Elizabeth May returns as Green Party leader after sharing the role with Jonathan Pedneault during the election campaign

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dated: 2022-11-20 03:13:02 .

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on September 29, 2022. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

After a disappointing federal election result, infighting that has become increasingly apparent and a downward trend in fundraising, the Greens on Saturday night appointed a familiar face to lead their parliamentary group, but not alone.

Elizabeth May, the longtime BC MP who led the party from 2006 to 2019, won the leadership race in the sixth and final round of voting by 4,666 votes. She held the lead from the start, but Anna Keenan held a firm second place throughout.

May touted a joint ticket with Jonathan Pedneault, a 32-year-old crisis management expert who has been based in Montreal and investigates abuses in war zones including Afghanistan.

They ran separate campaigns under current rules, but Pedneault will be second in line. May said the two would seek to amend the party’s charter to allow for an official co-leadership model.

“It means a different leadership model that emphasizes that the Greens do things differently,” May said in her victory speech on Saturday night, after insisting that other candidates, not just Pedneault, join her on stage.

“We don’t have a top-down leader or boss telling people what to say or where to go or how to vote,” she said.

May, 68, highlighted her experiences during the leadership campaign, claiming she left things in excellent shape when she stepped down after the 2019 federal election.

In those elections, three members were elected to parliament, and the Green candidates received 6.5 percent of the vote, although this was still not enough for the party’s official status in the Lower House.

In the 2021 election, which was held when former leader Annamie Paul’s turbulent tenure had already hit new lows, support fell to 2.3 percent of the vote. May retained her seat and Mike Morrice was elected in Ontario. Paul finished fourth in the Toronto Center bid.

“Three years ago I resigned as leader convinced that the party is strong and with three elected MPs ready to see changes,” said May in her victory speech.

“I think we need changes. I absolutely hear voices that want change, that want to see younger leadership, that want to see a different path as the party moves forward.”

May entered the race to rebuild the party. Many expect her to try to shore up her support, including trying to recruit NDP voters disillusioned with Jagmeet Singh’s leadership.

“It was a bit difficult, but we’re over it now,” May said in remarks before the results were announced. “And we can safely say that after the end of this night, regardless of the outcome, we are united. We work together.”

May and Pedneault will try to argue that the Greens are more credible than other parties on environmental issues. While most politicians of all stripes now recognize climate change as an issue close to voters’ hearts, May and Pedneault argue that other parties’ policies do not go far enough in curbing emissions and addressing the environmental crisis.

“We are the only relevant party,” she said on Saturday.

Greens members began voting Nov. 12, and results began trickling in to party members gathered at a downtown Ottawa hotel shortly after 8 p.m.

About 22,000 members were eligible to vote, but just over 8,000 voted in the first round. May admitted she was “disappointed” with the response to a reporter’s question on Saturday.

“But I have to say, given the climate in which this campaign was conducted, and I think all of us as candidates felt the wind at our backs, it’s a respectable demonstration of our members’ support and commitment to this party,” May added.

During the six-month race, the leadership candidates were quick to acknowledge the party’s struggles and offer different visions of how to heal wounds, excite supporters and win new electoral support.

Paul, who will become the first black woman to lead a federal party in Canada in 2020, resigned as leader of the Green Party shortly after last year’s election. There was a previous attempt to oust Paul as leader, rife with accusations she called “racist” and “sexist”.

Paul described her time as leader as “the worst time” of her life.

During the November 9 debate, May spoke of a “mismatch” between Paul’s “skills and talents and what a Green Party leader should be”. The party needs someone who “listens to others”, she said at the debate.

Amita Kuttner, an astrophysicist who was elected interim leader of the Green Party after Paul’s departure, became the first transgender leader of a major federal political party in Canada.

Kuttner, who also describes herself as non-binary, has not sought permanent leadership, but has spoken throughout her tenure about the need for party unity.

Several candidates spoke about the need to be less divisive during the leadership campaign, including Keenan and her opponent, Chad Walcott.

Another co-host couple claimed that their fresh faces were just what the party needed at the time of need or not.

Simon Gnocchini-Messier and Sarah Gabrielle Baron, who both ran unsuccessfully for the party in the previous election, rounded out the election.

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Elizabeth May returns as Green Party leader after sharing the role with Jonathan Pedneault during the election campaign

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