Elle Beaver brings you profiles of the women who are shaping the 2015 federal election (#elxn42), the pundits, spin-doctors, journalists and activists who are making headlines, shaping our political landscape – and who are vying for YOUR vote! In this edition, we focus on Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, the only woman candidate running for Canada’s top office.
Elizabeth May is the greatest Prime Minister we’ll never have, some have argued. But the Green Party Leaders is no less a trailblazer, the first of her party to be elected Member of Parliament, and a skilled debater who can bury her opponents with the elegant flourish of a well-timed argument (aside from, you know, her go-to talking point during the August 2015 Maclean’s debate: “With all due respect, Mr. Prime Minister.”)
May is also letting her bad-ass flag fly by ‘crashing the Globe and Mail/Google’s party,’ inserting herself into tonight’s electoral debate on the economy (tune in!) by way of Twitter, offering up live comment and rebuttals. Considering she came out triumphant from the first debate in August, we’re expecting some spectacular wit and rhetoric with her groundbreaking participation.
But though a sophisticated, engaging and thoughtful speaker and a staunch feminist, Elizabeth May has occasionally courted controversy among feminists. For example, when news broke of Jian Ghomeshi’s firing from CBC, May initially tweeted her support, “I have known Jian and something at work here doesn’t make sense. Innocent until proven guilty.”
May has also given complex answers on her views on abortion during the 2006 elections, telling a group of nuns at the Sisters of Saint Joseph, a convent in London, Ontario, “Nobody in their right mind is for abortions. I’ve talked women out of having abortions. I would never have an abortion myself, not in a million years. I can’t imagine the circumstances that would have ever induced me to it.”
More recently, critics called out the Green Party’s electoral platform as anti-feminist for implying that women are harmed by divorce and failing to highlight domestic violence as an issue. In her interview with Chatelaine, May offered an explanation: “It was a matter of having some poorly chosen language in the way our policy was expressed. We believe too many people are bankrupted by extremely adversarial [divorce] processes. We’ve certainly always been a feminist party, with strong feminist principles.”
Despite any of her feminist ‘limitations,’ (and I hesitate to use that term) May did not opt out of the debate on women’s issues, cancelled after Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair refused to participate. When asked by Chatelaine about the issues she would have discussed, May explained: “I really wanted to talk about the urgency of an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. The problem is with politics being a man’s world. I don’t think [former NDP leaders] Alexa McDonough or Audrey McLaughlin would do what Tom Mulcair did — shut down a debate about women’s issues. The result is that the only woman leader of a political party does not get to talk about women’s issues in a debate.”
And debate is what’s at stake for feminism and women’s rights – finding ways to challenge each other and develop solutions that improve women’s rights (it’s *kinda* our thing at the Beaver). While she may not be a paragon of feminism (and really: none of us are), Elizabeth May has shown growth, a hunger for debate and a willingness to be challenged. That’s democracy.
And if Canada is teetering on the brink of electing an NDP leader to this country’s highest office, then surely we can aspire for a Prime Minister May.
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