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The Mean, Green, Knitting Machine

The Backbencher ; Taking all of the mindless psychobabble that comes out of the House of Commons, and providing critical analysis on the important bits.

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The average Canadian MP is a master of hypocrisy and a seasoned incompetent. Elizabeth May is neither of those things and is therefore, for lack of a better word, awesome. This isn’t because she’s got that whole warm and friendly granny vibe – which she so clearly does. But instead because beneath that chicken-pot-pie making, scarf knitting and cat cuddling exterior there is a sharp, strategic woman.

May was recently met with ridicule and patronization from all sides when she called for a one time opposition-electoral pact, meant to defeat the Conservatives and institute electoral reform. Crucially however, this may have all been part of the plan for the wily Green leader.

In response to May’s proposal, Mulcair silenced his caucus, essentially puffing out his chest and saying “I’ll handle this, my little orange underlings!” in a hilariously hypocritical showing of strict party discipline over an issue which has held a longtime place on the NDP agenda. How many times have we seen the New Democrats cry foul over Conservative vote whipping and the formulaic speeches spouted by the Conservative backbench cheerleaders? Heck, MP Wayne Marston has even had nightmares about it. But if it’s brought up by crazy cat lady May? ‘Oh no Tom, we can’t go near that with a 10 foot pole’ an NDP strategist would explain while shaking his head. ‘We don’t want to alienate the base by agreeing or cooperating with the wacky Greens over an issue we actually support’, and May knows this.

On the other hand, the perfectly qualified and highly deserving liberal leadership hopeful, Justin Trudeau, also played to the script. Flicking back his “L’Oreal you’re worth it!” hair and quickly denying any possibility of going along with May’s out of this world request for political cooperation.


Cue the predictable response to all this; “Level of hyper-partisanship in the House beyond sickening, but May rises above”- oh, I can see the op-eds in the Globe already. Yet this is the very genius of May! She is widely known for being a tireless worker and a passionate representative of her constituents : over the years she has accumulated valuable political capital by campaigning on street corners, holding hunger strikes on the steps of Parliament hill, and being the lonely flag bearer for the fledgling Green Party. From the worst seat in the house she has shown she firmly believes in her ideals (which in itself deserves praise), but politically, she has also cultivated and built an underdog appeal, and who doesn’t like an underdog story, right? And now that underdog has begun to show her inner strategic maestro.

May’s recent stab at electoral reform is truly a stroke of genius because she has managed to engineer the precise response she was looking for. The opposition has played into her hand by going against her and in doing so have painted themselves as hypocritical and against reforming a blatantly broken voting system. May gets to throw her hands up in the air and say “I tried! You just can’t reason with these people!”

The zany MP from Saanich-Gulf Islands is definitely on to something, and particularly in light of the November by-election showing, she has wielded her limited political influence masterfully. Make no mistake about it; May is not your average granny. While the big boys in the front row battle it out, May is quietly and strategically knitting her party’s political quilt, and when she’s done, we all might just be surprised with the results.


(Featured photo : Attribution  ItzaFineDay, Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo 1 : Attribution Shaun Merritt, Creative Commons, Flickr)

About Nadir Khan

Nadir is a U2 student in Political Science at McGill and he is passionate about Canadian Politics. He decided to start "The Backbencher" column because he feels that people should take a greater interest in Canadian parliamentary democracy. In his spare time he loves to play sports; mainly hockey, soccer and triathlon.

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  1. Very smart, critical analysis, and on top of that, HILARIOUS.

  2. Great analysis! My vote is for the granny as it’s high time we saw meaningful electoral reform. Sadly many educated Canadian don’t vote because they feel their vote will not count for much given the present situation. Proud of you Nadir Khan.

  3. It’s about time someone put Trudeau and Mulcair in their respective places. While the Green Party is going to need more than May in the long run, this is certainly a start. I’m willing to see more from the maestro.

  4. great article! Brings up electoral reform in a funny, readable way. Looks like the cat lady’s on her own for now, no one in the House wants anything to do with her…

  5. This is one of the best articles i’ve read in a long time

  6. Well written and very enjoyable article. It is an injection of direly needed humour in Canadian politics (particularly during the rotten winter!).

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