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Elizabeth May would not rule out serving as interim leader to steady troubled Greens

Annamie Paul resigned after a less than ideal election result for the Greens
Elizabeth May, right, Green candidate for Saanich-Gulf Islands, watches federal election results roll in during a gathering in Victoria, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

Elizabeth May could return to the Greens as interim leader to stabilize the embattled party.

Her chief of staff said that, if asked to take the helm until a permanent leader is found, she would “consider it” to help the party.

May, who was Green leader from 2006 to 2019, has previously said she would not return to the role.

But the resignation of Annamie Paul after a disastrous election result has prompted a hunt for a caretaker to keep the Greens afloat.

May’s spokeswoman said she would not rule out doing “the honourable thing” and consider taking the helm temporarily.

“Elizabeth remains deeply committed to ensuring the viability of the Green Party of Canada. If the party were to ask her to be the interim leader she would do the honourable thing and at least consider it,” said Debra Eindiguer, May’s chief of staff.

The Greens were beset by infighting and slumped in the polls, sending just two MPs to Parliament on Sept. 20.

May has said an election post-mortem — which is automatically triggered following elections where the Greens do not form the government — would have to look at why Green candidates were not fielded in all ridings and why the party was so poorly prepared.

May is now one of the two Green MPs in the House of Commons, alongside Mike Morrice who won Kitchener Centre.

Paul, who announced her intention to resign as leader on Monday, was sharply criticized for failing to visit target ridings during the election, concentrating instead on fighting to gain a Toronto seat where she came in fourth place.

She has said the election was “very difficult,” pointing to a lack of funding, campaign staff and a national campaign manager. Originally $250,000 was earmarked for her local campaign but that money was nixed by party executives.

Although impressive in the leaders’ debates, she faced a stream of vitriol for decisions she took as leader, and calls to stand down from within her own party.

While announcing her resignation Monday, Paul said leading the Greens had been the worst period of her life.

Paul will step down formally as leader within “the coming weeks,” the Green party confirmed. A leadership race kicks off six months after an interim leader is selected.

Jo-Ann Roberts, a former broadcast journalist who served as interim leader after May stood down, is another figure the Greens’ ruling council is likely to consider as an interim leader.

An expert who researches the Greens said May would be the “obvious option” to take the helm during the party’s “existential” crisis.

VIDEO: Annamie Paul stepping down as leader of federal Green Party

Mark Winfield, a professor at York University, said May has the “moral authority” to keep the party, which has been beset by internal strife, from imploding. He said appointing her in the interim would “be the most logical thing to do.”

Winfield said, as well as facing a financial crisis, the Greens had to find a way of regrouping after a “shocking political fall.”

“They had the worst vote (in) more than 20 years,” he said, referring to the party’s share of the popular vote.

“The more serious question is: Does the party even survive? It is not clear how you would put the party back together with an empty bank account.”

The interim leader is not allowed to stay on as permanent leader, under the rules.

Already, key figures in the party are being urged to throw their hat into the ring to lead it.

Morrice on Monday ruled himself out of the leadership race to concentrate on representing his constituents.

Dimitri Lascaris, a Montreal-based lawyer and activist who came second to Annamie Paul in the last leadership race, has not ruled himself out of the fight to be the next leader. He said in a statement that Paul’s resignation was “the right decision for the Green Party of Canada.”

Dr. Courtney Howard, an emergency doctor in Yellowknife who came third in the 2020 Green leadership election, said on Twitter after Paul’s resignation that her focus was on combating COVID-19 and climate change.

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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