Local MP Elizabeth May is once again hoping to lead the federal Greens for a second time in her political career, this time as part of a tandem.
May, who stepped down in 2019 after 13 years as party leader, plans to lead the party with Jonathan Pedneault, a 32-year-old former researcher with Human Rights Watch, who has worked extensively abroad, including Sudan and Ukraine. The duo proposes to run the party as co-leaders along a model used by Greens elsewhere.
May, whom voters in Saanich Gulf-Islands first elected in 2011, said she is running again because she wants to do everything possible to help the environment in the face of climate change, one of multiple crises facing Canada.
She pointed specifically to the federal government’s decision to green-light oil drilling off the coast of the Newfoundland days after the release of the latest assessment report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in April 2022.
“In the context of the scientific information that we have, these actions aren’t just reckless or poor choices,” she said. “They border on the criminal.”
May said political realities in Ottawa under the agreement between the governing Liberals and opposition New Democrats mean that the government of Justin Trudeau will not face any pressure. On the other hand, the window to limiting rising temperatures to 1.5 or 2 degrees will have closed before 2025, she added.
While May said she anticipates criticism for the decision to run again the leadership, she added that she needs to do more than what she can currently do as an MP outside leadership.
The May-Pedneault ticket would not be the only of its kind. Anna Keenan of Prince Edward Island and Chad Walcott of Montreal also plan to run as a ticket. This and other elements appear to be part and parcel of a concerted effort by the party to shake up the traditional course of a leadership campaign and generate some positive attention after the leadership of Annamie Paul had drained the finances of the party and shattered its credibility with some commentators suggesting that the party might disappear from the federal scene.
Pedneault readily acknowledged the difficulties, which the party has faced since late 2019. They include the defeat of one MP (Paul Manley) during the last federal election, defection of another to the federal Liberals and a decline in fundraising.
Pedneault said he would focus on getting the party’s house in order under the job-sharing agreement with May, adding that he plans to run in the next federal election in his home province of Quebec.
May said she and Pedneault would be genuine co-equals and their partnership represents the diversity of the party and its grassroots approach.
“Beyond that, moving to leadership is recognition that problems we are facing as not only a party, but also as a country, are much bigger than any single one of us can fix,” said Pedneault.
May later acknowledged that the party’s message departs from what she called ‘a-chicken-in-every-pot’ message typically heard. But she disagreed with suggestions that the party appears on the decline with more populist forces on the rise.
“We offer honesty and leadership and solutions,” said May. “There is a way through this. We can’t afford for any young people who are reading the climate news to give up now.”
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