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Elizabeth May to vie for Green Party leadership with running mate Jonathan Pedneault

Elizabeth May was federal Green Party leader from 2006 to 2019.
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Elizabeth May and Jonathan Pedneault talk to reporters after announcing they will run for Green Party of Canada co-leadership, at the Sidney Pier on Wednesday. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Green MP Elizabeth May launched a campaign Wednesday for joint-leadership of the federal Green Party with Jonathan Pedneault as her running mate.

They made the announcement at the Sidney Pier in May’s Saanich-Gulf Islands riding.

May said she’s been pulled back into seeking a leadership role by the urgency of the climate-change projections released in April, the “weak” response of the NDP-supported Liberals, a sense of duty to re-introduce “calmer voices in the national discourse” and concerns about Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Polievere.

“Yes, the climate crisis is my number one compelling reason, but we have to be able to talk to each other, and I fear that we’re losing that in this country,” said May.

May and Pedneault are two of six candidates. The others are Sarah Gabrielle Baron, who ran as an Independent against former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole in Durham, Ont., in last year’s federal election; Simon Gnocchini-Messier, a federal public servant who ran for the Greens in Hull-Aylmer, Que.; Chad Walcott, a community engagement expert; and Anna Keenan, a professional community organizer.

The deadline to sign up for Green Party memberships before the leadership vote is Sept. 14. The first round culminates in a vote on Oct. 14 that will see four candidates proceed. Green Party members will pick a leader, or leaders, on Nov. 19.

If chosen as co-leaders by the party, both May and Pedneault would be on the election campaign trail together and their platform issues would include the climate crisis — pushing for cancellation of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and a ban on fracking before 2025. When it comes to leaders debates requiring one person to step up, the membership will decide that when election time comes, said Pedneault.

May, who served as Green Party leader from 2006 to 2019, said a co-leadership approach is the ideal way to do it this time around.

“This is a true partnership of equals,” said May. “It’s an attempt to have a leadership model that better reflects the values of the Green Party of Canada” and one that will better serve Canadian democracy.

“Jonathan and I are here running together … because we believe that the Green Party is needed more than ever,” said May. “We are here because we know that together we can make a bigger difference than either one of us on our own, or any other one person on their own.”

May and Pedneault are optimistic that they can rebuild the party’s finances and membership, and quell internal squabbles. “I think we’re going to be on the upswing very soon,” said May.

A year after Annamie Paul was chosen Green Party leader, making history as the first Jewish and Black person elected to lead a major federal party, she resigned in November 2021 after her poor showing in her Toronto Centre riding in the federal election. She called her time as leader the “worst period in my life.” The party dropped to two seats from three and its share of the popular vote dropped to 2.3 per cent from a record high of 6.8. Amita Kuttner has served as interim party leader since Nov. 24.

This time around, May, 68, said she’s learned from her mistakes and found in Pedneault, a 32-year-old human rights worker from Quebec, “an extraordinarily thoughtful and wise young man.” She described her leaning towards optimism and Pedneault’s self-described skepticism as a good combination.

May, who married John Kidder in Victoria on Earth Day in April 2019, had promised her daughter Victoria Cate Inver, who is finishing her PhD at the University of B.C. and is a teacher in the Burnaby school district, that she would retire from the leadership to focus on her health. May also wanted to spend more time with her family.

“She has forgiven me and she likes co-leadership and she made me promise that I would take more time off than I did as leader last time,” said May.

Kidder was at the launch, saying he fully supported his wife jumping back into action.

“We share a love and we share a life together but we also share a pretty serious passion for Canadian politics and I’m as distressed as she is at the state of affairs in the country and around the world,” said Kidder.

“We’re both elders now and there’s really not much left for us to do with the remaining years of our life except fight as hard as we can to try and bring things back from the brink in so many different areas, so I’m fully supportive.”

May has stepped down as Green Party parliamentary leader during the leadership race.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com