Green

Running for Co-leadership of the Green Party: A Marriage Not of Convenience, but of Purpose

Elizabeth May

As Policy readers can imagine, there have been many and varied reactions to the news that I am throwing my hat in the ring to be Green Party leader – again.

The overwhelming response is “Why?” with a significant dose of “Are you nuts?”

The prospect of running for leader of the Greens in tandem with a much younger partner, with both of us running to change the leadership structure of the party, makes the prospect entirely different.  Delete “again.” Jonathan Pedneault and I are running to be co-leaders for the first time.

Turning to the first question, “why?”

I would not be doing this if the April 4th report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had been reassuring. The Liberals are building their climate plan claiming net zero by 2050 will ensure our children a livable world. The IPCC  report knocked the stuffing out of that notion.  The only way to hold to 1.5 degrees C, or even the far more dangerous 2 degrees C of average global  warming, is to ensure Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions globally stop rising and start falling (or in IPCC terms, “peak”) at the latest before 2025.

I had trouble breathing as I took in that one key conclusion. It was the first time any immovable “do or die” IPCC timeline had loomed as soon as “before 2025.” It was the first time the IPCC had put the window closing on 1.5 or 2 degrees in the same sentence. I stopped measuring the time remaining to avert catastrophic global changes from years to months. Adding to my panic was the Liberal-NDP Confidence and Supply Agreement, effectively removing political heat until 2025 – after the window on a liveable world will have closed.

Two days later, the Liberals approved Bay du Nord – another one billion barrels of oil to be drilled, pumped and burned to make “peaking” before 2025 impossible. The next day, the budget yet again committed to the completion the Trans-Mountain pipeline to boost exports of bitumen. With UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemning any new fossil fuel investments as “moral and economic madness,” Justin Trudeau was doubling down on madness.

Those days in early April set me on a course of exploration to answer my own internal struggle: “what more can I do?”

I considered quitting politics altogether to work in a global climate effort. Many of the people I asked for advice challenged me as to why I was not considering the obvious. Why not run for leader of the Green Party of Canada?  It was a tough question. The obvious answer – because I knew I would be the target of nasty attacks and abuse – was a poor excuse. If being leader of the party held any prospect of making a dent in climate action, how could I allow a bit of personal unpleasantness to stand in the way?

Among the friends I consulted were other elected Green MPs from other countries. Many of them work as co-leaders. While an unfamiliar concept to most Canadians, co-leadership works in many countries where Greens are in power-sharing arrangements. The German Green co-leaders of their last election are now the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Energy and Economy. The New Zealand Green co-leaders hold Cabinet posts in government. Green co-leaders have served in coalition governments around the world, including Scotland and Sweden.

With UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemning any new fossil fuel investments as “moral and economic madness,” Justin Trudeau was doubling down on madness.

By late May I was hoping to find someone who could be as different from me as possible, but who shared my values and work ethic. And amazingly enough, I found him.

In June, Jonathan Pedneault came to meet me at my Ottawa apartment to ask for advice as he considered the prospect of running for leader.  I am pretty famously unable to manage a “poker face.”   Jonathan was so impressive, so earnest and with extensive experience in the conflict zones of the world, it was hard not to blurt out at first meeting “what about running as co-leaders?”

It took a few additional meetings for me to ask about a Green partnership.  We were on an all too familiar zoom call. I watched as Jonathan’s brain registered my question. Within 30 seconds, he said, “Let me call you back once I have a plane ticket to Victoria.”

We spent a week in early July figuring it all out. We interviewed each other, probed for skeletons in each others’ closets and ultimately wrote up a memorandum of understanding confirming our commitment to each other.  We worked through the process of how we could offer a shared platform within the Green Party leadership rules conforming to the Elections Act as well.

His online presence confirmed an extraordinary track record. Where, as a teenager, I had decided I was an environmental activist for life, Jonathan made the same adolescent pledge to human rights.  Neither of us has ever wavered.

Jonathan first entered a war zone at 17, smuggled into Darfur with Sudanese rebels.  He had managed to talk Radio-Canada into a documentary on the latest betrayal of the world’s genocide pledge – “never again.” He has worked in the hellish places of the world as journalist, film-maker and investigator for both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. He knows that the links between climate and war are real. He has lived it.

His last work as staff to Human Rights Watch was to be in Ukraine for the first ten days of the war. Processing the world in polycrisis – pandemic, climate, war and looming famine – he felt the pull to return to Canada and change careers to pursue elected office. Seeking a political home, he decided the Green Party aligned most with his values. He also decided we were a bit of a fixer-upper.

I am now enthusiastic about a prospect I had rejected over and over again. I know we can rebuild this wonderful Green brand. We can and will elect a lot more Green MPs. And well before the next election we can be far more effective in forcing our government to act before it is too late.

