06.12.2011 09:00 AM

In today’s Sun: Elizabeth May, lurker


The Green Party leader came by to post a comment on my personal website the other day. I’ve never had a leader of a federal political party do that before. It was really weird.

I mean, I figured — like you do, perhaps — that the leaders of political parties have lots of better things to do with their time than lurk in weblog chat rooms. But there was May, chatting away.

Like I say, weird.

There are three types of folks who hang out in web chat rooms. First, there are the regular commenters I get on websites like mine — Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats, the undecided. The ones I get, I like. They tend to be smarter than me and I often find myself relying upon their analysis when I’m thinking about a political issue.

Second, there is a less-intelligent group who pop by, too. We call them “trolls.”

They use false names and fake e-mail accounts and they regurgitate all kinds of hate and dirt. I don’t ever approve their comments.

Finally, there is a third group whose presence we feel online, but don’t often see: The lurkers. They skulk in the background, but never really offer any comments. They just lurk.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, I assume, is a lurker, which is kind of weird.


  1. Neil says:

    How’s she a lurker. Didn’t she leave a comment? You’re not making sense.

  2. James Calnan says:

    ok, i agree, her staff should have advised her that her presence on the national public stage would do more for the party than hanging around the green room backstage going over her lines.

    But the more important question is whether this is a rookie mistake that an exceptionally keen and newly-minted MP might make (and May is all of that), or whether it points to a fundamental flaw in May as a leader (an inability to delegate, obsession with detail, an insecurity about her competence to answer questions to the media without detailed preparation, a paranoia about what mighty opinion makers such as your self might say about a choice that clearly troubled her, etc.)

    The great challenge May faces now is that for all intents and purposes, she IS the Green Party in Canada. The choices she makes are the measure of how the public will judge the entire party.

    Her great opportunity is to be a different kind of leader of a different kind of party. So on that part I disagree with you. I wish Stephen Harper had the stones to show he reads what you write, and reply in justification of a choice.

    As the Late Lamented Dean said in his “Lesser of Two Evils,” its the need to stand in front of the public and answer for your choices that makes democracy such a powerful and precious institution. We should celebrate those who offer the public the opportunity to judge them on their choices. That takes some guts. Its the fear of that judgement which keeps so many out of politics.

  3. Jon Powers says:

    Good article, WK. To me, this just proves that Elizabeth May was always more interested in getting Elizabeth May elected, not the Green Party.

  4. Michael Bussiere says:

    If I recall, this is the same Elizabeth May who griped about her party’s organization and communications after the election of ’08. That same party began plotting to jettison her.
    Ever attended a Green Party meeting? I have, out of curiosity. Never been in a room with such of bunch of contentious, argumentative, arrogant people in my life. My hemp clothing doesn’t come with those little plastic price-tag attachments but yours does etc.
    Between her and the New Bloc Party Qc. we can expect to see some very interesting antics. We Libs can be happy to have such a professional caucus by comparison in the HoC.
    BTW the Tory Convention is currently running alongside the Correctional Services Convention (dogs and all) at the Westin in Ottawa. Want to have some fun? Try getting to your Health Club in the hotel in an elevator full of Reformers and make some wise crack about the uniforms and the dogs on leashes. Listen for the lead balloon to hit the floor!

  5. Richard says:

    Now if she posted a comment, how is she still a lurker?

    And even if she was a lurker, I fail to see how that would be weird. Don’t lurkers outnumber commenters by something like 1000 to 1, so why shouldn’t she want to read your commentary to learn what others are thinking about Canadian politics, even if she doesn’t choose to add to the discussion on your blog. I’d say she’s smart and knows what’s worth reading.

  6. Scott T. Steel says:

    The Green Party seems to lack priorities, and also appears to be short on realistic solutions to the problems and issues facing many Canadians today. I offer 2 examples of the types of behaviour that will lead the Greens pretty well nowhere:

    1) Shortly after the “Climategate” (CRU, East Anglia University) scandal was unfolding, I asked a local Green Party member (Victoria Serda) her views on this matter. Her response was clearly arrogant, and somewhat belittling, along the lines of “You people (meaning me) are all the same, and I’m going to go on saving this planet, etc etc”…………………. Nary a question of mine was addressed, just the usual vapid rants and slogans that radicals are known for.

    2) In the 2008 Federal election, the local Geen candidate (I do not recall his name) was on the air (The Beach 97.9), being interviewed by one of the hosts. He went on to say, in public, that he smoked marijuana in front of his children, and was quite proud of this. Now I have no problem with someone puffing on a joint in their own home, but to go on the public airwaves, representing a registered political party and state such views is clearly an indication that the Greens need to vet their candidates a WEE bit more carefully.

    Scott Steel

    • The other George says:

      With regards to the Climategate fiasco, know what you are talking about Scott. However, it is not just the Green Party who responds to chinks in their Global Warming armour with such belittling responses. The NDP and the Liberals (of which I am a member) do the same thing. It has become a sacred cow that is not up for discussion. In fact, the NDP and Liberals are more likely to entertain discussion of privatization of health care (something I am dead against) than discussing emerging information that threatens the global warming dogma and requires a revisitation of current energy policy.

      • Scott T. Steel says:

        Can you clarify your statement please, George? Are you saying that “climategate” did not occur? And are you of the view that anthropogenic climate change exists, or are you a so-called “climate denier”, as I have been referred to? Sorry, but your response is a bit of an enigma. In my world, there are no “sacred cows”. As for privatization of health care, if done correctly, and only partially, it will be of benefit to the public system.

