Elizabeth May ponders future after Green Party's support for Israeli boycott policy
May calls Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement 'polarizing' and says she opposes it
Elizabeth May says she is questioning whether she can continue in her role as leader of the Green Party, after its members voted in favour of a resolution supporting sanctions against Israel, despite her own opposition to it.
The Greens became Canada's first federal party to endorse the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement during the party's biennial convention in Ottawa over the weekend. Some Canadian Jewish groups denounced the Green Party for supporting a boycott policy against Israel. The House of Commons condemned the movement in February.
We had a very abbreviated debate and a very quick vote that left me breathless.- Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands
"I'm struggling with the question of whether I should continue as leader or not, quite honestly," May told Rosemary Barton in an interview with The National.
"I'm quite certain most of our members don't support this policy, but weren't fully engaged in the consensus building process we normally would have had," she said.
"So if I can't find a way to bring that back and have the members review it with a consensus decision-making process, then I have to profoundly question whether I can continue as leader and that's obviously heart-breaking."
May added that a review could be possible if she stepped down as leader.
"One way to bring it forward is under our constitution if I step down, then we have to have a leadership convention sooner and they could deal with this issue," she said. "I mean there are other options that we are looking at that I'm trying to figure out if there's a way that… we can review this through some other mechanism."
"I don't have great answers for you now because I'm struggling with this," she said.
May had earlier said Tuesday morning in an interview with CBC Radio's On the Island she would take the next week off and "doing a lot of reflecting."
"It's only been since the convention that I've been wondering what's the best way to get this position reversed so that in the next election Green Party candidates across Canada are not facing a complete distraction of an issue," she told CBC's Khalil Akhtar.
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May said she didn't get a chance to explain why she is opposed to the BDS movement, which she sees as "a polarizing campaign."
"We had a very abbreviated debate and a very quick vote that left me breathless, because we actually never really properly debated this motion. I oppose it entirely, but it carried on the floor, although not overwhelmingly."
The Green leader said while she doesn't "condemn" the members who put forward the motion — some of whom are "friends" — but she added "the process was inadequate for a resolution this controversial."
BDS 'a polarizing movement'
May told Barton she was disappointed in the minimal debate over supporting the boycott movement and that the party didn't "use our normal decision-making process in seeking consensus."
"It doesn't mean that I don't want to be free to criticize what's happening in the Middle East and to support Palestinian rights, I just think it's a large-scale error for a party as credible as the Green Party to attach itself to a movement that is outside of us and attracts all kinds of people, some wonderful worthy people like the United Church and the Mennonites, and other people over whom we'll have no control but we'll be lumped in with them," said May.
May, who is the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, said she would continue to represent her constituents until the next federal election in 2019.
"If there's ever a place where I decide that being leader of the Green Party doesn't help me do the best job I can do for the constituents of Saanich-Gulf Islands then I know where my allegiance lies — and it's with Saanich-Gulf Islands."
May, who is a member of a special parliamentary committee tasked with proposing changes to Canada's electoral system, said she couldn't allow this issue to distract her from "promoting fair voting" or any other of her party's priorities.
"To what extent is this motion, so distracting and the fact that I oppose it, inconsistent with my role as leader? Those are the things I have to consider," she said.
May received 93.6 per cent support from party members during a leadership review in April.