After months of reflection and consultations with family, friends and political allies, I’ve decided not to run in the upcoming Green Party of Canada leadership contest.
Without a doubt, this has been a difficult decision.
From the moment that the leadership of the Green Party was vacated in October 2021, I’ve received moving expressions of encouragement from Canadians across the country who grasp that we desperately need a political revolution. To all those who have urged me to run again, I extend my deepest gratitude.
I feel that I owe it to those who supported my leadership bid in 2020, and those who encouraged me to run again, to explain my decision, and to do so with the same commitment to candour that I made when I entered the leadership race in 2020.
First and foremost, the question I must ask is: how can I best contribute to the betterment of our world at this particular time?
Since the last leadership contest, I have been dismayed by a precipitous decline in the quality of political discourse in Canada, and in the West generally. Intolerance for dissent has increased dramatically. Censorship has been normalized. In particular, those who dare to oppose Western militarism or our failed economic system are being marginalized and suppressed to a degree that is unprecedented in my lifetime.
In this extraordinarily difficult political environment, I feel that I can best contribute by remaining an independent voice of dissent. If I were to become the leader of the Green Party of Canada, I would be obliged to act as a spokesperson for the members. That is an obligation that I would treat with the utmost seriousness, but that same obligation could limit my ability to speak freely at a time when vigorous dissent is sorely needed.
Furthermore, the Green Party is emerging from a period of exceptional internal strife. Understandably, many members wish to prioritize the healing of divisions. As Annamie Paul’s principal competitor in the last leadership contest, I may not be the best person to heal those divisions.
Finally, in 2019, shortly after announcing her decision to resign from the Green Party leadership, Elizabeth May declared publicly that, in the 2020 leadership contest, she “will remain neutral”. Elizabeth did not respect that commitment, as she herself admitted in a Toronto Star op-ed published shortly after Annamie Paul’s resignation. In Elizabeth’s own words, “mea culpa”.
As many Green Party members have come to realize, Elizabeth’s interference compromised the integrity of the 2020 leadership race. In 2021, under the leadership of Elizabeth’s preferred candidate, the party arguably experienced the most difficult year since its creation.
For some weeks following Annamie Paul’s resignation, Elizabeth’s confession in the Toronto Star caused me to harbour some hope that she had learned from her mistake. Regrettably, however, I’m now convinced that she will not refrain from seeking to influence the outcome of the next leadership contest, particularly if I am in it.
Elizabeth May has made strong contributions to the Green Party and to the quality of political discourse in this country. For this, she deserves our thanks and respect. In my opinion, however, the time has come for Elizabeth to part the scene — gracefully, if possible — and to leave ample space to the next leader to chart a new path for the Green Party of Canada. I am confident that Elizabeth can find other and better ways to contribute to the betterment of our world.
Whoever may be accorded the privilege of being the next leader of the Green Party of Canada, I very much hope that that individual will chart a bold new course for the party. Even at the height of its electoral popularity – which was attained in the second year of Elizabeth May’s thirteen-year tenure – the party achieved less than 7% of the popular vote. Moreover, the Green Party has never won more than three Parliamentary seats, which is less than 1% of the seats in Parliament. At that level, it is practically impossible for any party to exercise a meaningful influence over the policies of our government.
Clearly, the Green Party’s slogan of ‘not left, not right, forward together’ has failed to inspire Canadians. That regrettable maxim is a veil behind which lies a refusal to take an anti-capitalist stand. That refusal ultimately leads not to forward movement, but to decline.
For too long, the Green Party of Canada has tried to be all things to all people, to encompass within its ‘big tent’ those who are irrevocably committed to a cruel, anti-democratic and radically unsustainable economic system.
Parliament itself has abandoned Canada’s left, and has done so despite a growing and broad-based awareness that capitalism is killing the planet. The leadership of the NDP, Canada’s nominally social democratic party, seems content to be slightly more progressive than the right-wing Liberals.
Canadian workers are acutely aware that political elites are disconnected from and indifferent to workers’ needs. Workers want a caring economy that is respectful of their fundamental rights. They yearn for a workplace that is democratized. They demand fair and equitable rewards for their invaluable contributions to their employers and to society at large.
Only a socialist economy can fulfill workers’ legitimate demands and only a socialist economy can deliver democracy to the people, yet no one in Canada’s Parliament dares to advocate for genuine socialism.
The vacuum on Canada’s political left presents an extraordinary opportunity for the Green Party of Canada. The time for eco-socialism has come. The time is now.
Despite my decision not to run, I stand ready to help the Green Party’s next leader to build the party into a champion of a new and indispensable eco-socialist movement in Canada.