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British Columbia Elizabeth May hides disappointment with Green Party’s poll results

Green Party leader Elizabeth May speaks to campaign staff in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Ms. May was the sole Green Party member to be elected to the House of Commons on Monday.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May's smiles and assurances to her disappointed supporters on election night did not entirely mask a bitter sentiment about the shrinking pool of Green voters.

The party had four years to capitalize on Ms. May's presence in the House of Commons. This year alone, the party raised more than $4-million to run a credible campaign – more than double the amount raised in 2011. Yet, while the Greens earned more votes this time out, their share of the popular vote decreased slightly compared with the previous election.

Ms. May spent Tuesday thanking voters in her riding in Saanich-Gulf Islands, where she enjoyed the largest margin of victory – 23,813 – of any race in British Columbia. She told a campaign party on Monday night that she is pleased with the result because Stephen Harper's Conservatives have been defeated and she was upbeat about her ability to influence the incoming Liberal government on matters such as climate-change policy.

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She remains, however, the lone Green in the House, and her party's share of the popular vote contracted slightly, to 3.5 per cent.

Ms. May faces an automatic leadership review under her party's constitution in the next six months and said she is prepared to leave that decision in the hands of party members.

"If our members want me to stay on, I'll stay on. If they don't, I won't and I won't feel badly about it, either."

Both the Conservatives and New Democrats suffered far more significant losses in Monday's election, and will now begin extensive reviews to examine what went wrong. In his concession speech, outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper reminded his supporters that "the people are never wrong."

By contrast, Ms. May was critical of those who advocated strategic voting in this election, and the decisions that led to her exclusion from national leaders' debates.

She said her party faced "overwhelming obstacles" in the campaign and pointed to two key events.

The first setback, she said, was the cancellation of the English-language television debate that is normally held by a consortium of public and private networks after the Conservatives, and then the NDP, balked at the terms.

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"We knew that was practically fatal," she told reporters. "Those debates were manipulated the way they were – that was very very damaging to our building the party, electing more Greens."

She also singled out environmental organizations that advocated for strategic voting, which she described as " an aggressive fear-factor campaign" for undermining the Greens' support. "I think those people who generated that fear may have morning-after regrets, that they could have elected strong climate champions and they chose not to."

However, environmentalists were celebrating the change in government.

Will Horter, executive director of the Dogwood Initiative, called it a "big night" for opponents of the oil-pipeline proposals on the drawing board in B.C. In a post to social media, he noted that prime-minister-designate Justin Trudeau has promised to ban oil tankers on B.C.'s north coast and to send the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project for a new review under a new process.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said the Green Party received fewer votes in the Oct. 19 election than in 2011. In fact, while their share of the popular vote decreased, the party received more votes.

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