Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May, here speaking in Surrey prior to the federal election, said personal and practical reasons, inspired her decision to step down as leader (Black Press File).

Elizabeth May won’t step down as Saanich Gulf-Islands MP to give her successor a safe seat

May promised that she would run again in the next federal election

Local MP Elizabeth May said she plans to run in the next election as Member of Parliament for Saanich Gulf-Islands and will not resign from her seat to make room for the next leader once elected.

“Absolutely not,” said May in a phone interview with the Peninsula News Review from the train on which she is currently travelling to British Columbia. Canada’s parliamentary system makes MPs responsible to their constituents, not to their party, she said in lamenting what she called the “presidentialization” of Canadian politics. She also promised that she would poll constituents after the next election (assuming she wins) about plans to become speaker of the House of Commons.

May said she has no plans to run for the House speaker-ship in this upcoming parliament.

Key local issues on which she plans to work include transportation issues including air traffic noise, improve medical care for residents with Lyme disease, and environmental issues, such as the protection of southern resident killer whales and salmon stocks.

RELATED: Interim Green leader says Elizabeth May’s departure gives party a chance for renewal

May announced her immediate resignation as federal leader Monday, Nov. 4. Jo-Ann Roberts, a former CBC radio personality based in Victoria where she also ran for the Greens in 2015, will act as interim leader. The party has scheduled a leadership convention in Prince Edward Island in October 2020.

“Anyone will say that 13 years has been a good, long run,” May said, when asked about her motivations to step down. “When I became leader in 2006, I don’t think I would ever imagine that I would still be leader of the party 13 years leader. “

May said she had actually tried to investigate who might have been interested in running after the 2015 election. “Not that I can choose my own successor, but there is a very practical problem, when you are the party’s only [MP] and you step down as leader, without anybody else, who is a plausible candidate willing to run. I was afraid that I might end up with somebody as leader with whom I really did not get along. It really would have been awkward.”

May also said that she an obligation to get the leadership process going now after Canadians elected a minority parliament. “It can really only start when I step down,” she said.

Family reasons also played a role in her decision. “And my daughter said, ‘Mom, you promised me this [2019] is the last time.’ She has been concerned about the work load. It is really a threat to health. Ten years from now, I can see myself retiring and I want to be healthy to enjoy it.”

RELATED: Elizabeth May resigns as Green party leader

May said her greatest success as leader of the party was helping to get Greens elected, be it federally or provincially, starting with herself, then others elsewhere across the country. Greens currently sit in four provincial legislatures (British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) and tripled their number of federal seats during the last federal election to three by winning a second seat on Vancouver Island (Paul Manly) and a seat in Fredericton (Jenica Atwin).

When asked about her greatest failure, May spoke of her inability to help bring about electoral reform. She said that she invested too much of her time while working on that file with committee work, instead of building public support for the idea. The absence of public support, she suggested, made it easier for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to break his promise of reforming electoral system.

In her remarks she pointed out that the current first-past-the-post electoral system benefited the separatist Bloc Quebec. It won 32 seats — all of them in Quebec — with 7.7 per cent of the popular vote, while the Greens won three seats, with 6.5 per cent. To appreciate the distorting effects of first-past-the-post, she pointed to the German federal election of 1998, where the Greens won 6.7 per cent of the popular, but nonetheless governed as junior partners in a coalition led by Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder, thanks to mixed-proportional representation. Overall, they helped to govern Germany for a total of seven years, and current opinion polls show Green support in the mid-to-high 20s.

Canadian Greens are still a long way away from such heady numbers, but May said she is not anxious that the party will head in the opposite direction now that she is stepping back as leader. Regardless of her position, she will continue to work tirelessly for whoever becomes the leader and she predicts that the party will be able to build on its current basis during the next 10 years.

But she offered this warning. Unless radical changes happen in the next decade, humanity will be looking at having to perform “triage” when it comes to saving the planet in light of climate change.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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