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Green Party Leader Elizabeth May speaks about her new book, Losing Confidence, at a reading in Toronto on April 13, 2009.

Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail

The federal Green Party says its leader must run for election in a riding where she stands a chance of winning - and internal party research puts the constituency of Saanich-Gulf Islands, near Victoria, at the top of the list.

If that is indeed where Elizabeth May ends up, she will have to fend off a challenge from within her own party before she gets the opportunity to take on Gary Lunn, the incumbent MP who is also a Conservative cabinet minister.

Stuart Hertzog, a Greenpeace activist and the publisher of an environmental website, says he will run for the Green Party nomination in the Vancouver Island constituency. Mr. Hertzog, who twice has been a candidate for the provincial Greens in B.C., says democracy compels him to do so.

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In an explanation for his decision, posted on his website, Mr. Hertzog says the Green Party has followed the example of other parties in which leaders act like dictators and the voices of the rank and file go unheard.

"Their focus now is exclusively on the inner machinations of federal council, and the loyal court of supporters surrounding the Leader," Mr. Hertzog wrote. "I believe that getting the Leader of the Green Party elected won't change anything, except to guarantee the flow of funds to central party coffers and reduce the Green Party to being seen as just another bunch of untrustworthy politicians that make self-serving deals."

Ms. May, however, is undaunted. In a telephone interview from Whitehorse Sunday, she said her party will not announce where she is running until after Labour Day. But the fact that Mr. Hertzog can run against her, she said, is proof that the Greens remain true to their democratic roots.

"I recognize that, if it's Saanich-Gulf Islands, there will be a Green running against me," Ms. May said. "There also might be a Green running against me if I were running anywhere else. One of the things ... that people really like about the Green Party, is that we're not a top-down party."

Ms. May has never been challenged in a nomination race before, though there were "rumblings," she said, in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova where she ran in the 2008 federal election against Conservative Defence Minister Peter MacKay. (She lost, with 32 per cent of the vote.)

But if one or more Greens choose to seek the nomination in the riding that is eventually selected for her, Ms. May said that is just fine with her. "And if the majority of the Green Party members in the riding where I choose to run say, 'Thanks but no thanks,' well, that's it. Case closed."

The decision that she should run in a "winnable" constituency, as opposed to a place where she has roots, was made by the party executive.

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"I have been very candid about the fact that it's because the party has asked me to leave where I have loved living, and do the thing I never wanted to do - which is be the dreaded parachute candidate," Ms. May said of the move.

"It's about what are we going to do to concentrate enough support in a riding to ensure that we win at least one seat in this next election."

It's the first time the party has enunciated such a goal, she said. Trial balloons have been floated in various regions all summer to find the right spot, but it is clear she is amenable to the B.C. seat.

"It's really a matter of what kind of attitudes voters hold in places where we have been traditionally strong," she said.

"I have to say that the response from the people from Saanich-Gulf Islands, the response of people coming up to me on the ferries when I have been around there this summer, has been extraordinarily positive and encouraging."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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