May steps down as Green Party leader

Green Party leader Elizabeth May (centre) campaigns on Vancouver Island during the 2015 federal election. May officially stepped down as Green Party leader on Monday, but will still serve as an MP. -- Green Party of Canada/Facebook

After more than a decade as leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May is stepping down.

May has led the party since August 2006, but speculated earlier this year that the 2019 federal election would be her last as leader. She made that stance official on Monday.

“I want to choose my own time of going,” May told reporters during a press conference to introduce new Green Party MP Jenica Atwin. “I want to choose a time when we’ve done better than we’ve ever done before…. I want to make sure that when I leave as leader of the Green Party of Canada that we’ve got momentum, we’ve got growth (and) we’ve got exciting leadership, and I know we will have all of these. As of today, effective today, I am no longer leader of the Green Party of Canada. ”

May anticipates the next election won’t come for another two years, and said stepping down now will give the Green Party time to find the right successor. They have a leadership convention scheduled for Oct. 2-4, 2020 in Charlottetown.

May said she won’t officially endorse a successor, but added she’s still looking forward to being a part of the selection process.

“I do hope to continue to play a constructive role, particularly in the leadership race to come,” she explained. “Obviously I’ll maintain neutrality throughout the race, but I want to encourage people who voted Green to think about getting involved. Join the party. Help us pick our new leader. Speak up for what you want to see.”

May will stay on as an MP, and as the party’s temporary leader in parliament. Current Green MPs Atwin and Paul Manly—who was re-elected in Nanaimo-Ladysmith—both said they have no interest in the position.

Former deputy leader Jo-Ann Roberts will fill the interim leadership role outside of parliament. Roberts finished third in the electoral district of Halifax during the 2019 federal election.

“Elizabeth May has been a powerfully positive force for the Green Party and for Canada,” Roberts said in a media release. “For 14 years she has dedicated her life to promoting Green values and policies. She has been a tireless advocate for the environment, social justice and Indigenous rights. Under Elizabeth’s leadership the party has grown from a small group of grassroots activists to a political force on the national stage.”

While political timing was a concern, May said it wasn’t the only thing that led to her decision to step down. Before the 2019 election, May promised her daughter Kate that this would be her last as party leader, although not her last as an MP. May said it was important to her to keep that promise.

“Unlike politicians who say I want to spend more time with my family and then go off sadly, I’m very excited to know I’ll have time with my husband and time with my daughter and my extended family,” she said.

May became Green Party leader in 2006, but failed to win a seat in a by-election in London North Centre later that year. She also failed to defeat Conservative Peter McKay in the electoral district of Central Nova during the 2008 federal election.

However, May experienced a major breakthrough in 2011 when she won the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, becoming the first Green Party candidate elected to parliament. She won re-election bids in 2015 and 2019.

The Green Party nearly doubled its share of the popular vote in 2019, and increased the number of sitting MPs from two to three.