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Green Party pushes to get more MPs

'Star' candidate ready for Calgary byelection, Elizabeth May says

A one-woman act until now, Green party leader Elizabeth May says she's taking her show on the road, planning to duplicate her win in byelections across the country.

The leader hopes to enter the next federal election with at least three Green MPs at her side.

"We have the opportunity to replicate what happened in Saanich-Gulf Islands," May told almost 300 delegates from across the country gathered in Sidney Saturday for the party's 2012 convention.

Her next target is Calgary Centre, where longtime Conservative MP Lee Richardson announced in May he was taking a job as Alberta Premier Alison Redford's principal secretary.

A date for the byelection has not been set. In 2008, Green candidate Natalie Odd garnered 16.7 per cent of the vote in the riding.

"We have a tremendous candidate and we are very excited," May said in an interview. She's not revealing her star candidate yet, but says it is a well-known Calgarian with a national reputation.

"I think Calgary Centre is a much more progressive riding than a lot of people think," she said.

"There's a lot going on in Alberta right now, which makes me think it's unsettled enough and potentially fluid enough. So we'll just give it our best shot."

May hopes to capitalize on the dynamics that saw Naheed Nenshi elected mayor of Calgary in 2010.

Nenshi's grassroots campaign and election, using social media, suggested a possible shift in Albertan politics.

The Green party plans to announce its candidate soon after Labour Day.

On May 2, 2011, the Green party leader, aided by an army of 2,000 mediasavvy volunteers, ousted long-standing Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands to make history as the first elected Green MP in Canada.

Delegates gathered for the party's convention at the Mary Winspear Centre Saturday were focused on how to do that again in 2015.

"We have to and we will do it again in ridings across this country," May said.

The suggestions to volunteers and candidates on successful election planning included everything from always carrying a membership sign-up book to taking the high road and exemplifying Green values.

The three-day convention, which ends today, includes speakers such as NDP turned Independent MP Bruce Hyer and former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion.

Panelists include Green MPs from Finland and New Zealand.

The next Green MP elected will not need to employ the Herculean effort May and her volunteers needed to secure Saanich-Gulf Islands because the psychological barrier that "a Green can't get elected" no longer exists, May said.

"That barrier is now down and I think it means we're going to elect a whole lot of members in the next election," said May, who hopes at least 15 will be elected.

May plans to enter the next election with "three or four" Green members - seats either won through byelections or gained by way of MPs like Independent Bruce Myer joining the party.

"He's considering us. We'll see what happens," May said.

In their speeches Saturday, both Hyer and Dion vowed to dedicate themselves to replacing Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system with some form of proportional representation.

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