There is a good possibility voters in London North Centre will elect a committed Christian as a Member of Parliament on November 27.
The American born activist first became involved in public life opposing insecticide and herbicide spraying on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia in the 1970s. She earned a law degree; has written or co-written five books; was senior policy advisor to Conservative federal Environment Minister Tom McMillan 1986-88, resigning in protest when the Rafferty-Alameda Dams in Saskatchewan were approved without an environmental assessment; and then served as executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada 1989-2006. She was named an Officer in the Order of Canada last year.
May is a single mother, of a 15-year-old daughter. She describes herself as “a practising Anglican.” She teaches Sunday school at St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church in Ottawa. In late October, she ducked out of her first meeting with the Green Party’s federal council for two hours so she could attend church on Sunday morning. She has also been known to refer to the Garden of Eden, evolution and Jesus Christ in the same speech — and concluded one speech with the words, “In all things, choose life and go with God.”
May’s website includes photos of her with Bill Clinton, David Suzuki, the Dalai Lama and Mikhail Gorbachev. Her policy concerns include the climate crisis, economic stability, increasing militarism and the growing gap between rich and poor.
The Green Party claims it currently has the support of about 11 percent of Ontario voters and is mounting a major campaign in the byelection; it plans to spend the legal limit of $82,000. The Party is hoping that the prestige of a national leader and the rising public concern with environmental issues will allow it to win the riding.
Running for the Conservatives in the riding is former London mayor Dianne Haskett, an evangelical Christian and member of the United Church who gained a national profile in the 1990s when she was fined $5,000 by the Ontario Human Rights Commission for refusing to allow a gay pride parade.
After two terms, she left the mayor’s position in 2000. She moved to Washington, D.C., where she earned a third law degree, worked as a lawyer and served as a researcher and advisor for Republican politicians. She and her husband Jack Kotowicz have one daughter.
While her stance on the gay pride issue gained her the most attention as mayor, she also focused on downtown revitalization, heritage preservation, economic development, neighbourhood protection, international relations, protecting the environment, trade corridor infrastructure and anti-poverty initiatives.
Her current election campaign policy does not mention homosexuality, but focuses on Conservative Party policies such as political accountability, lower taxes, crime, childcare, health, the environment, seniors, students and new Canadians.
The parallels between the two women are striking. Both are declared Christians, both are lawyers, both are relatively well off, and both have a US connection.
Liberal Joe Fontana won the seat in January 2006 with 43 percent of the vote, with the Conservatives getting 30 percent, the NDP 24 percent and the Green Party 5.5 percent. The riding became vacant when Fontana resigned to run for mayor against Haskett protege Anne-Marie DiCicco-Best. The municipal election campaign overlaps the federal byelection, with municipal voters going to the polls November 13.