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Politics Elizabeth May open to handing leadership off to right candidate

Green Party leader Elizabeth May says she loves being an MP but doesn’t like politics, and would be happy to support a new leader.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

As Green Party Leader Elizabeth May prepares to meet supporters at this weekend's national convention in Ottawa, she admits she doesn't love leading the party, or politics for that matter.

In a sit-down interview with The Globe and Mail Friday, Ms. May said she's more committed to being a good member of Parliament for the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands than the leader of the Green Party, which she has headed since 2006.

"I love being a member of Parliament. I don't love politics. I don't love being Leader of the Green Party. It is not really something I'd recommend to a good friend. It's not fun," she laughed. "Politics is awful."

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Ms. May, who received nearly 94-per-cent support from party members in a leadership review earlier this year, said there aren't any "real perks" to the position. She said she does the job because it's important for the party to have a leader in Parliament and that if another potential leader came along, she would be open to handing off the baton.

"I will certainly be leader in the next election if that looks like our best bet, but if there's a better way to do well, I would love to run alongside someone and support a new leader," Ms. May said. "For me, it's all about the issues. It's not about the party."

Ms. May is the first to recognize that she isn't a career politician, having been elected Green Party Leader at the age of 52. Now 62 years old, she says she still doesn't associate her "self-worth or my ego or my immortal soul" with being head of the party. That said, she still plans to run for the Greens in October, 2019, the next fixed election date.

As an MP, Ms. May says she brings a lot of experience and knowledge to the table. She's been working in or around government since 1986.

"I have an institutional memory for what needs to be rebuilt and what needs to be improved, and good personal relationships on all sides of the House [of Commons]."

After 10 years leading the Greens – Ms. May is currently the longest-serving federal leader – she admits that she thinks about who will eventually succeed her. However, she won't name any prospective replacements, as she doesn't want to put public pressure on them.

"I am mentoring actively wonderful, wonderful people, many of whom will be good leaders. When one of them really feels ready, that will be great."

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The Green Party will hold its biennial national convention this weekend in Ottawa, where a number of policy and directive resolutions are up for discussion. Two particular resolutions – the only foreign-policy resolutions on the table – will put Ms. May at odds with some of her members over the party's stand on Israel.

The first resolution calls on the Green Party to support the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) targeted at sectors in Israel that profit from the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Ms. May said she will oppose the resolution. Earlier this year, Parliament voted by a wide margin to condemn the growing international BDS movement. The Conservative motion said the controversial movement "promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel."

Ms. May said she will also oppose a motion supporting the revocation of the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The resolution says the JNF contravenes "public policy against discrimination" and fails to "comply with international human rights law," specifically citing the fund's involvement in Ayalon Canada Park, which it says sits on three former Palestinian villages.

While Ms. May acknowledges she is "uncomfortable" with the construction of Ayalon Canada Park, she isn't prepared to strip the JNF of its charitable status in Canada.

"I would like to see [the resolution] modified and softened, but I understand where it's coming from. There's a lot of concern about the Jewish National Fund's projects."

Last month, the chairman of the Green Movement of Israel, a political party, wrote Ms. May expressing his disappointment over the resolutions.

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"Such virulently anti-Israeli policies undermine our efforts and those of the peace camp in Israel. Boycott resolutions only serve to isolate Israel and reward the Palestinians for their intransigence. They don't advance the cause of true peace," Yael Cohen Paran said in a letter.

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