Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mike Nagy: Green with anticipation

Everything about Mike Nagy is saying “chill” today. The Green Party candidate has just come from John Galt Day festivities, including a couple of hours of canoe-related activities in the river. His t-shirt says “Be Cool” and he kicks back in his campaign office with his feet up. Is the perpetual also-ran getting complacent? Not actually, Nagy’s finally waging the campaign he’s always wanted to.

“Since we’ve been on hold for two years, its given us time to plan,” says Nagy, who hasn’t been able to plan more than a few months ahead for the last few years out of his desire to throw himself into this campaign full time. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons from the other campaigns and that means we’ve become very organized and disciplined. And with that, it’s attracted some very skilled people.”

But Nagy’s third go on the ballot was never an assured thing. Green support has been growing steadily in Guelph over the last decade on both federal and provincial levels. But it was Ben Polley’s third place victory, garnering 20 per cent of the vote, in last October’s Provincial election that finally swayed Nagy in favour of running. That combined with the prospect of a by-election rather than fighting a national campaign locally, got him excited with the real prospect of a Party breakthrough. “With this election the enthusiasm is high because they can taste a win and they know that one [Green MP] can lead to five or ten”

Unfortunately, that victory will have to come without the help of the Greens’ biggest base of support: students, many of won’t be able to vote on September 8th due to Elections Canada rules regarding by-elections. Nagy says he’s disappointed, but regardless of the fact that its summer vacation, the Greens reached their goal in total number of volunteers. Now they’re focused on doubling that number, according to Nagy, who adds that even his main campaign staff, from campaign manager down, are volunteers.

Much of the growing support for Green is attributed to increased concern generally about the environment. Nagy explains that a lot of this has to do with the fact that people are coming to see the correlation between the environment and a host of other issues; from the economy to international relations. “Green’s believe in their vote,” he adds. “It’s not something that they take for granted or randomly do. A lot people go through the colour spectrum, land on the green, and that’s where they’re going to stay for a very long time.”

That’s something Nagy can understand first hand. During his youth and years in university he was a staunch Liberal. He had friends and family working in the party and even got Christmas cards from Pierre Trudeau. Nagy says that it’s always been his dream to go the House of Commons as an MP, but his dream has since been amended to get there under the Green banner. “I might have taken the easier route and gone through one of the three major parties, but none of them spoke to me,” he adds.

Victory isn’t a foregone conclusion though, and Nagy knows that this is going to be a hard fought race for all candidates and their parties, but that doesn’t mean he’s not looking towards the future. The Green candidate says that, if elected, he wants to be an honest broker in Parliament and help break the partisan deadlock. “The Green Party does not have all the answers, but we have a lot of new answers,” explains Nagy. “A lot of the other parties have answers and we want to work with them to. But right now, a lot of good answers are stalled. They’re locked up in vacuums and vaults. It’s about who yells loudest in Question Period.”

Nagy says that he knows some people see his idealism as naïve, but that attitude has spurned him to prove that he can do more. It’s what’s led him here: the cusp of a potential Green seat in government – the first in North America. “This is the hard path, but it’s a rewarding path. I’ve made so many friends in many different communities out of this over the last couple of years, friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life. People have humbled me with their commitment and their love and support. If I win, I’ll do everything to not let them down.”

Come back next week for the final candidate profile and head over to my blog at for daily election coverage.

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