Mia Rabson The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Former Green leader Elizabeth May slammed the New Democrats Monday for refusing to withdraw their candidate in a coming byelection, arguing doing so would allow the first Black woman elected to lead a federal party in Canada to win a seat.
Annamie Paul became the new leader of the Green party Saturday after winning on the eighth ballot.
Uniting the party and pushing Green policies on the pandemic and climate change are high on her agenda, but her first order of business is the Toronto Centre byelection scheduled for Oct. 26.
Paul was acclaimed as the Green candidate before the leadership race ended but May says now that Paul is the leader, the other parties should stand down.
May had particularly harsh words for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who won a 2019 byelection in the Burnaby South riding.
May says Singh was not a “shoo-in” to win that byelection. She says the Greens were very strong there at the time but still offered not to run a candidate against him. May claims Singh told her that was “a very classy” thing to do.
“I’d like Jagmeet Singh to think about it,” she said Monday.
“I’d like New Democrats to reach out to him and say ‘how classy is it to try to block the entry to the House of Commons of the first Black woman leader of a federal political party. Consider what Rosemary Brown would think.”
Brown was the first Black woman elected to a provincial legislature when she became an MLA in British Columbia in 1972. She also was the first Black woman to run for the leadership of a federal party, finishing second to Ed Broadbent in the NDP’s race in 1975.
Anne McGrath, national director of the NDP, said in a statement that Brian Chang, who is the party’s candidate in Toronto Centre, was chosen by members democratically, and that he will not withdraw.
“Every Canadian deserves to vote for the party they believe in, and with Brian Chang, they can count on someone who will fight for them,” she said.
The NDP also pointed out that in 2019, the party did not ask for the Greens to avoid running a candidate against Singh.
Toronto Centre is a Liberal stronghold, with that party winning the seat in every election since 1993. It is vacant after former finance minister Bill Morneau stepped down in August.
The Liberals have nominated Marci Ien, who took a leave of absence from her role as co-host of CTV’s talk show The Social. Liberal party spokesman Braeden Caley confirmed Ien will remain on the ballot.
“We congratulate Ms. Paul on her election as Green party leader and wish her well as her party’s candidate in the riding,” Caley said in an email.
“Marci Ien’s campaign in Toronto Centre is looking forward to a positive contrast of ideas with all of the other parties.”
The Conservatives have not nominated someone yet but party spokesman Cory Hann said they will run someone there, as they will in the York Centre byelection happening the same day.
People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier is running for his party in that byelection.
The Greens have not nominated anyone in York Centre but party spokesman Rosie Emery said they do plan to run there.
Paul says she is not surprised none of the other parties will stand down in Toronto Centre but that she is used to overcoming obstacles.
“I am a first, and as a first you’re accustomed to fighting,” she said. “You’re accustomed to having to overcome every single barrier to get where you’re trying to go to. If we have to do that yet again in Toronto Centre then we are prepared to do so.”
Paul finished fourth in Toronto Centre in 2019, with seven per cent of the vote. Morneau won with 57 per cent, followed by the NDP in second with 22 per cent. Paul did nearly triple the Greens vote in that election.
Paul, 47, says there is one obvious thing she brings to Parliament Hill as the Green leader, using her hands to mime a picture frame around her face. She said diversity in the party and on Parliament Hill are critical.
She said policies that negatively affect people of colour are not likely to be made when Black Canadians are at the table.
“What I bring is hope, hope to all the people that have not seen themselves represented in politics to this point,” she said.