Green leadership candidate wants the vote opened to all Canadians

A candidate running to become Canada's next federal Green Party leader said he wants to see the voting opened up to all Canadians.

Candidates also worry the party might set the entrance fee too high

A supporter holds a sign for the Green Party of Canada before a discussion on climate with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in Toronto, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

A candidate running to become Canada's next federal Green Party leader said he wants to see the voting opened up to all Canadians.

David Merner, one of the first to declare, said he'd like to see a leadership contest that allows all Canadians to vote — not just party members.

"My view is that we should open up the leadership race voting to any Canadian who wants to vote in it," Merner said. "I think we should really make it a national race by allowing all Canadians to vote without having to buy a Green Party membership."

During the 2013 leadership race that elected Justin Trudeau, the Liberals opened up voting to Canadians who didn't hold paid party memberships, weren't affiliated with other parties and pledged support for the Grits.

Merner is a former-Liberal-turned-Green candidate for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, and said he would like to see something similar. The Greens have not yet finalized the rules for the leadership race.

Those rules, interim party leader Jo-Ann Roberts said, will be made public on Feb. 3. Greens will elect their new leader in Charlottetown, P.E.I. in October.

Elizabeth May stepped down from the leadership in November after 13 years on the job. She remains the party's parliamentary leader.

In the future, Roberts said, the Green Party might be open to expanding the vote, but it's not likely to do so for the 2020 leadership race. 

"It's not the direction we've been going in," Roberts said. "We believe that there is something to be said in a very grassroots member-driven party that the members should be choosing the leader."

Candidates want to keep the fee low

Julie Tremblay-Cloutier, the other officially declared candidate, said she isn't convinced the Greens need to open up voting to non-members.

But she and Merner agree the leadership race registration fee — which has not yet been announced — should be as low as possible to attract a diverse array of candidates who might not have deep pockets or fundraising networks.

"I really believe that the more ideas we have, the more that the thinking is elevated. The more, the merrier," said Tremblay-Cloutier, who ran for the party in 2019 in Mirabel, Que. "It should be as low as possible, so as many people as possible can get into the race."

Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May and leadership candidate David Merner in Victoria, B.C., on October 3, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The last time the Greens had a leadership race in 2006, candidates paid a $1,000 entrance fee. The party's provincial cousins, the B.C.Greens, are also looking for a new leader and contenders are expected to pay $16,000 to enter the race.

Roberts, interim party leader, said she isn't ready to announce the fee yet but insisted it will be "accessible and fair."

Aside from the confirmed candidates, two others have told CBC they'll be making up their minds soon: Quebec Green Party Leader Alex Tyrrell and his justice critic Dimitri Lascaris.

Newly elected Green MPs Jenica Atwin and Paul Manly have both said they're passing on the leadership race to focus on being effective parliamentarians.


David Thurton

Senior reporter

David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.

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