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See-saw night ends with Green's first seat in Vancouver

Adriane Carr, who won a Vancouver city council seat for the Green Party in Saturday's municipal election, poses for a portrait in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Nov. 20, 2011.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail/Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

There are nail-biter elections, and then there is the battering that Adriane Carr's cuticles got on Saturday night.

"You know what? They don't look good, but I feel great," says Ms. Carr, able to laugh now after the nerve-wracking ride of Saturday's Vancouver municipal election.

After seven previous tries over nearly three decades, the Green Party candidate won an election, as a Vancouver city councilor, but not before a see-saw night that saw her drop in and out, and then back in, to the 10th and final slot on council.

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It's a breakthrough moment not just for Ms. Carr, but for the Green movement nationwide, with an elected representative in a major Canadian city – one that is largely synonymous with environmental concerns in the minds of many Canadians. There have been other instances of Greens winning municipal seats, in Victoria and Kelowna, but Vancouver is a different matter, particularly as Mayor Gregor Robertson gears up for his sizeable ambition of making the city the greenest on the planet by the end of this decade.

Ms. Carr, 59, says she saw the first stirrings of that breakthrough in the first round of election results. There were two polls reporting, from the east end of Vancouver, which has in recent elections swung heavily to the left-leaning slate of Vision Vancouver and the Coalition of Progressive Electors, or COPE. On Saturday, those voters were also opting for Ms. Carr, enough to put her in contention for the 10th and final council spot.

"I realized people were including me as part of the Vision-COPE slate," she said.

When votes were counted in the south part of Vancouver, she dropped out of the top 10, with a Non-Partisan Association candidate edging into that spot. But she was still in contention, so that when less NPA-friendly areas were counted, she leapfrogged back into the 10th council spot.

Ms. Carr attributes her success to the profile she has built up over successive elections, endorsements from a wide range of people and the emphasis she placed on local development issues, including Vancouver's eco-density initiative, and what she contends is a lack of consultation on the spread of high-rise buildings that are at the heart of that initiative.

It also couldn't have hurt that she was able to lean on the brand power of the Green movement, and that she was the only Green candidate on the Vancouver ballot.

Having finally won office, Ms. Carr now has to face up to the reality that she is just one voice – and one inexperienced in municipal politics, at that – on a council where the mayor's party has a commanding majority.

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Not a problem, says Ms. Carr. On the big issue of green politics, her solitary voice will carry far, amplified by the Green brand. "My green credentials are pretty flawless," she says.

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