Political insider breaks down Green Party of Canada co-leadership win, potential trouble ahead
Former party leader and B.C. MP Elizabeth May and newcomer Jonathan Pedneault became the new co-leaders of the Green Party of Canada (GPC) on Saturday.
After her win, May, who ran the party from 2006 to 2019, made the case for the co-leadership model but noted that members would have the final say. It will require a change to the party’s constitution.
Former interim leader Amita Kuttner had expressed some uncertainty about how a potential shift to the co-leader model would be implemented.
Sonia Théroux, a political organizer who was involved with one of the Green Party of Canada’s most successful campaigns in 2015, says while she’s not surprised by the outcome of the leadership election, there could be some challenges ahead.
When asked if she was surprised the two won the leadership, Théroux said, “I was not surprised. I was quite certain that Elizabeth and Anna Keenan were the two front-runners, and with Elizabeth’s name recognition, I assumed she had the edge.”
As for challenges they’ll inherit as co-leaders, “besides the obvious infrastructure problems, they’ve had a massive loss of staff. I think there’s a lot of work to be done to regain trust, not only from the base, which in some senses might be more easily done than with the public. I think the public looks for political parties and leaders in general that feel like they have a handle on their internal matters, and as we’ve all seen for the last few years, that’s not the impression the party has given.”
“It’s not unusual for Greens, that’s for sure. I see it as an increasing concept in leadership. I think it’s actually a good concept for the most part, but it can also really easily be poorly done if it’s not really well thought out. They do need to democratically come to this decision as a party, and my understanding is that they’ve attempted that in the past, and it hasn’t passed, but I can see it being successful at their 2023 annual general meeting. It will require an adjustment of their constitution.”
“if you’re both tackling the same things, you end up with a lot of confusion often, which can really trickle down to staff and the people that you’re working with. I’d say that the major factor from my perspective in a party that needs to signal change is that Jonathan Pedneault was given a lot of platform, and my understanding when Elizabeth announced the co-leadership intention, she was quoted somewhere in the media saying they had already figured it out.”
Théroux believes challenges lie ahead: “Jonathan was going to focus on rebuilding the party, and she was going to be the spokesperson. That sounds like a recipe for it not working. You’ve got a party in disarray that is not completely unrelated to her 13 years in leadership. To have Jonathan go in and try to fix that while she’s given the platform, I think it’s the opposite of how they should approach it.”
“If the intention is really to signal a new voice, a new time, a new era, and to try to regain the trust of the public, it’s really hard to do that when you’ve got a record versus somebody who’s brand new and exciting, and that can really engage a subset of the population that currently isn’t paying attention to the Green Party.”
“Elizabeth had her time at the party. It really needs to signal change. I think that points to giving Pedneault more of a platform than Elizabeth May herself. He needs to be given the time and the resources he needs in order to feel like he’s got everything he needs to move forward.”
When asked if the Green Party be any better situated in the next federal election to elect more members of Parliament, Théroux said, “That really depends on what they choose to do. I do know a lot of folks that feel like Elizabeth May returning to the role signals moving backward versus moving forward. So that is a hump that they have to overcome.”
“And I think then it really comes down to, can they as leaders really generate enough attention and engagement that they build back a funding base because you cannot win elections without staff and without money. And if those two things aren’t repaired together with, critically, a culture change that needs to happen in that party, I don’t see their chances necessarily getting better without that hard work.” (CBC News)