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Elizabeth May is getting hitched, but she’s firmly tied to her riding

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, will have a husband in Ashcroft but will remain in Saanich-Gulf Islands and represent the riding in the next federal election.
May and Kidder
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, and fiance John Kidder, a retired technology entrepreneur who runs a family farm in Ashcroft, embrace in the Library of Parliament in Ottawa.

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, will have a husband in Ashcroft but will remain in Saanich-Gulf Islands and represent the riding in the next federal election.

“Definitely not leaving Sidney; definitely running again in Saanich-Gulf Islands,” May said. “John is a huge supporter of my work and my life.”

The MP is engaged to John Kidder, a retired technology entrepreneur who now operates a hops farm on his family’s Ashcroft property.

“So far, we’ve been in constant motion and done a good job of landing in the same place,” May said of the couple’s long-distance courtship. “We’re really, really happy. I think it’s a miracle.”

Kidder proposed from Montreal by phone on Nov. 5 and followed that up in person in the Library of Parliament in Ottawa. The wedding date is April 22, which is international Earth Day and Easter Monday. That date was also chosen because it is before the leadup to the federal election, which will be on or before Oct. 21, 2019.

“He’s charming and funny and brilliant and we love everything about hanging out with each other,” May said.

“He’s quite self-sufficient and super-competent. Not only does he love reading Shakespeare and Latin, he can fix an irrigation pump and he knows how to shoe a horse.”

The couple plans to take a train trip to Ottawa from Vancouver as part of their honeymoon.

In 1983, Kidder was one of the founders of the Green Party of B.C., the first Green party in North America. He ran as a federal Liberal candidate in the Okanagan-Coquihalla riding in 2011 and as a provincial Green Party candidate in the Fraser-Nicola riding in the 2013 B.C. election.

May met Kidder then when she went to Merritt to support his candidacy.

“We both had a crush on the other person,” she said. That developed into a friendship.

Kidder, 71, was married for 34 years and is nine years a widower. He has three children and four grandchildren.

Kidder is the brother of the late actor Margot Kidder, best known for her 1978 role as Lois Lane in Superman: The Movie. An activist for anti-war and anti-nuclear causes, Margot Kidder helped campaign for her brother when he ran federally as a Liberal. She also dated Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the early 1980s. Kidder’s sister, Annie Kidder, is with People For Education and married to Corner Gas curmudgeon actor Eric Peterson.

May, 64, a lawyer, environmentalist and author, has never been married and has been a single mother for 24 years, since daughter Cate was three years old.

As May tells it, she and climate-change scientist Ian Burton lived together for about two years, but when they separated, they didn’t want their child transitioning between two homes. They mutually decided Cate would live with May while Burton remained a large part of his daughter’s life.

From her relationship with Burton, May has three stepchildren and seven grandchildren.

Between her and Kidder: “We have seven kids and 11 grandkids,” May said. Cate thinks her mom has “won the lotto,” said May.

Until she met Kidder, May said, she thought women her age needed men like fish need bicycles. “I thought I’m too old, I’m too busy, it’s not going to happen, forget it … ”

The pair’s mutual affection might not have developed further had the mother of Green Saanich North MLA Adam Olsen, Sylvia, not become involved in the matchmaking.

“She came to me and said: ‘I found you the perfect man: John Kidder,’ and I said: ‘Oh ya, I love him,’ ” said May.

“She said: ‘He loves you, too.’ So she just put his hands behind his back and pushed.”

“He knew I had a crush on him,” said May, who shared that information with Kidder’s daughter Julia at the Paris climate talks three years ago so she would pass it on to her father.

This past September, May and Kidder both attended the Green Party convention in Vancouver.

The sparks flew.

The two share a deep commitment to “planetary issues,” have “tons” of mutual friends, are prodigious readers, and together sing 1940s romantic songs, both knowing the lyrics to all of them.

“There’s just a lot there — we are perfect for each other. It’s really unbelievable,” May said.

“It feels more like serendipity or synchronicity than anything I’ve ever experienced before. Every time we turn around, we find we have some other common and quite odd shared backgrounds in tiny cultural spots that not everybody knows.”

May, an Anglican, is public about her faith. Kidder, a former Anglican, is more of a Buddhist, she said. “Having someone love you as much as you love them is a new experience for me,” she said.

May said she will continue to live in Sidney and divide her time between there and Ottawa and now Vancouver and Ashcroft. She said Kidder also has an active life and business dealings in Ashcroft and Vancouver and will keep properties there.

“We’ll figure it out — he loves Sidney too,” May said. “He is quite charmed by everything in Sidney.

“I’m super busy and I don’t plan to slack off,” she said. “I don’t have time to date, much less get married. It’s a good thing we were already in love by the time we started dating.”

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