Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has extended the tradition of a “leader’s courtesy” to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, offering not to run a Green candidate against him in a Burnaby byelection.
“It’s the right thing to do that the Greens not run a candidate in Burnaby South,” May said on Thursday.
Parliamentary democracy is stronger when traditions are respected and civil debate supplants partisan bickering, she said.
“In that spirit of trying to do politics differently, trying to express collaboration and work across party lines, and to respect our Parliament in the deepest form of respect — respect for traditions and unwritten rules — it’s in that sprit that the Green Party of Canada will not be running a candidate in the byelection of Burnaby South,” said May.
In the 2015 federal election, the Green candidate had 1,306 votes, well behind the 16,094 for the winner, Kennedy Stewart of the New Democrats.
Stewart is resigning on Sept. 14, when he will officially file as a Vancouver mayoral candidate.
Singh, 39, the party leader since October, does not have a seat in the House of Commons. He has not lived in B.C., but said as he announced his run for the Burnaby seat that he would move there if he wins.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not announced a date for the byelection.
May said the Greens are not endorsing the NDP candidate, and said the Liberals and Conservatives shouldn’t run a candidate either.
“There’s been speculation they may have a rough time winning the seat, but our position isn’t one of expressing a preference other than that the New Democratic Party should have its leader in Parliament — that’s our tradition, that’s our democracy,” said May. “I certainly hope he will take the seat, not because I prefer one party over the other but solely because he is their party leader.”
May said no matter what the politician’s political stripe or stand — if the politician were a Conservative or in favour of the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion or against pharmacare — she would not oppose a leader seeking a seat in a byelection.
Debates on policy should happen in the House of Commons, she said.
New leaders of Canadian parties who run in a byelection often go unopposed.
May received such a courtesy in 2008, when then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion chose not to run a candidate against her in Central Nova. Only the Liberals stepped back, however, and May lost to Conservative Peter MacKay.
May said that the Greens will run a candidate in Burnaby South in the general election in the fall of 2019.
University of Victoria professor Michael Prince said the move speaks to May’s way of conducting politics.
“She tries to approach things in a more conciliatory and consensual way.”
Sometimes, third-party leaders are not given the courtesy, said Prince.
“By making this announcement, she wants to breathe some life into that convention, and possibly it will benefit a future Green Party leader.”