Politics

Elizabeth May wins Green Party of Canada leadership, set to co-lead with Jonathan Pedneault

Elizabeth May has won the Green Party of Canada's leadership race, and will, along with co-candidate Jonathan Pedneault, again lead the party she helmed for 13 years.

May, the party's first elected MP, led the party between 2006 and 2019

Elizabeth May and co-leadership candidate Jonathan Pedneault arrive on stage as May is elected the new leader of the Green Party in Ottawa on Saturday, November 19, 2022. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

Elizabeth May will once more lead the Green Party of Canada, along with Jonathan Pedneault, after her victory in the party's leadership race on Saturday.

May and Pedneault have promised to helm the party under a co-leadership model, which will require an amendment to the party's constitution. For now, Pedneault will serve as deputy leader, according to the joint ticket's platform.

"It's difficult to put into words what it means to take the stage as the next leader of the Green Party of Canada," May said.

She said it was a bit of "déjà vu," but Pedneault's presence was a major difference. May acknowledged that there was a desire in the party for change, and she hoped that the co-leadership with Pedneault, 32, would combine experience and youth.

Pedneault, who has not held elected office, has worked as a journalist and an activist, including with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Just over 8,000 people voted in the leadership election, representing a turnout of about 36 per cent of the 22,000 eligible to cast ballots.

That represents a substantial decline from the 2020 race won by Annamie Paul, in which almost 24,000 people voted, with a turnout of 69 per cent.

May defeated another joint ticket, made up of Anna Keenan and Chad Walcott, and two individual candidates, Sarah Gabrielle Baron and Simon Gnocchini-Messier.

May, 68, led the party from 2006 to 2019, breaking through as its first elected MP in 2011, and expanding the party's holdings to three seats in 2019 and more than one million votes. But the Greens suffered in the 2021 election, earning just under 400,000 votes.

Pedneault and May hold a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 29. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

May struck a positive tone in the leadership race, inviting the other candidates up to the stage for her speech.

"We're a team," she said.

May also made the case for the co-leader model, but noted that members would have the final say. Interim leader Amita Kuttner, meanwhile, expressed some uncertainty about how a potential shift to the co-leader model would actually be implemented.

Unofficial co-leader acknowledges party difficulties

The Green Party has been embroiled in internal disputes and fought the 2021 election facing severe fundraising challenges. The party continues to face financial struggles and has had to scramble after the resignation of the former party president, Lorraine Rekmans.

It has been reeling since acrimonious divisions over former leader Annamie Paul, who described her time as leader as "the worst period in my life" in many respects.

Some party members had been critical of Paul's leadership style and blamed her for MP Jenica Atwin's defection to the Liberals earlier that year. At the time, Paul said accusations against her were driven by racism and sexism.

Co-leader Pedneault also spoke after the announcement was made. He acknowledged the difficulties the party faces but argued that the Greens had a path to growth.

"The odds do appear to be against us," Pedneault said.

But "Canada is a place where small can mean mighty, where small can be smart and overtake the powerful interests," he said.

WATCH | May ran as part of a 2-person team: 

Elizabeth May back at helm of Green Party

3 months ago
Duration 2:02
Elizabeth May will once again be at the helm of the Green Party of Canada under a co-leadership model with Jonathan Pedneault. But her return to the leadership role comes as the party searches for relevance and a path forward.

"We're the party for the families that want to spend more time with their loved ones. We're the party for those that think billionaires should not exist. We're the party for those that believe strongly that this planet needs protecting."

May also sketched out a portrait of the Greens as "the only relevant party" in a world fighting climate change — and as one that could offer a positive message to Canadians.

"We are going to be a party that earns the trust and faith of Canadians and before the next election gives Canadians an option that they can vote for with enthusiasm, instead of once again going to the polls and holding their nose and voting for someone they don't particularly like in hopes of keeping someone else out," May said.

She urged those who may have left the party, or simply let memberships lapse, to rejoin the Greens and help stabilize it.

"We're rebuilding the party and it is a team effort — everybody on board."

May said one of her first actions would be to bring the various parts of the party together at a retreat to help build trust and cohesion within the party.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christian Paas-Lang covers federal politics for CBC News in Ottawa as an associate producer with The House and a digital writer with CBC Politics. You can reach him at christian.paas-lang@cbc.ca.

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