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Elizabeth May set to join Green Party leadership race, sources say


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Elizabeth May set to join Green Party leadership race, sources say

OTTAWA—Elizabeth May is preparing to run for the federal Green Party leadership, sources say, confirming speculation that has swirled within the party that the former long-time leader would one day try to reclaim the position.

One source with direct knowledge of party affairs told the Star on Thursday that May is collecting required signatures from party members to apply as a candidate in the leadership race ahead of the Aug. 5 deadline.

That source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said May plans to pitch herself as a co-leader with Jonathan Pedneault, a former human rights worker who also intends to run for leader.

Another source who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Star that May is planning to enter the leadership race, which is set to conclude Nov. 19.

Responding to requests for comment, May did not deny she is preparing to run. In an email to the Star, May said she believes the party’s leadership rules mean she can’t “discuss any potential candidates” before approved contenders are announced on Aug. 31.

“Talk then,” she said.

Pedneault declined to comment, and also did not deny planning to run as May’s potential co-leader.

May’s candidacy would send shock waves through the party in the early days of its search for a new leader, as more than a dozen other party members plan to apply as candidates in the contest.

It also comes as the party struggles financially in the wake of months of public and divisive infighting during the leadership of May’s successor, Toronto lawyer Annamie Paul, and since Paul’s resignation.

Some in Paul’s camp during the party infighting last year blamed May for not trying to stop top Green officials from dumping Paul as leader.

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Sources with direct knowledge of party affairs when May resigned as leader in 2019 have also told the Star she was under pressure to step down at the time.

May has always said she stepped down on her own accord.

Although she said on the eve of Paul’s election as leader in 2020 that she might one day return to fill the role, May had since rejected the prospect. As recently as last fall, she wrote in the Star that her future in the party was as a Green MP, and that “it is not appropriate for me to fill a leadership role.”

During May’s 13 years as leader, the federal Greens gained a foothold in Parliament that grew to three seats after the 2019 election. In 2021, they dropped to two — including May’s — after months of turmoil surrounding Paul’s leadership.

The drama saw Paul accuse top party officials of racism and sexism, as well as attempts from the organization’s internal governing body to stage a confidence vote in Paul’s leadership and suspend her party membership. Paul’s detractors accused her of poor communication and leadership skills.

In the months since, the Green Party has reported it continued to lose money every month this year. The party warned in its annual report this month that it could shutter its headquarters in downtown Ottawa and freeze spending to staunch the bleeding.

May has inspired opposition from some Greens. Dimitri Lascaris, the runner-up to Paul in the 2020 leadership race, said he wouldn’t enter this year’s contest in part because he sees May’s continued presence in the party as an obstacle to success. As an “eco-socialist,” Lascaris said the party needs to veer further left, arguing May has always tried to position the party closer to the centre-left.

Alex Tyrrell, the “eco-socialist” leader of the Quebec provincial Greens, planned to run for federal leader this year but was recently expelled from the national party — in part because of his criticism of the party’s oilsands policy under May’s leadership, according to a letter from the party president outlining the case against him.

May was the first Green MP elected to the House of Commons and has held her seat in Saanich—Gulf Islands since 2011.

She was Green leader from 2006 until she stepped down after the 2019 federal election.

Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga

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