Nova Scotia

Green Party's new interim leader focused on prepping for the next election

Jo-Ann Roberts of Halifax says she'll focus on preparing the party for the next federal election after Elizabeth May announced Monday that she's stepping down.

Jo-Ann Roberts of Halifax has taken over the leadership role after Elizabeth May stepped down

Former journalist Jo-Ann Roberts is the Green Party's interim leader. (Handout)

The Green Party's new interim leader says she can't replace Elizabeth May, but Jo-Ann Roberts of Halifax hopes to capitalize on the momentum the long-time leader gained in last month's federal election. 

Elizabeth May announced earlier Monday that she's stepping down as leader after more than 13 years in the role. She will continue to represent her B.C. constituents as a member of Parliament, but said she promised her daughter that October's federal election would be her last as leader. 

Roberts is a former CBC Radio host who twice ran unsuccessfully for a Green Party seat — in Victoria in 2015 and in Halifax last month, where she placed third. 

She told CBC's Mainstreet:Halifax that she was surprised by May's sudden departure, but that it comes at a good time for the Greens.

"We've had such momentum built through this election. We've seen climate move to the front burner on the political agenda. I think she feels the timing is right," Roberts said. 

"She's always been politically savvy and knows that we may be facing an election under a minority government in under two years so now's the time. Let's get a new leader in place so that that person is ready to go."

May 'one of a kind'

The 2019 election was the party's second-best showing under May's leadership. The Greens now have three seats in Ottawa, including Paul Manly in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Jenica Atwin ​​​in Fredericton.

Roberts said she could never replace May, who has become synonymous with the Green Party in her more than a decade as leader. 

"You can be a leader of the same party and maybe offer something different but she really is one of a kind," Roberts said. 

The 2019 election was the party's second-best showing under May's leadership. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

She said her focus will be on finding the party's new permanent leader and getting ridings across the country ready for another election. 

"I'm hoping that I will do a bit of a Canadian tour encouraging these ridings to be ready, to be looking at who their candidate will be — whether it's the same candidate running again — to study their lessons learned and be ready to run again because I do think the momentum is there," said Roberts.  

Search for new leader

Because Roberts has been named interim leader, she won't be in the running for the permanent position. But she believes the party will have no trouble finding someone to fill the role. 

"This will not be a coronation for one candidate, I can tell you that," she said. "The party is anxious to have a vigorous campaign, and to really give party members a chance to talk about what the party should be looking like going forward."

May told reporters on Monday that even though she's stepping down as leader, she's not going anywhere. 

"I'm not stopping my work," May said. "The climate crisis is as critical as ever, so I'm not going away as part of a political force and a political movement in this country to get real climate action."

The new Green Party leader will be chosen on Oct. 4, 2020 at a party convention in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

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With files from CBC's Mainstreet

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