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Elizabeth May makes history with Green seat

By in 2011 Federal Election/News

Canadian University Press

SIDNEY, B.C. (CUP) — History was made in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands today as Canada elected its first Green member of Parliament — party leader Elizabeth May.

May won the riding, which is home to many students at the University of Victoria, Camosun College and Royal Roads University, with approximately 48 per cent of the vote. She beat incumbent Gary Lunn, a Conservative cabinet minister.

“It should shock few to see the university community of Saanich-Gulf Islands’ youth elect Canada’s first Green MP. Regardless of political affiliation, voters want change on environmental issues,” said Dylan Sherlock, finance director for the University of Victoria’s students’ society.

“The result in Saanich-Gulf Islands shows that when youth feel like there are people addressing their issues they will vote. Elizabeth May engaged youth in her campaign better than anyone else. Too often youth simply feel like their vote does not matter. What we have learned is that youth are interested in the political process but we need to talk seriously about electoral reform if we really want to increase youth voter turnout,” added James Coccola, outgoing chairperson for UVic’s students’ society.

While specific voter turnout demographics have not been released, May hopes an increased youth vote impacted her success.

“I saw a lot of young people voting who’d never voted before. I had a lot of young people tell me they were voting who had never voted before, and even some young people in their 30s who’d never voted before,” May said. “We saw a real change and an embracing of the power of the vote and I’m very excited about that.”

May noted that, while a youth vote is typically more favourable to the Greens, many felt she wouldn’t be able to win over the senior vote in her riding.

““They don’t get that our seniors are rocking,” she said.

The Green Party also largely credited its swarm of volunteers for the win.

“What I discovered was how wonderful the people are that volunteered to help Elizabeth, and I just want to say thank you,” said volunteer co-ordinator Marilyn Redivo. “It is because of you we made a difference.”

May echoed this sentiment.

“I can’t name everybody who’s been volunteering,” she said. “It’s been the most inspiring thing of my life, as [Redivo] said, to see people get up and join me at 6 a.m. in the pouring rain to wave at morning commuters.”

The campaign to elect Elizabeth May had approximately 2,000 volunteers in total.

May emphasized the change she hopes to bring to Canadian politics.

“Today we proved that Canadians want change in politics,” she told the crowd. “We need compassion over competition.”

May said she will reject the politics of fear that have perpetrated Canadian politics through tactics like attack ads, and will instead work to embrace hope and bring respect to Parliament.

“I will never shrink from speaking truth to power,” she said. “We are elected to serve the people of Canada.”

Discussion of the Conservative majority government that was elected was absent from May’s celebration.

image: Max Sussman

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