Elizabeth May is Running for Leader—The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I’ve been working on follow-up pieces to my short series on what I would do if I were the next Green Party of Canada Leader, and you can read parts one, two, and three.

However, there was a significant development in the contest, and it seems—at best—aloof to ignore it and continue with the series.

Elizabeth May is running for GPC Leader, which fundamentally changes the contest's nature. Of course, I could easily be wrong, but in my opinion, if Elizabeth May is on the ballot, she wins.

Before anyone brings up the concept of co-leadership, let me just point out that one person will be in the Leaders' debates, and one person will be considered the leader by Elections Canada. One person will constitutionally be the party's Leader, notably in clauses 7.1.2, 9.1 and bylaws 2.6.1 and 6. The Elections Act, Canada’s political media and the Party’s own Constitution and Bylaws are unfriendly to the concept of co-Leadership. The junior partner in any co-Leadership arrangement will have little to no recourse if the senior partner decides they want to share power no longer. The bottom line is that the person who wins the Leadership Contest will be the Leader regardless of any co-Leadership claims. At best, the co-Leader will be a Deputy Leader with a title bump, which is the status quo.

Since Elizabeth May is now the front-runner to be the next GPC leader, let's talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. However, since I’d like to end on a positive, I’m changing up the order.

The Bad

Elizabeth May becoming GPC Leader again is the opposite of moving forward. Anyone dismissing the GPC as the EMay Party will have their proof, and we will be right back into another Leadership Contest in a cycle or two.

It makes it easy for opinion makers to argue that the GPC is not viable without Elizabeth May as Leader, which means the viability of the Green Party of Canada has an expiration date. Ironic for the Party preaching sustainability, no?

Also, what does this say to the next generation of GPC Leadership hopefuls? The fact that there were no future Leaders in the wings when Elizabeth May stepped down after 13 years as Leader is an indictment of her tenure.

The GPC didn’t recruit, build up and retain future leaders the first time. I’m not convinced the second go-round will be any better.

The Ugly

Okay, here we go.

There is sufficient blame to spread around about the collapse the GPC has experienced since the November 2019 Federal Council meeting. There aren’t many people in GPC leadership, operations, FC or fund who are blameless. However, in my opinion, no one is more responsible for the decline than Elizabeth May. I know that some people will see that as heresy, but I think I can back it up.

Elizabeth May led the charge on staff changes at that November 2019 Council meeting. The firings, hirings, attempted firings and attempted hirings fundamentally reshaped the Central office. The Party started bleeding experience, talent and institutional knowledge, and with the recent departures of John Chenery and Matthew Clarke, it hasn’t stopped.

She helped establish Dimitri Lascaris within the GPC when she appointed him as her justice critic to the shadow cabinet.

She endorsed and fundraised for Annamie Paul early in the contest. It all but guaranteed Annamie Paul would win while eliminating any chance the Party would be able to come together afterwards.

She promoted and gave legitimacy to groups like Members for Growth and Renewal, whose alums have done immeasurable damage to the Party.

She endorsed and campaigned for a slate of Federal Council candidates (with a misleading name) that swept the 2020 Council elections. Her slate of candidates clashed with the ED. Her slate of candidates appointed the Fund board members, creating many problems. Her slate of candidates aired dirty laundry and attacked Annamie Paul in the press. Her candidates went on TV to essentially advertise layoffs.

She put her husband on the board.

The Party hired the ED she had been lobbying for since at least February 2020.

At every twist of the downward spiral key decision makers responsible for the descent got there in full or in part because of the support of Elizabeth May.

If Elizabeth May returns as Leader and rights the ship, she shouldn’t be celebrated as a returning champion but thought of as someone who came back to clean up their mess.

The Good

The upside I see is that Elizabeth May has been deafeningly silent on much of the chaos the GPC has experienced since the November 2019 Federal Council meeting. Currently, the operations of the GPC are broken and in disarray. I don’t believe Elizabeth May will be willing to accept this level of executive incompetence when she must publicly wear the failures.

If Elizabeth May is the next GPC Leader, it is unlikely that the current Council, Fund and management team will remain intact, and I’m hopeful that would improve operations, at least in the short term.

What’s Next

Unfortunately, Green Party of Canada members, supporters and Provincial cousins will continue living in interesting times.

I’ll get back to my series on what I would do as GPC Leader with policy solutions.