There should be no surprise that Elizabeth May has announced that she is stepping down as the leader of the federal Green Party; she has given many hints in the past couple of years that it might be time to turn the leadership over to someone else.
May’s record as party leader can be seen in several ways, depending on one’s point of view.
She made the party a credible force by winning a seat in the House of Commons, and holding it in the next two elections. She quite rightfully earned a spot in national leadership debates.
She has earned a reputation as one of the hardest-working MPs, which is a remarkable distinction given the time she has had to spend travelling between her riding and Ottawa. Why can’t MPs from Ontario and Quebec work as hard as May?
There was disappointment that the party did not do better than three seats in last month’s election, given that climate change — a Green issue if ever there was one — was at the top of mind for most Canadians. The realization that the Greens could not pick up more seats when it really mattered must have stung, although May put on a brave face after the votes were counted.
What’s next for May?
She has mused before about seeking the Speaker’s chair, given her knowledge of the parliamentary system, her knowledge of the issues, and her neutrality, more or less. That might be a good fit, assuming she can scale back in the rest of her workload.
What’s next for the Greens?
That is a tougher question. May has turned the reins over to Jo-Ann Roberts, her deputy. Roberts failed to win a seat in Halifax in the October election, just as she failed to win in Victoria in 2015.
Roberts will not have a seat in Parliament, which might not help her; many will turn to May when a leader’s words are needed. But it should be noted that May worked hard to build the party before she won her seat in 2011; Roberts will have the same opportunity to put all of her energy to the party’s future.
A leadership vote will be held next October. Will Roberts run? Will Paul Manly or Jenica Atwin, the other two Green MPs, run? Or will Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former Liberal cabinet minister who was elected as an independent, join the Greens and the leadership race? Will May’s departure help the Greens, or hurt them?
Only time will tell.