Elizabeth May, the leader of Canada’s Green party, has announced she is stepping down from the post she held 13 years, two weeks after her party made electoral gains in the country’s general election but failed to make any significant breakthrough.
“It’s important for me to depart as leader when we’ve had such good results,” May old reporters in Ottawa. “I think the majority of politicians keep their positions for too long.”
During the 21 October election, the Greens received more than one million votes for the first time ever, but only captured three seats, falling well short of expectations.
“As I look around the world … there is no other country with first-past-the-post that has achieved what we’ve achieved,” said May.
May, a longtime environmental activist and lawyer, won leadership of the party in 2006, after a 17-year stint as executive director of the Sierra Club. Her long tenure with Canada’s Greens, helped make her one of the most recognizable faces in the country’s fight against climate change.
She oversaw a number of firsts for the party – including multiple seats in the house of commons, provincial wins in Prince Edward Island and Ontario. But she was unable to transform growing concerns over the climate crisis into greater representation in parliament.
Although polls in the run-up to the election put the Greens ahead the leftwing NDP, May’s party failed to translate that lead in victories, while the NDP captured 24 seats. The Greens had previously mused about winning enough seats to hold the balance of power in a minority government scenario.
While May will no longer head the Greens federally, she will continue to lead a caucus of three members, herself included, in parliament. She also pledged to bring “massive” and “transformative” changes to Canada’s climate policy in the upcoming parliament – and has been a frequent critic of prime minister Justin Trudeau’s policies, which she says are inadequate.
In a recent interview with the Guardian, May said she believes “Canadian views are changing” and that the “old political parties are letting people down”.
May’s resignation is effectively immediately, meaning Jo-Anne Roberts, a former journalist and Green party candidate who placed third in the October federal election will take over as interim leader today.
Possible contenders to replace May include Alex Tyrrell, leader of the Quebec Green party, who has criticised May’s comments on the oil sands and abortion.
Tyrrell and a small group of Greens launched a petition last week for a “free and fair” vote for a new party leader in the coming months. With May’s resignation, the party will now vote for a new leader in 2020 at the annual Green convention.