Annamie Paul, whose short tenure as leader of the Green Party of Canada has been marked by infighting, failed in her bid to secure a seat in Toronto Centre.
“I am disappointed, it is hard to lose but I’m so proud of the effort, the creativity, the innovation our team brought to this race,” Ms. Paul told a small campaign rally, as the polls indicated she had finished in fourth place.
The Greens had little to cheer on Monday night while the election results rolled in. A breakthrough appeared likely in Ontario, with Green candidate Mike Morrice on track to win Kitchener Centre. That would make him the first Green MP elected in Ontario. And Elizabeth May, the former party leader, was leading in Saanich-Gulf Islands, a seat she has held since 2011. The party’s only other incumbent, Paul Manly, was in a tight three-way race in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.
Ultimately, voters’ concerns about climate change failed to translate into growth for the party that was built on environmental causes.
Canadians essentially decided to send the same MPs back to Parliament, Ms. Paul said. “So we are now back to the status quo, except we are returning, unfortunately, more divided and more polarized than before this election was called,” she said. “We need to repair these divisions.”
Ms. Paul faces tough questions about the campaign she ran. She succeeded Ms. May as leader less than a year ago, and has been treated as a liability on the hustings. She sought election in a riding that is a Liberal stronghold, and waited until just before election day to visit her party’s most viable seats, on Southern Vancouver Island. But she did not address her political future on Monday night and would not take questions from media.
Ms. Paul inherited a difficult task: To lead the party to the kind of breakthrough that defied the efforts of Ms. May, one of the country’s best-known advocates for the environment.
The Green Party had its strongest showing in the previous federal election, winning three seats in Parliament in 2019 and more than one million votes across the country, which amounted to 6.6 per cent of the popular vote. Ms. Paul’s assignment in the 2021 election was to do better.
Instead of momentum, Ms. Paul’s brief leadership has been marked by internecine battles.
Ms. Paul has said racism and sexism were behind a plot from within the Green Party to oust her as leader.
“First woman of colour, first Black person and first Jewish woman elected to lead a major federal party – it was never going to be a walk in the park,” she stated in mid-June, in the midst of the leadership fight.
The party’s New Brunswick MP Jenica Atwin defected to the Liberals in June, citing Ms. Paul’s remarks over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the other federal party leaders were preparing for the possibility of a fall election, the defection precipitated an internal crisis that left Ms. Paul fending off a threatened non-confidence vote.
The party’s finances were drained in legal fees resulting from the infighting, leaving little money to run a national election campaign.
On Monday, during one of her last campaign events before the polls closed, Ms. May stood at a roadside rally, reflecting on Ms. Paul’s challenging campaign.
“There’s no question that her own leader’s office created the circumstances that led to us losing an MP,” Ms. May said. “So it’s certainly been a struggle because people still want to hear her say, ‘I’m really sorry I didn’t reach out to Jenica and keep her in the party.’”
Ms. May said she had offered to make way for Ms. Paul to run in Saanich-Gulf Islands, Ms. May’s own riding and the safest Green seat in the country. “But she didn’t even really consider it. She said ‘I’m going to stay in Ontario’ and then she narrowed it down to Toronto Centre.
“So that’s a brave call.”
During the campaign, Ms. Paul explained she was not spending much time outside of Toronto Centre because her presence was not necessarily an asset to her candidates.
Toronto Centre has been a Liberal stronghold since 2004. In a by-election race last October, Liberal incumbent Marci Ien won 42 per cent of the votes. Ms. Paul came second with 33 per cent of the ballots cast. On Monday night, Ms. Ien held her seat but Ms. Paul’s support had collapsed.
The Green Party failed to muster a full slate of candidates in this federal election. Only 252 candidates ran in Canada’s 338 ridings and, on Sunday, the party withdrew support for its candidate in Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Michael Lariviere because he would not apologize for comments describing COVID-19 vaccination passports as Gestapo tactics.
The party’s environmental platform promised to boost targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, cancel all new pipelines and oil exploration, accelerate an increase in carbon pricing and ban the sale of all passenger vehicles with internal-combustion engines.
But even here, the Greens did not enjoy a unifying moment. Andrew Weaver, climate scientist and former leader of the BC Green Party, endorsed the Liberal’s climate plan instead. “The federal Greens do not have a climate plan, to be perfectly blunt,” he said.
An internal report of the federal party released during the summer concluded racism and transphobia are significant problems within the organization that it has failed to effectively manage.
The leaders’ debate earlier this month – the only one held in English during the five-week campaign – gave the beleaguered Green Leader a spotlight she has lacked. Ms. Paul took on Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet on issues of racism and challenged Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s feminist credentials, naming former women he has driven out of politics.