Toronto lawyer Annamie Paul elected leader of the federal Green Party

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Green Party members have selected Toronto lawyer Annamie Paul as their next leader, ending the year-long race to replace Elizabeth May.Paul, who is black and Jewish, was the perceived favorite ahead of the final vote because she had raised the most money – $ 206,000 – and racked up a number of backers from former Green Party candidates.

Paul, who is the first permanent black leader of a major federal political party in Canada, takes the leadership of a party that has been closely associated with May for most of the past 14 years.

Before handing the job over to Paul, May made a passionate appeal to Canadians to do more to tackle the climate ‘crisis’, saying the ongoing fight against COVID-19 cannot distract from concerns pressing environmental issues.

Paul, who was born in Canada to Caribbean immigrants, won with 12,090 votes against his closest competitor, Dimitri Lascaris, another lawyer and a self-proclaimed radical and “eco-socialist,” who won 10,081 vote after eight rounds of voting.

A party official said 23,877 Green voters voted in the race – a turnout of 69%.

Paul, one of the more moderate candidates who contested this leadership election, came forward with a strong environmental agenda that she said will help Canada tackle climate change, which she called ” existential threat to human life ”.

Paul ran under the green banner in the last federal election, but fell far behind former Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau.

Although she did not win, Paul did manage to grow the green vote in the firmly liberal seat.

Paul has already been nominated to run in the October 26 by-election in that riding after Morneau’s abrupt resignation. Another black woman, former TV personality Marci Ien, is running for the Liberals.

Annamie Paul is the new leader of the Green Party – the first permanent black leader of a major federal party in Canada. (Vedran Lesic / Radio-Canada)

Beyond strengthening the existing federal carbon tax, Paul called for an adjustment to the carbon frontier, a tax on imported goods based on the number of emissions associated with the production of those goods in foreign countries. .

She also pledged a nationwide ban on hydraulic fracturing – a controversial practice used to dig up oil and gas – and said the country should curb mining, a practice she called waste. She promised to go further and faster in the fight to reduce emissions.

In addition to climate policy, Paul said she wanted to tackle systemic racism within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), create a “citizens’ assembly” to begin the process of introducing proportional representation in Canada’s electoral system, implementing a guaranteed living income and a universal pharmacare program, among other progressive policies.

Lascaris ran on a platform to push the party to the far left with a plan to dissolve the police – and “create a society in which the police are unnecessary and can be abolished” – drastically cut military spending and put in is implementing a “cap” to remove billionaires in Canada.

Paul also beat six other candidates vying for the post – David Merner, Amita Kuttner, Glen Murray, Meryam Haddad, Andrew West and Dr Courtney Howard – by far the most racially and ideologically diverse group of candidates to participate in a race for federal leadership. .

Historic victory

Paul, a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Ottawa, was the subject of racist and anti-Semitic attacks during this campaign.

During a virtual town hall, commentators used the “N” word several times and referred to her and another candidate as a “Jewish f-ing” in a live chat.

Paul is the first permanent black leader of a major federal party and only the second Jewish person to hold such a position; former NDP leader David Lewis was the first. Paul said there was a need for better representation of blacks, aboriginals and people of color in Canadian politics.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the party organized the online vote and the 36,000 Green Party members had a week to vote for one of the eight candidates.

Prior to entering federal politics, Paul worked as an advisor to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and as a political officer in Canada’s Mission to the European Union in Brussels.

She has also advised a number of international non-governmental organizations, including the Climate Infrastructure Partnership and the Alliance for Higher Education for Refugees. Prior to running for the top post, Paul was the party’s spokesperson for international affairs.

The leadership race was prompted by May’s decision to step down as party leader last November.

Since taking office in August 2006, she has taken the party from the political fringe to the mainstream.

After being excluded for years due to low poll counts, May lobbied the broadcast consortium behind the leaders’ debates to give the Greens a podium and the opportunity to present a left-wing environmental agenda to voters.

May’s inclusion in these well-attended debates helped the party post its best electoral result in the 2008 federal election – with 6.8% of the vote cast.

But it was her victory in 2011 in the riding of Saanich – Gulf Islands, B.C. that really bolstered the party’s fortunes, as it gave May a seat in Parliament and a broader platform for it. advance the green cause.

Since then, the Greens have won provincial seats in British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick and formed the official opposition in PEI.

May is one of Parliament’s most ardent critics of the country’s oil and gas pipelines and natural resource sector. She also lobbied for universal pharmacare, a guaranteed basic income and more decorum in the Commons.

Green Party members elected their new leader almost a year after Elizabeth May resigned from her post after 16 years at the helm. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

Until her resignation, she was the longest-serving active leader of a party with seats in the House of Commons or a provincial legislature.

Announcing her departure, May said she promised her daughter that the 2019 race would be the last, but she said she would remain as the party’s MP and parliamentary leader.

Under May’s leadership in this 2019 campaign, the Greens produced a relatively strong performance of 6.55% of the popular vote, but failed to win more than a few seats.

Much of the party’s support was focused on Vancouver Island and other parts of British Columbia.

However, New Brunswick MP Jenica Atwin also beat an incumbent Liberal to win her seat in Fredericton, the Federal Greens’ first victory in the Maritimes.

At the start of the last two elections, May predicted that at least a dozen seats would go to the Green Party, but those results never materialized.

May was also stubborn with questions about whether she would allow Green MPs to bring forward anti-abortion legislation – she said she would not whip her caucus or ban MPs from pushing forward such bills – and has faced criticism after the party fielded candidates with views on abortion.

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