Find a detailed biography of Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party of Canada.
Elizabeth May is leader of the Green Party of Canada. Currently, she does not hold a seat in the House of Commons.
May, best known as a longtime environmental activist, was voted leader of the Green Party of Canada on August 26, 2006. Often regarded as a one-issue party, the Green Party has yet to win a seat in the House of Commons despite fielding candidates across Canada in several federal elections. At its core, the Green Party promotes economic well-being, but not growth for its own sake. The Party advocates for a sustainable and inclusive Canada, with a healthy environment at its core; it also supports participatory democracy and strongly supports social justice.
As Party leader, May has argued that climate change is the most significant threat to Canada’s future. She also contends new strategies are needed to protect jobs in remote, one-industry communities. In addition, she asserts that Canada’s growing number of poor and homeless must be addressed, and that Canada’s foreign policy is too closely associated with that of the United States.
In April 2007, the Green Party received a boost when May negotiated an agreement with Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion that would allow her to run in Nova Scotia’s Central Nova riding unopposed by a Liberal candidate. A victory in Central Nova may be difficult for May to achieve, however, since the riding is traditionally Conservative, and is currently held by Peter MacKay, Canada’s Minister of National Defence. The negotiated deal was highly criticized.
Previously, May ran in the federal by-election for London North Centre (Ontario) held on November 27, 2006. She surprised many with by placing second behind the Liberal Party candidate. Percentage-wise, May’s results were the best ever achieved by the Green Party of Canada.
Environmentalism and Activism
Prior to May’s foray into politics, she was executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, a position she held from 1989 to 2006. In that role, she worked diligently to create a national, grassroots network dedicated to protecting the integrity of the world’s ecosystems.
In 2001, May went on a 17-day hunger strike to protest the continuing contamination of neighbourhoods around Sydney, Nova Scotia, caused by the local Tar Ponds, reservoirs of contaminated soil and sediment resulting from steel and coke production in the Sydney area. The hunger strike, held outside Parliament Hill, lasted until the federal government promised that families would be relocated.
From 1989 to 1994, May also served as executive director of Cultural Survivor Canada. Prior to that she served as a senior policy advisor to Tom McMillan, federal Minister of the Environment from 1986 to 1988.
May has been deeply involved in the environmental movement since 1970, being part of many campaigns for causes she has considered important. For example, she has campaigned against aerial insecticide and herbicide spraying on Cape Breton Island, as well as against uranium mining in Nova Scotia. She has also worked extensively on energy policy issues, primarily opposing nuclear energy. May has authored five books on environmental topics.
She has served on numerous boards of environmental groups and advisory bodies to universities and governments in Canada. Presently, she is a member of the board for the International Institute for Sustainable Development and Prevent Cancer Now! She is also a member of the Earth Charter International Council, co-chaired by Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev. May is a former vice-chair of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy.
A Personal Snapshot
May was born on June 9, 1954 in Hartford, Connecticut. She attended a prestigious private academy in Connecticut and, in 1983, graduated from Dalhousie Law School. May is a member of the Bar in both Nova Scotia and Ontario.
May is an environmentalist, writer, activist and lawyer. She has received numerous environmental awards during her career, and has also been awarded honourary doctorates from Mount Saint Vincent University, the University of New Brunswick, and Mount Allison University. In 1998, Dalhousie University created the “Elizabeth May Chair in Women’s Health and Environment” in her honour. In 2005, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour, which recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.
May lives in Ottawa, Canada with her daughter, Cate.