Green Party leadership elections begin

There are six names on the preferential ballot, but four candidates intend to implement the co-leadership model

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OTTAWA — After a disappointing federal election result last year, a series of public scandals over internal disputes and a continued downward trend in fundraising, the federal Green Party is poised to install a new leader – or chiefs.

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Green members can start voting on Saturday in a contest that will culminate with the announcement of a winner on Nov. 19.

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During the six-month race, leadership contestants were quick to recognize the party’s struggles and offered different visions on how to heal wounds, excite supporters and attract new ones. support at the polls.

There are six names on the ranked ballot, but four of the candidates intend to implement a co-leadership model that would see them share the role with another of the candidates if elected.

One of them is a familiar face.

Elizabeth May, the longtime MP from British Columbia who led the party from 2006 to 2019, is seeking a comeback with her running mate Jonathan Pedneault, a human rights researcher from Montreal.

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At a leadership debate this week that drew less than 500 of the party’s roughly 22,000 members, May highlighted her experience and said she left things in great shape when she quit.

“I left when we had our greatest success with three elected MPs, a strong party with a good bank account, and I was sure we had a great succession plan,” she said.

That year, the party elected three members to parliament and won 6.5% of the popular vote – a record 1.2 million votes which, due to their spread, have still not been able to push the Greens bordering on official party status in the House. of the Communes.

In the first election after May’s departure, support fell to 2.3%, the lowest share in 20 years, or about half of what Maxime Bernier’s right-wing offshoot, the People’s Party of Canada , has received.

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Annamie Paul, who became the first black woman to lead a federal party in Canada in 2020, resigned as leader of the Greens shortly after the election. As she walked out, she pointed to party actors who she said were racist and misogynistic.

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May calls for an investigation into the allegations and said mistakes were made on all sides. But she spoke during the debate of a “mismatch” between Paul’s “skills and talents and what a leader of the Green Party should be”. The party needs someone who will “listen to others”, she said.

She sounded an optimistic note about the current slate of candidates. “Unlike (the 2020 leadership race), I have to say this one is fantastic and we are a team. I think we all feel the same sense of solidarity that we all want to see elected to Parliament.

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But although the candidates say the Greens are more trustworthy than other parties on the environment, they face a political spectrum where most politicians have recognized the importance of climate change policy for voters.

It will be an uphill battle to steal the show. The other pair of co-leaders, nonprofit organizers Anna Keenan and Chad Walcott, say their new faces are just what the party needs at a “decisive moment”.

“The ultimate measure we will seek is to increase the percentage of the popular vote for Greens across Canada and to elect more Green parliamentarians in the next election,” Keenan said in an interview.

“These two years have been very difficult, and this leadership race must be a turning point for the party.

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One of the two independent leadership candidates, Simon Gnocchini-Messier, is pushing the party to form a social-democratic coalition.

He said during the debate that the Greens were on the same page about their desire to move forward and focus on policies to tackle the climate emergency.

But the other, longtime party activist, Sarah Gabrielle Baron, acknowledged that the leadership race itself was marked by controversy.

“The big issues haven’t been covered enough,” she said in an interview. “Our organization remains weak, as we do not follow our own constitution. It is a beautiful document. And that’s what my whole platform is based on.

In September, party leader Lorraine Rekmans resigned amid infighting and told members in a letter that “there is no vision of a better future”.

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News followed that the party was considering closing its Ottawa headquarters due to a difficult financial situation, that the Federal Council was considering a pause in the leadership race, and that several other members of its electoral committee were resigning.

In the end, the party decided to narrow the race, canceling plans to hold two rounds of voting starting in October so the candidates could continue campaigning in earnest until mid-November.

Acting leader Amita Kuttner stressed this week that now is the time to “transform”, telling the candidates ahead of the debate: “This is a very important time for us.”

— With files from Marie-Danielle Smith

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