Elizabeth May and Jonathan Pedneault join forces as candidates for the co-leadership of the Green Party of Canada

Sidney, August 31, 2022 – Elizabeth May and Jonathan Pedneault jointly announced today that they are candidates for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada. Together, they will seek the members’ approval to elect them as co-leaders.

May, 68, and Pedneault, 32, propose to bring a much needed complementary combination of experience and rejuvenation to the party through a powerful, bilingual duo that will empower members to achieve impact both within and outside Parliament.

“The Liberal government’s wait-and-see approach to problems is condemning us and future generations to an unstable, unsustainable future,” Pedneault said. “The Green Party of Canada is the only political force that computes every policy proposal around the future of our country instead of whatever the flavor of the day is. This party is a credible alternative for Canadians, and it deserves serious and committed candidates to leadership.”

May was adamant urgent change is needed: “As Canada faces the storms, fires and floods, decades of Conservative and Liberal climate inaction have condemned us to experience, a strong and credible Green Party has never been more needed and relevant. Our alliance showcases why and how the Greens are willing to work differently and collaboratively to solve complex issues,” she said.

For the past 14 years, Jonathan Pedneault has worked as a journalist and with organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to investigate abuses in war zones, including Darfur, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic and, most recently, Ukraine. An expert in crisis situations, Pedneault is worried about the polarization of the political discourse in Canada and mainstream parties lack of ambitious pathways to reduce economic inequalities, cut down emissions and prepare the country for the climate emergency.
May is one of Canada’s best-known parliamentarian and a former leader of the Green Party. As a life-long environmentalist and a grandmother, she worries our collective window to maintain average global temperature rise under 1.5 degree Celsius is quickly closing. She’s fought hard throughout her life to ensure we pass on a viable, sustainable environment to next generations. She is keen to ensure the Green Party of Canada has all the levers it needs to regain Canadians’ trust and help them face today and tomorrow’s challenges.

Whereas the past few months have been traumatic to some and disillusioning to most, the party’s membership remains committed to a Greener Canada and a stronger Green Party.

Pedneault and May intend to support one another during the campaign and create empowering spaces for other candidates to also present their ideas and views to the public and members. Both are committed to ensuring the divisions the party inherited from the previous race are avoided and the party comes out stronger and more united from the leadership contest.

If Pedneault or May is elected leader, they will appoint the other deputy leader and work with the party membership to enshrine co-leadership within the party constitution. Prior to elections, the membership will have an opportunity to select the party’s primary spokesperson who will participate in debates and, should Canadians so decide, become Prime Minister.

In doing so, the Green Party of Canada will join a growing family of progressive and Green parties in Canada and throughout the world, including New Zealand, England and Wales and Germany, who have espoused co-leadership as a tool to increase collaboration and representation.

Quotes:

“When war erupted in Ukraine, I had to rush into the country within a few hours to help the team document war crimes. I have been doing this kind of work all my life. But somehow, Ukraine reminded me of the need to not take anything for granted, ever. Because I didn’t think it would happen. And it did.

The unthinkable is happening everyday. Tornado warnings in Québec, homeless camps in Toronto, droughts in BC and the prairies, floods in the Northwest Territories – this is today’s Canada.

When I reflected about Canada on my way out of Ukraine, I came to realize we’ve got all too many politicians who take our security and the stability of our country for granted. I saw a behind-the-curve government that prefers piecemeal responses to interconnected problems, rather than visionaries who prepare the appropriate contingencies needed to deal with them. We have seen this with the pandemic, the passport crisis and the recent communications network outage, to name just a few.
 
This is why Elizabeth and I decided to join forces. She is not without her weaknesses and neither am I, but I am strong where she is weak and weak where she is strong. There are few people better equipped than Elizabeth to help rebuild this party with me ensuring it wins more seats. We are going to build a viable Canada for ourselves and future generations but we need a strong and stable Green Party. This is what we are offering members and Canadians.”
 
– Jonathan Pedneault, candidate for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada

“In 2019, after our most successful ever campaign – electing three Members of Parliament, I resigned as leader to fulfill a promise I had made to my daughter. She wanted me to have  a better quality of life. I also believed that after 13 years as leader, as the longest serving woman leader of a federal party in Canadian history, it was time for change. 

I believed we had an excellent succession plan. In hindsight, I realize our structure does not fit our values. As a party where the leader is not the ‘boss,’ not a dictator, and where the highest authority is our members at the grassroots level, the ‘leadership’ model sends the wrong message. We believe it is time to move to a co-leadership approach.  
 
My motivation for stepping up to run for co-leader is clear. The April 4 report of the IPCC was a shock. We have less time than we thought  – a lot less.  Canada is on the wrong side of history. Canada is not on our children’s side. In order to hold to 1.5 or 2 degrees C, we only have about two years to ensure we shift course to ensure GHG emissions stop rising and start going down. The window on 1.5 or 2 likely closes before the next election.   
 
