicians are counted.

May won the only seat in the House of Commons for the Greens in 2015, followed by a byelection victory for the party last spring.

Jenica Atwin's win in Fredericton gives the party members of Parliament on both coasts and marked the first time the party has elected an MP outside of B.C.

"It's a big breakthrough to have a seat in Fredericton," said May. "It breaks us out of the box of people only thinking we're a Vancouver Island party."

May said Atwin's win also establishes the Greens as Canada's first caucus with more women than men.

May was re-elected in Saanich-Gulf Islands and Paul Manly won again in Nanaimo-Ladysmith after his byelection success earlier this year.

May said the three Green members will be able to achieve results in the House of Commons. She suggested the Greens will also work closely with Independent member Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former Liberal cabinet minister, who was elected Monday in Vancouver.

"It's certainly a lot more than we could do with one seat in a majority Parliament, and I did a lot," said May, recounting her achievements after her first election in 2011. "We are in a position of being the conscience of Parliament."

May suggested this campaign was her last as Green leader.

"I've never made any bones about the fact I want succession planning," she said.

Green supporters gathered in Victoria hoping to cheer more but settled for small bursts of celebration following the three victories.

"We have got a big job to do to break in across the country," said Adam Olsen, a Green member of the B.C. legislature. "There's no doubt about it."

Olsen is one of the three Green MLAs elected in 2017 when the party reached a deal to support the province's minority NDP government.

"I'd like to see more Green seats, but we have to take what we can get," he said.

The Greens called their campaign "Mission: Possible," promising science-based policies to fight climate change and urging voters to consider the future when making their choices.

May called the election a climate referendum.

"I'm really glad I was able to be the leader in this critical election on climate crisis," she said.

The Greens promised to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project and pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The party also pledged to plant 10 billion trees over the next 30 years to reduce carbon and recover vast areas of land devastated by wildfires across Canada.

At a campaign stop in Quebec earlier this month, May said the Greens will stand up with Quebecers against the construction of any fossil fuel pipeline in the province. She said the promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent involves implementing a transition from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy sources that include wind, solar and hydro electric.

May said she expected the thousands of oil, coal and gas workers would find work in Canada's emerging clean-energy sectors.

Since she was first elected in 2011, May has gained a reputation as an effective debater with an unmatched work ethic and a politician known for speaking from her heart on environmental issues.

But despite May's individual success, the long-awaited Green breakthrough has yet to arrive.

When May voted Monday, she said she was thinking about Canada's children.

She said she had spent part of her election day sending messages of thanks to young children from across Canada who wished her luck.

May said many of the children say they are too young to vote but were trying to convince their parents and grandparents to vote Green.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2019.

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