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Elizabeth May discusses Senate seat with Dion

The number of political parties playing a role in the proposed coalition government could climb to four, as Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion left open the possibility of appointing Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to the Senate.

In announcing her party's support for the coalition proposal, Ms. May told reporters she had discussed a Senate appointment with Mr. Dion and said she expected her party would play a role in the coalition.

"We wouldn't have a veto. We would have influence," Ms. May said.

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The Liberal Leader did not refute Ms. May's comments.

"I have made no commitments to anyone about appointments for Senate or for ministry portfolios. And before [doing]so, I will consult [NDP Leader Jack]Layton. This being said, I have a great regard for Mme. May," said Mr. Dion, when asked about the Green Leader's remarks.

The Green Party failed to elect a single MP in the Oct. 14 election, but Ms. May said her party's support adds legitimacy to the coalition because nearly one million Canadians voted Green.

Ms. May's party launched a website aimed at encouraging the public to endorse the coalition. The site at urges visitors to sign a petition.

"We need to make it clear that the majority of Canadians want the coalition government," Ms. May said.

She told reporters she has had discussions with Mr. Dion, Mr. Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe about possible roles for the Green Party.

Both Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Layton said there have been no decisions regarding Senate appointments.

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"I told Mr. Dion, 'Don't offer me any because I'll refuse,' " Mr. Duceppe said, ruling out appointments for Bloc supporters. "I mean, we are not discussing that at all. I don't believe in senators."

Mr. Dion was heavily criticized by the Conservatives during the last campaign for making a deal with Ms. May not to run candidates against each other. The deal was the main reason why Conservative Leader Stephen Harper strongly opposed Ms. May's participation in the leaders debates during the campaign.

While Ms. May stressed that her exact role with the coalition remains hypothetical, she confirmed that she has spoken with Mr. Dion about the possibility of her being appointed to the Senate.

"I'd be the only senator, in the Senate, that received a million votes," she said, lumping together the 940,297 votes for Green candidates across the country. Ms. May ran as a candidate in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova in the election, where she finished second to incumbent Conservative Peter MacKay.

Appointing Ms. May to the Senate would signal a clear departure in policy from the current Harper government. The Conservatives have been highly critical of the unelected nature of the Senate. They have proposed legislation aimed at imposing term limits and provincial elections that would produce Senate nominees for the prime minister to choose from.

In its first term, the Harper government appointed Michael Fortier to represent Montreal in cabinet. It also appointed Bert Brown from Alberta, who had been elected in a provincial referendum. The Conservatives have made no other Senate appointments, and Mr. Fortier resigned his seat for an unsuccessful bid for election to the House of Commons. As a result, there are 18 vacancies in the 105-seat Senate.

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Conservatives said yesterday that Ms. May's comments show the Liberals are making backroom deals and are already fighting over the spoils of power.

"This is just like [what]Brian Mulroney used to say about the Liberal party: After they rob the bank, they all meet up to divvy up the cash," said Conservative Transport Minister John Baird.

During her news conference, Ms. May said the Greens will continue to support the coalition even if the party has no formal role.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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