Green Party leader makes surprise late campaign stop in Greater Victoria

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul punctuated the end of the federal election campaign Saturday with an unexpected last-minute trip to Victoria to boost B.C. candidates.

This province has a history of electing Greens “who know how to play nicely with others,” Paul told a news conference in Vic West’s Lime Bay Park.

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“People want to send candidates back to Ottawa who are willing to collaborate and co-operate across party lines.”

Paul was joined by Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May and the Green candidates from Victoria, Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke and six mainland ridings.

At the outset of the campaign, local Greens said they didn’t expect to see Paul, who does not have a seat in the House of Commons, campaign outside the Toronto riding in which she is seeking election.

Instead, it is May, who resigned as party leader shortly after the 2019 election, who has been the face of the Greens on the West Coast. Although using a walker or cane while recovering from knee surgery, the 67-year-old has campaigned vigorously, travelling to Nanaimo for MP Paul Manly’s campaign launch and to the Lower Mainland to support candidates there.

Paul herself said she had long wanted to make the trip here, but had been limited by the restrictions of doing so in a pandemic. It was only recently that she ventured beyond Toronto to campaign in Prince Edward Island and the Ottawa and Kitchener areas.

It has been a challenging campaign for the Greens, who are running candidates in only two-thirds of Canada’s ridings. Paul acknowledged that the reports of turmoil within the Greens — there have been challenges to her leadership and the party’s only other MP, New Brunswick’s Jenica Atwin, crossed to the Liberals — “has had an impact on our fortunes.”

But May said the divisions have been overstated and the impression of turmoil does not reflect reality.

Paul used her stop to call for an end to old-growth logging and push for action on Indigenous reconciliation, opioid poisonings and long-term care deaths that gave Canada “the worst record of any wealthy country in the world.”

She also criticized the Liberal climate plan as “snake oil.” She was more restrained when asked about former B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver, a well-known University of Victoria climate scientist who, while praising Paul, has endorsed the Liberals’ climate platform as being more workable and sophisticated than that of the other parties.

“I respectfully disagree with him,” she said.

Paul is the fourth party leader to visit Vancouver Island during the campaign. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an appearance in May’s riding to talk about health care for seniors, while Conservative Erin O’Toole and New Democrat Jagmeet Singh both lent their presence to what is expected to be a close race in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

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