        • The other George says:

          I thought it would be clear enough that my indicating that there were “chinks in their armour” would indicate that I am of the opinion that the argument that Man is causing Climate Change does not stand up to scientific scrutiny. I am a scientist in my “day job” so I understand and have seen, “dubious science”, publications in refereed journals when the referees and editors are your pals, and how funding drives the research questions (and answers). Climategate did not surprise or shock me. It was more of a confirmation than anything else.

          Now with regards to healthcare Scott, the idea of privatization done “correctly and partially” is a dicey one and one that bears much scrutiny and discussion, with all the think tanks and lawyers being banned from the discussion. I lived in Northern Europe for many years and was the recipient of the mixed Public-Private healthcare model and I was about as impressed with that system as I was with that of the American system, which I was exposed to when I lived there for a number of years. Basically, the Tommy Douglas system still worked the best for me and from my perspective, the general population. However, the discussion needs to take place, among Canadians. Not the usual cadre of think tanks and related “opinion shapers”.

          • Scott T. Steel says:

            Thanks for your response, George. I was reading and re-reading your original response, and perhaps I formed some ambiguities in my own mind that were non-existent. But your first sentence is worded in such a fashion as that it can be taken in various contexts. I’m into semantics here, and I apologize for that. I’m 100% behind your views regarding Climategate and “junk science”. An analogy can be found easily between those scientists who work for Big Pharma, and the cost/use/side effects of Rx drugs which are “reported” by said scientists. As for health care, your idea is quite wise, cost effective and logical that it’s probably not going to be accepted by those in power. Have a good day!

  7. allegra fortissima says:

    She’s trying to scare you, Warren 🙂

  8. dave says:

    I lurk here to find out what a liberal (and a Liberal Party) would represent, and work for in this century.
    More often, I see nit picking of Conservs, Greens and ND’s.
    9And, actually, being negative can get a person and a party quite a bit of traction in our democracy, especially with the tendencies of our mass media.)

    In another century, I earned a living as a public school teacher. One opportunity I was given was to teach a bit of high school socials and history.In a 20th Century World history course, I would divide my students into small groups, and assign them a task – for example, to come up with a sound national agriculture policy for our own dear Canada. My aim was to get them a bit familiar with the some of the ‘isms’ of the 20th Century, so I would assign each group a role : fascist, imperialist, communist, …and so on. The groups that had to speak as communists, anarchist, or fascists had the most fun. They could come up with policies that were easy to grasp, – the sort of thing that could play well on bumper stickers or on media sound bites.
    The groups that found the exercise difficult, were the ones who I assigned as representatives of liberal democracy. They tended to come up with practical policies, but with lots of ifs, maybes and possible modifications depending on what circumstances might bring.
    It strikes me that a centrist political party has much difficulty in defining a hard an fast ‘stance’ that can be reduced to a sales campaign.
    So, besides having a look at what to reflect and what to offer as governance in a century which promises so many combinations and permutations down the road (who’da thunk that something called a Pirate Party could have sprung into being, and attracted so many credible candidates in our past election?), a centrist party has the difficulty of articulating its vision and policy in a media environment which favours the simplistic negative and the even more simplistic ‘fix.’

    Anyway, I’ll keep checking in, and lurking, to see what is cooking way out here in the middle of the road.

  9. Iris Mclean says:

    Lurker is a pretty harsh term. Interested reader might be a little kinder.
    In the meantime I’ll continue to lurk, if that’s OK.

  10. Jan says:

    She’s my MP – she kicked Gary Lunn to the curb, so she’s a saint in my book.

  11. Transplanted Doerite says:

    She’s no looker, but she sure is a lurker!

    (ok, that was completely uncalled for)

  12. james Smith says:

    Perhaps she’s looking for good, free political advice. BTW, sounds like she got some.

  13. jon evan says:

    Well, I lurk likewise to ascertain the current Liberal mindset to see if it has evolved and in what direction! You’re a good sampling Warren!!

    But, as far as a nom de plume well many good reasons people do that and not all are “less intelligent” nor “trolls” (whatever that is! It sounds esp. ugly!), but people like Samuel Clemens have done it and others hence do it for many valid reasons as you know.

  14. Sean says:

    What did Deputy Leader Georges Laraque think of the budget? Does Georges Laraque think we are headed into a structural deficit? Does Georges Laraque think the stimulus package worked? Does Georges Laraque approve of the Auditor General’s report on the G8 / G20?

  15. DL says:

    You better not be too hard on May. I suspect she’ll be a member of the Liberal caucus within the year and probably a candidate for the leadership. Caveat emptor.

  16. JenS says:

    Well, “politically pathetic” beats “politically A-pathetic”, so that’s SOMETHING anyway.

  17. Robert Viera says:

    It sounds to be like Ms. May chose substantive work (the budget) over political theatre (question period). There will be plenty more question periods for Ms. May to participate in, but budgets come but once (or twice) per year. If a leader is supposed make television appearances their priority, then perhaps Ms. May made the wrong choice. It might however be better for our political system if those in the media didn’t give so much importance to the political theatre. I for one would rather party leaders saved their TV appearances for occasions when the had something substantial to say. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t want to see them turn into hermits like Mr. Harper.

  18. Rick T. says:

    She is getting exactly what she wants, publicity and the Media is following all over themseleves to give it the her.

    • Philip says:

      Oh. Is Ms. May spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a CF deployment photo op in the Arctic as well? I would hate to think Harper was the only one living out his Jack Ryan fantasy on our dime. Because that would be kind of sad and pathetic. Oh wait.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Following? Falling all over themselves. Had me confused.

  19. Mike Adamson says:

    It is better to have lurked and lost than never to have lurked at all…and I should know.

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