British Columbia

Greens' Elizabeth May speaks out after 'terrible election result'

Former federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May is speaking out on internal party politics after the party's poor performance in last month's election.

May says she remained silent out of respect for Leader Annamie Paul

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul holds a news conference alongside former Green leader Elizabeth May in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. May led the party for more than 13 years. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

After a "terrible election result," Green Party MP and former leader Elizabeth May says she must speak out and clear the record on her federal party's status.

"I knew I'd get more criticism by saying something about what's going on than by staying quiet," said May, who was re-elected in her riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands in the Sept. 20 federal election.

"I feel awful about it. I know this puts me in a bad situation but it's important for Canadians to know that there is a Green Party. It's important for people to know the Green Party exists. We're not going away. We will rebuild."

The Greens, which ran just 252 candidates across Canada's 338 ridings, dropped from 6.5 per cent of the national vote in 2019 to 2.3 per cent of the national vote in the 2021 election. May and one other MP — Mike Morrice from Kitchener Centre — are the only two representatives of the party in Parliament, compared to the three seats it had prior to the election.

May says Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, who announced on Sept. 27 she was stepping down as the leader, hasn't actually officially resigned and still controls party communications.

"Someone needed to explain that the reason they weren't hearing from the Green Party is that the communications are controlled by Annamie Paul," May told CBC News.

May says she had been asked to refrain from speaking about internal party politics, but decided she had to speak out after Lorraine Rekmans, the president of the party's federal council and a member of the Serpent River First Nation, was unable to send out a statement through the party for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation last Thursday.

Annamie Paul announced Sept. 27 she was stepping down as Green Party leader. (Sam Nar/CBC)

"She wanted to make a statement on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and the communications staff informed her, 'We only take instruction from Annamie Paul and you will not be making a statement,'" said May.

However, Victoria Galea, Paul's executive assistant, told CBC News that Rekmans was able to send a letter directed to Green Party members on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Galea said a separate statement from the party on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation was also posted on the Green Party website last Thursday.

CBC reached out to Rekmans for further clarification. Rekmans said she was unable to respond at this time.

Disappointing election result

On Sept. 20, Paul came in fourth place, her third defeat, in the riding of Toronto Centre. Galea said the Green Party leader had been set up to fail and placed a lot of the blame on May's lack of support.

"Every single day, the party has set her up for failure, and that includes the former leader of the party," Galea told CBC News

May denied that she hadn't supported Paul. She said that she had even offered Paul her seat in Saanich-Gulf Islands. 

"I was heavily criticized for not offering it, but I had, in fact, offered it to Annamie. At the time, she said she was not interested in trading seats," May said. 

She said she fundraised for Paul, and the party had more than adequate resources for a national tour. 

"The fact [is] that Annamie Paul as new leader was granted far more resources, far more authority than I ever had," May said.

Galea disputes May's account, including the offer of a seat. 

"The party ultimately provided Mme. Paul with no support, with zero staff, no budget, no National Campaign Manager, and zero dollars sent to Toronto Centre to help with her campaign," she said in an email to CBC News.

May says her focus now is on supporting whoever ends up becoming the next leader of the party and she will not be considering a return to the position. 

"We have a lot of very talented people in the Green Party," she said. "If people turn to me, it'll look like, 'Oh, they had nobody but that poor old lady. And there she goes again.' So I think I want to focus where my energies feel most beneficial."

With files from On The Coast, On The Island