So I had to ask myself what my responsibility is in all of this, as a sitting MP and a former party leader. I know I need to do more to avoid climate breakdown.  The tools in front of me are obvious. I am a Member of Parliament. That is the key fulcrum of debate. As co-leader, I could do so much more. The Green Party has been in disarray and I bear some responsibility for this. I have made mistakes and I apologize for them. The past two years have been hard on all of us .

I have an obligation to be of service. I know it will involve sacrifices, but there is nothing I would not sacrifice to protect a livable world for my children and grandchildren and the whole miraculous community of life. 


This is why I’ve decided to work with Jonathan to ensure our cause achieves its maximum impact. By joining him in this co-leadership bid and ensuring both he and the party have a strong advocate in the House of Commons from day one, I believe we are best equipped to rebuild the party and prepare it for the times that come. We must. Failure is not an option. ” 
 
– Elizabeth May,  candidate for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada 

ANNEX

Biographies:

At age 17, Jonathan Pedneault smuggled himself into Darfur in the back of a pick-up truck filled with rebels to document this deadly rights and environmental crisis for a CBC/Radio Canada documentary. By then, he had spent two years giving conferences in and around Montréal to fellow students about genocide and Canada’s responsibility to prevent mass atrocities.  

A gay, mixed-race single son of a single mom, Jonathan was raised in poorer suburbs of Montreal. An early understanding of how privileged he was to be born Canadian impacted everything he later set about to do. For Jonathan, privilege comes with immense responsibilities. And he is one to take responsibility seriously.  

Over the next fifteen years, Jonathan worked to report on crises throughout the world and advocate for greater accountability and global social justice.  
Through his work, Jonathan interviewed fishermen in Somalia who had turned to piracy to fight off illegal fishing, documented sexual abuses by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, witnessed failed revolutions in Egypt and Libya and documented excessive force by police in places as diverse as Chile, Belarus and the United States.  

With two years spent living on Svalbard, in the high arctic, and years reporting from places affected by extreme weather events such as the Sahel and Central Asia or with refugees leaving drought and hurricane affected Central America to face abuses at southern US borders, Jonathan has been in the belly of the climate beast. He knows what’s coming. And why we need to urgently get our act together.  

Jonathan is an organized thinker, who seeks impact in everything he does. He believes the Green Party of Canada is the only party that has shown the moral courage and strength needed to face the coming crises. But he believes the party too needs to get its act together, and project itself as the credible alternative it is.

Together with Elizabeth May, he’s asking the membership for a mandate to empower the GPC to implement the changes Canadians from coast to coast to coast need. It is, after all, our shared responsibility.

Elizabeth May’s life is defined by one word: service. Service to community, country and planet. One of Canada’s best-known parliamentarians, she is a life-long environmentalist. From 2006 to 2019, she led the Green Party of Canada through four elections and became Canada’s first elected Green.

From her early years as an environmental activist, struggling financially while waiting tables at the family restaurant in Cape Breton, to her work, as a single mom, bringing the voices of underprivileged communities to the halls of power, she has been a trail blazer for generations of Canadian women and activists.

Elizabeth was the first Canadian environmentalist to identify how environmental racism caused marginalized people to be exposed to unacceptable threats to their health. Elizabeth used her legal training and resources to assist Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world.

When legal and political avenues failed to yield results, Elizabeth put herself on the line. In May 2001, she went on a seventeen-day hunger strike in front of Parliament to protest toxic conditions for the only predominately Black community on Cape Breton, near the infamous Sydney Tar Ponds. That work led directly to her Private Members Bill on Environmental Racism.

It is rare Parliament turns a Private Members Bill into law. Elizabeth did it twice; on Lyme Disease and on banning keeping cetaceans in captivity.

Elizabeth always stands on principle. When the Environment Minister broke the law in 1988, she resigned from her role as Senior Policy Advisor. In that role, she had spearheaded work on the 1987 Montreal Protocol that saved the ozone layer. Later, she was the only parliamentarian to intervene against the TMX pipeline. In March 2018, she was arrested protesting it.

As the climate threat turns into reality, Elizabeth worries her grandkids may not inherit a livable future. With the Canadian government keeping its head in the sand, she knows the Green Party of Canada urgently needs to renew itself and present a credible alternative to Canadians.

Marlene Wells
[email protected]
902-921-4404

Randi Ramdeen
[email protected]
647-278-4825

www.jonathanpedneault.ca
www.elizabethmay.ca

It’s on!

The campaign has begun and we are looking to engage with you! If you are interested in being part of a revolutionary change in the Green Party, please get involved  in this leadership race. Go to our volunteer page and sign up today!