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? No, actually: Nagy’s finally waging the campaign he’s always wanted to.
“Since we’ve been on hold for two years, it’s 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. (He also added that “You have volunteers and staff that want to plan their lives too, it’s not just the candidate’s 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.” That includes the person that gave Nagy's campaign their near-perfect location on the corner of Gordon and Wellington. Nagy says that it shows that they are running to win, that they mean business.
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. He added that a victory of 10 per cent, it would have been a different decision, "But if you can get 20 per cent in a provincial general election, that means we can probably do better in a by-election federally.” 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 10.”
On fighting a nation campaign, Nagy pointed out that in the last general, Federal election, the Greens got $2 million on national campaign as compared to the $26 million the Big three spent just on TV ads; 13 times more than the entire Green national budget. Things are different in the by-election though, “Everybody’s on, I wouldn’t say equal footing, but our goal will be to beat them.”
There's another bonus to waging a by-election according to Nagy. “The main icing on the cake is that people know in this campaign that they can actually vote for the Green Part, break their tradition just for once, and know that its not going to bring down the government, know that it’s not going to change the power, and they can be part of history to put a Green in Parliament.”
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 8 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.
(The exact quote: “He have people from head office coming in every once in a while helping, but my campaign manager’s a volunteer, my financial officer’s a volunteer, my office manager’s a volunteer, so it’s not a paid campaign.”)
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. “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, and nature always bats last,” he says pointing to the rise in natural disasters. It's evidence, Nagy says, that a lot of our problems in this world stems from a deficit of resources. “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.” Nagy noted that this is usually because they've been let down by the other main parties.
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. "You have these three other (national) parties but they’re not working together. They’re not listening, they’re confrontational, and they’re partisan. And Green’s having no baggage in Parliament, we’re the [ones] that can break the communication gap” “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 too. 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.”
If that sounds like a big job, you're right and Nagy agrees. But he says that running as a Green Party candidate has given the capability to handle any task no matter the size. “Being a Green naturally, we’re use to working with very little and having to work extra hard and that means speaking longer and going to more events because you don’t have the advertising and it means a lot of patience and determination.” He also says the he's extremely patient with dialogue, with good listening, negotiation and facilitation skills honed from not just years of campaigning, but his professional background in sales & marketing, managing and business development and staff management.
“Something that my father said several years ago really stuck with me," explains Nagy. "The idea of the opposition is to denounce bad legislation and support good legislation, and all they do now is yell and denounce everything. [...] The Green vision is to go down a new sustainable path for
Nagy says that he knows some people see his idealism as naïve, but that attitude has spurred him to prove that he can do more. “I’m determined. When Nagy says he’s going to do something he does it. And I know my limits. If I know I can’t do it I’ll say, ‘Look, I will do it but I can’t get to it for X-number of months. I don’t like breaking people’s hearts or expectations.” It’s what’s led him here: the allure 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.”
Nagy says that as soon as he’s elected, he’s going to reverse campaign and start knocking on doors to see what people want him to take to Ottawa. The idea is to get a larger picture of goals within the community, take he can take back to Parliament as an agenda. People will know his values, he says adding, but at that point it will just be a matter of getting into specifics.
As the website says, “Vote for the party your children want you to vote for.”