An Open Letter to Elizabeth May
Like many Canadians, I was surprised, and a little chagrined, to learn of your somewhat awkward speech at the recent Press Gallery Dinner. No one likes to see their party leader briefly fall off the rails, whether said leader is driving plastered in paradise, choking protestors or simply telling it like it is while overtired and perhaps a bit tipsy. However, at least it could have been worse... Lesser politicians than you have certainly gotten themselves into far worse situations after running on empty for a while and being passed a few drinks (or tokes). Among the many sordid tales, a few standouts include those of everyone's favourite mayor (where to begin... let's go with uttering death threats), and the case of the armed-and-dangerous-driving senator.
I know you have already issued a round of heartfelt apologies, though considering your track record of kindness and respectfulness towards your political adversaries, they came as no surprise. Besides, hiding your head in the sand (or locking yourself in a vehicle) in embarrassment clearly wouldn't help. At any rate, ultimately no apology was really necessary... Instead of being a scandalous incident that will haunt you, this should instead serve as a small reminder to Canadians as to exactly how hard you work for your riding, your party, your country, and the planet; and, more importantly, it should serve as a gentle reminder to you that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and sustainable workload is paramount in the long run, no matter what the costs.
Canada's Hardest Working MP
As a long-time Green Party supporter, I receive all manner of Facebook and email updates. They emanate from your office, from the national party office, from Vancouver Island federal candidates... Of the announcements for upcoming events, the one thing that a great many of them have in common is your presence. As the leader of a party that is gaining traction, slowly but surely, you're like Santa Claus in a green suit, somehow managing to be everywhere at once while delivering messages of hope and inspiration – even in support of campaigns outside the realm of federal politics.
Meanwhile, you're in the news daily – not for acts of ignorance or buffoonery, but for your exceptional insight into today's pressing issues and your hard work as a Member of Parliament. Considering the federal Green Party caucus consists of only two members at present, the impact you're having is remarkable and unprecedented. It's no wonder that your colleagues, from across the political spectrum, voted you Canada's Hardest Working MP.
Being a Parliamentary powerhouse can't be easy, and it's ironic, but perhaps unsurprising, that you have ended up taking on what's clearly an unsustainable workload while fighting for environmental and economic sustainability. It's no secret that you're now one of Canada's most trusted influencers... With no shortage of overwhelming issues facing the country (and, indeed, the planet), the temptation must be great to put in as many appearances as possible; to grant as many interview requests as possible; to meet with as many colleagues and supporters as possible; and to give as many speeches as possible, even if they're outside your comfort zone.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn in March that you would be speaking here in my small community of Shawnigan Lake, BC, on the failings of Bill C-51. When the time came, you not only gave a concise overview of the complex legislation, but went on to boost the morale of this small community in the face of our ongoing, uphill battle over contaminated soil dumping in our watershed.
Your talk was incredibly informative and inspiring, but it was clear that you were also tired. I sensed that it was not the "I-could-use-a-powernap” tired, but more like the "I'm-off-to-bed-see-you-in-a-week" kind of tired. You may not recall this, considering the amount of travelling you're doing, but you had to cut questions short so you could try to reach the airport in time for another flight. I recall wondering how you could possibly maintain such a pace, and always with a smile (no F-bombs in sight!)
Gobsmacking Party Girl, or Servant of the People?
When my father texted me the other night to say you had been involved in some kind of "meltdown", my thoughts turned back to your afternoon in Shawnigan and how tired you had been. Since then, of course, there has been all kinds of media coverage of your speech. There have been questions about whether you may resign (Really? Someone actually asked you that?); comedians have been analyzing your performance, suggesting you hire a comedian to prepare your jokes next time; a Toronto Sun columnist went so far as expressing the hope that your Press Gallery speech revealed an inner "gobsmacking party girl with the swagger and vocabulary of a drunken sailor". However, it took national PR consultant John Crean to pose the key question during an inteview with CBC:
"The 'I work so hard and spend so much time serving the people that I was too sleep deprived to pull it off' excuse is relatively weak... Do people buy into that?"
Yes, we do. Of course we do, at least anyone who knows anything about you. You are Canada's hardest working MP, and most likely the hardest working party leader. You're on the go constantly, "spending so much time serving the people" that you sometimes (oftentimes? most times?) must be losing out on some serious sleep, at a minimum.
Ms. May, the Green Party needs you. Canada needs you. And we need you for the long haul – despite all your accomplishments, I believe your true time to shine still lies ahead. Despite an archaic voting system that's stacked against us, more Greens will undoubtedly be joining you and Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Bruce Hyer in Ottawa soon to help share the load. In the meantime, please, keep doing what you're doing... Just be sure to squeeze in a bit more downtime, even if it means scaling back a few appearances here and there. Squeeze in more naps (power naps rock!) And, if worse comes to worse, go ahead and blow off some steam... Drop a few F-bombs Harper's way, and once his reign has come to an end, reveal your inner "gobsmacking party girl" at the celebration party.