May launches bid to reclaim Green leadership, says party has been in disarray

OTTAWA – Elizabeth May launched her bid to reclaim the leadership of the federal Green Party on Wednesday saying she wanted to rebuild the party and turn it into an influential political force, including on fighting climate change.

May, who quit as leader of the Greens in 2019, is running on a joint ticket with Jonathan Pedneault, an expert on crisis situations who has investigated abuses in war zones including Afghanistan.

Launching their campaign on Wednesday in Sidney, B.C., each pledged to appoint the other as deputy leader if they are announced as the winner, and both promised to get co-leadership enshrined in the party’s constitution.

May, one of two Green MPs sitting in the House of Commons, said the party “has been in disarray, and I bear some responsibility for this.”

“I have made mistakes and I apologize for them. The past two years have been hard on all of us,” she said.

Only two MPs representing the party won in the last federal election – May on Vancouver Island and Mike Morrice in Kitchener, Ont. – after a campaign beset by infighting and sniping at Annamie Paul, May’s successor as leader.

Paul quit after the election, saying the experience had been one of the worst in her life.

Amita Kuttner, an astrophysicist from Vancouver, took on the role as interim leader with a mission to “heal” the party.

They said the party still had work to do to “get its act together internally” and should be supportive of its MPs and next leader.

“To prove we are a serious party ready to govern, we must get our act together internally and align with our own values,” they said. “This requires good governance, functioning operations, and the leader and MPs being fully supported to do their jobs.”

Pedneault said he would take on the role of growing the party through fundraising and membership drives, and said he would not be “looking back.”

“The leadership race will be an attempt to show that the colour green is a positive colour,” he said.

He said he does not feel eclipsed by May, a well-established figure in Canadian politics, or “feel like a junior partner at all.”

“We are learning from each other,” he said in a joint interview with May.

The MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands said she was persuaded to run for the leadership in April when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produced a report that said it was a “now or never” moment to stave off climate disaster.

She said being leader of the party, rather than just an MP, would give her voice more resonance when she speaks about the urgency of cutting emissions and other environmental issues.

May said the time is right for the Greens to grow as a parliamentary force. She said she hoped that “other MPs with concerns” would consider crossing the floor to join them.

Her remarks will be interpreted as a thinly veiled invitation to Jenica Atwin, the first Green MP elected outside of B.C., to rejoin the Green Party. Atwin, who represents Fredericton, N.B., crossed the floor to the Liberals last year and was critical of Paul’s leadership.

May said the Greens were also a natural choice for NDP voters disenchanted by Jagmeet Singh’s confidence and supply pact with Trudeau.

The NDP pledged to support the Liberal minority government on key votes such as federal budgets until 2025, in return for action on policies including dental care.

May said the NDP-Liberal pact is an “opportunity for us electorally.”

She said she got the idea of co-leadership from other Green parties around the world, including in Europe. The model would show that for the Greens, the party leader is not a “boss” or “dictator,” she said, and “the highest authority is our members at the grassroots level.”

Community organizers Anna Keenan and Chad Walcott also joined the race on a joint ticket, saying people were feeling cynical about Canadian politics.

In their launch video, they said the time is right for a new era in Canadian politics. “Can we not imagine a world beyond capitalism? We think we can,” Walcott said.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron, who ran as an Independent against former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole in last year’s election, and Simon Gnocchini-Messier, a federal public servant who ran for the Greens in Hull-Aylmer, Que. are both running on individual platforms.

Baron said “fear-based thinking is a spiral that can take the human family to some pretty dark places.”

“Greens do not think that way. Greens bring joy to everything we do,” she said, adding that as leader she would stand against nuclear devices in all forms.

Gnocchini-Messier said it was time for the Greens “to return to our roots.”

The Green Party membership will use a ranked ballot system to choose the new leader in two rounds of voting this October and November.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2022.