David Fraser, The Canadian Press
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2022 3:46 pm EST
Last updated Saturday, November 19, 2022 8:42 pm EST
OTTAWA – After a disappointing federal election result, exposed internal conflicts and a downward trend in fundraising, the federal Green Party named a familiar face as its leader on Saturday night, though she won’t do it alone.
Elizabeth May, the longtime British Columbia member of Parliament who led the party from 2006 to 2019, won the leadership race on the sixth and final ranked ballot with 4,666 votes. She held the lead from the start, but Anna Keenan held on for a solid second place throughout.
May campaigned on a joint ticket with Jonathan Pedneault, a 32-year-old crisis expert who has investigated abuses in war zones, including Afghanistan, from Montreal.
They ran separate campaigns, as current rules require, but Pedneault will be the deputy leader. May said the two will seek to amend the party’s constitution to allow for an official co-leadership model.
“It means a different model of leadership that emphasizes that the Greens do things differently,” May said in her victory speech on Saturday night, after insisting that the other candidates, not just Pedneault, join her. on the stage.
“We don’t have a top-down leader or boss telling people what to say, where to go or how to vote,” he said.
May, 68, highlighted her experience throughout the leadership campaign, arguing that she left things in excellent shape when she resigned after the 2019 federal election.
In that election, three members were elected to Parliament and the Green candidates received 6.5 percent of the popular vote, though still not enough to achieve official party status in the House of Commons.
In the 2021 election, held when former leader Annamie Paul’s tumultuous tenure had already reached new heights, support plummeted to 2.3% of the popular vote. May kept her seat and Mike Morrice was elected in Ontario. Paul placed fourth in the bid for the Toronto Centre.
“Three years ago I stepped down as leader confident that the party was strong and ready with three elected MPs to see change,” May said in her victory speech.
“I think we need a change. I absolutely hear the voices that want change that want to see younger leadership that want to see a different shape as the game progresses.”
May entered the race wanting to rebuild the match. Many expect her to try to build support for her, including trying to recruit NDP voters disenchanted with Jagmeet Singh’s leadership.
“It’s been a bit difficult, but now we’re out,” May said in comments before the results were announced. “And we can confidently say that when tonight is over we will be united no matter the outcome. We are working together.”
May and Pedneault will seek to assert that the Greens are more trustworthy than other parties in the environment. While most politicians of any stripe now recognize climate change as an issue that voters care about, May and Pedneault argue that the policies of other parties are not enough to reduce emissions and combat the environmental crisis.
“We are the only relevant party,” he said on Saturday.
Green members began casting their ballots on November 12, with results beginning to trickle down to party members gathered in a downtown Ottawa hotel shortly after 8 p.m.
Approximately 22,000 members were eligible to vote, but only slightly more than 8,000 voted on the first ballot. May acknowledged being “disappointed” by her participation when asked by a reporter on Saturday.
“But I have to say that given the climate this campaign has run in, and I think all the candidates felt the headwinds, it is a respectable show of support from our membership and their commitment to this party,” May added.
Over the course of the six-month race, leadership hopefuls were quick to acknowledge the party’s struggles and offered differing views on how to heal wounds, enthuse supporters and attract new support at the polls.
Paul, who became the first black woman to lead a federal party in Canada in 2020, stepped down as leader of the Greens shortly after last year’s election. There was an earlier movement to oust Paul as leader, plagued by accusations she described as “racist” and “sexist.”
Paul has described his time as leader as “the worst period” of his life.
May spoke during a debate on November 9 about a “mismatch” between Paul’s “skills and talents and what a Green Party leader should be.” The party needs someone who “listens to other people,” she said in the debate.
Amita Kuttner, an astrophysicist chosen to be interim green leader after Paul left the job, became the first transgender leader of a major federal political party in Canada.
Kuttner, who also identifies as non-binary, did not seek permanent leadership but did speak out about the need for party unity during his tenure.
Several of the candidates spoke about the need for a smaller division during the leadership campaign, including Keenan and his running mate Chad Walcott.
The other co-leadership pair had argued that their fresh faces are just what the party needs at a “decisive moment”.
Simon Gnocchini-Messier and Sarah Gabrielle Baron, who both ran unsuccessfully for the party in past elections, filled out the ballot.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 19, 2022.