OTTAWA—Toronto lawyer and human rights advocate Annamie Paul was elected leader of the Green Party of Canada on Saturday night, edging out her rivals in eight rounds of votes after campaigning for the job on a pledge to refresh the movement and bring in new supporters.

Paul is the first Black woman elected to a lead a federal party with representation in Parliament. She will now take on the role held for more than 13 years by Elizabeth May, a British Columbia MP who led the party to the greatest successes of its history.

Of the almost 35,000 Green members, 23,877 cast ballots in the race, making for a turnout of 69 per cent. The winner needed 11,939 votes to win, and Paul secured the victory after eight rounds of voting with 12,090 votes.

She was perceived as the front-runner in the race, having raised more money than her opponents, and her victory marks a defeat for the “eco-socialist” wing of the party that wants the Greens to move farther to the left. The second-place candidate, Dimitri Lascaris, led for two rounds after other leftist candidates were eliminated. He finished with 10,081 votes.

Asked how she will respond to the strong support for leftist policies from the party membership, Paul pointed to the party’s 2019 platform, which included proposals for universal pharmacare, free post-secondary education, a wealth tax and a proposal to spend billions on a guaranteed livable income.

She also pledged to unify the party in the face of the climate change, which she called the greatest “existential crisis” of our time.

“We have consistently been at the forefront of progressive policies in this country,” she said. “To any progressive person who is looking for the most progressive party in Canadian politics, that is the Green Party of Canada.”

Speaking to the Star before the results, Lascaris said the first job of the new leader will be to unify the party.

“There is some healing to be done within our party,” he said.

But he also added the “movement” to push the party further left won’t end with the leadership race. “We’re not stopping here,” he said. “We have an obligation to continue to build.”

In her victory speech Saturday night, Paul — who is Black and Jewish — pointed to female, Black and Jewish politicians who preceded her, and thanked her campaign team for helping her make history.

She said her role as new leader will be to convince more Canadians to support a Green Party that will be “daring” in its policies to tackle climate change and social inequalities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul is already in the midst of another election, running in the federal byelection in Toronto Centre on Oct. 26.

“To every person in Canada that has tuned out of politics because they didn’t see themselves reflected, I say make your home with us. To every person that is worried about the future of their children and their communities and make your home with us, I say join us,” she said.

The 47-year-old, Princeton University graduate takes over a Green Party at the height of electoral success, having received almost 1.2 million votes to elect three MPs in the House of Commons — its best results ever. Those MPs include May, who told the Star this week that Green leader does not have the power to impose new policy positions on the party without the support of the membership. The leader will be the “chief spokesperson” for the Greens, “not the boss,” she said.

May, who will run in the next federal election, also said she might want to become leader again in the future, though this would be “highly unlikely.”



In her own speech Saturday night, May praised female leaders in the global Green movement, and stressed the increasing urgency of the climate crisis, with heat waves and forest fires amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 14 years since she was elected Green leader, May said the world has become less fair, climate change has become an “emergency” amid rising hate that needs to be condemned.

“We must hang together, believing and knowing that we have it within ourselves to change our society,” May said, moments before the results were announced.

“We are now the single biggest threat to our own survival, and we have to, as Greens, make sure everyone understands that we should have and we must have hope,” she said.

The former leader’s presence became an issue during the campaign. Some candidates questioned her decision to help the lead fundraiser, Paul, raise money in the early stages of the race. May, who insists she stayed neutral in the race, has said she offered to fundraise for all candidates from “equity-seeking” groups.

Two distinct visions for the future of the party emerged during the leadership race.

One is represented by candidates who describe themselves as “eco-socialists” and argue the Greens need to shift to the far left of the political spectrum. Lascaris, the candidate in this camp who raised the second-most money in the race, told the Star on Saturday that the vision is defined by opposition to poverty, violence, racism and “extreme wealth.”

Lascaris also ran on proposals to nationalize key industries of the Canadian economy, including internet providers, education and transportation. He would also create a publicly owned banking option, he said.

“We just happen to have a different view of how to organize society, and that view is not being represented in Parliament,” Lascaris said.

The other vision — espoused by candidates like Paul, David Merner, Glen Murray and others — does not involve major changes to the party’s current policies, with calls for a carbon tax on imports from countries with weaker emissions pricing, the creation of a guaranteed basic income, free post-secondary education and improved organization in the Green Party so it can win more seats.

There were also controversies in the race over the contest itself. This week, Murray blamed the party for bungling fundraising in a way that shortchanged his campaign several thousand dollars.

Meryam Haddad, a Montreal lawyer running as an “eco-socialist,” has also criticized the party after she was ejected then reinstated as a candidate in the final weeks of the race. While the party has refused to comment on why this happened, Haddad has said she criticized the B.C. Greens for not being left wing enough.

Alex Ballingall

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