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Elizabeth May’s new ambition raises the possibility of a second high-profile political act for her. She led the Green Party of Canada between 2006 and 2019, and left saying it was in good shape.CHAD HIPOLITO/GM

Elizabeth May wants to lead the Green Party of Canada again, but with a twist that would see her work with a co-leader.

That would be Jonathan Pedneault, a 32-year-old human-rights activist from Quebec who once worked on a documentary film with the Prime Minister’s brother.

“[He] is not just a dear friend but a clear, equal partner,” Ms. May said from British Columbia of Mr. Pedneault, who joined the call. “I know I can make a much bigger difference as co-leader than as former leader.”

Of Ms. May, Mr. Pedneault said: “We’re good friends now, and we have a good relationship beside politics and within politics, and so it’s all the more natural for us to propose this.”

Both are officially applicants for the leadership of the party, which is to disclose its list of candidates on Wednesday. Final results are scheduled for Nov. 19.

The two will announce their candidacy together in British Columbia.

Ms. May and Mr. Pedneault said they are running separately but, if either wins, would appoint the other as deputy leader, and operate as a team.

During the campaign, they will share a platform and ask members to vote for Mr. Pedneault as first choice and Ms. May as second.

Ms. May said that would be the first step toward co-leadership, which would require the members to vote in favour of a change in the party’s constitution.

Under their plan, Ms. May would advance the Green Party case in Parliament, where she has been Saanich-Gulf Islands MP since 2011. Meanwhile, Mr. Pedneault, new to elected politics, would be on the road preparing the party for the next election.

Ms. May said the party has to strike a balance between running a national campaign and working hard in ridings with “the strongest opportunities” based on electable candidates and an interest in the Green message.

Ms. May’s new ambition raises the possibility of a second high-profile political act for her. She led the party between 2006 and 2019, and left saying it was in good shape. She remained an MP – the first Green elected to Parliament.

On Ms. May’s watch, the Green caucus grew to three MPs. Toronto lawyer Annamie Paul won the leadership in 2020, becoming the first black and Jewish woman to lead a federal party.

However, there were struggles between Ms. Paul and members of the party’s federal council, which is its governing body, and moves to oust Ms. Paul. The party faced legal expenses in disputes with Ms. Paul and allegations of racism.

In the 2021 election, the party held its two seats in Parliament, but its popular vote share dropped from 7 per cent to about 2 per cent. Ms. Paul came fourth in the riding of Toronto Centre.

At her exit news conference last November, Ms. Paul said she broke a glass ceiling by becoming leader, but didn’t realize it “was going to fall on my head and leave a lot of shards of glass that I was going to have to crawl over throughout my time as a leader.”

As Green Party withdraws non-confidence vote, Elizabeth May declines to comment on turmoil surrounding Leader Annamie Paul

Ms. May and Mr. Pedneault were reluctant to talk about the Paul era.

“I think most Canadians are worried about now and tomorrow more than the past,” Mr. Pedneault said. “I am really not here to discuss the former leader.” However, he said there is a need for party leaders to listen to the rank and file.

Ms. May said the transition to Ms. Paul clearly wasn’t successful. “There’s more than enough blame to go around. I don’t think it helps to go backward. I totally agree with Jonathan on that.”

But she added: “Rebuilding and reuniting starts with a large dose of humility and a lot of forgiveness.”

Mr. Pedneault has been an activist on such issues as the Rwandan genocide and Darfur crisis since he was a teenager in Quebec, and once travelled to Chad and Darfur to make a documentary on Darfur with Alexandre Trudeau. Mr. Pedneault was in Ukraine working for Human Rights Watch until April, 2022.

He said he returned with an interest in elected politics that included a possible Green leadership bid based on his experience abroad and working in different organizations.

Despite a professional association with Mr. Trudeau’s brother, and knocking on doors for Justin Trudeau when he sought the Liberal nomination in the Montreal riding of Papineau in 2007, Mr. Pedneault said the Greens best embodied his values.

“I was very close to the Liberal Party as a teenager and young adult and, in some ways, I grew out of it,” he said on Tuesday.

He met this summer with Ms. May, who was initially determined not to run and talking to leadership candidates to offer advice.

She said she was thinking of leaving Parliament to find another role on Canada’s climate-change policy, but was reluctant to “sit out” the opportunity to shift Canadian policies.

Eventually, she proposed co-leadership, which has been used by Greens elsewhere.

“I watched Jonathan’s face on Zoom for a very brief period of time where I could see the thought process,” she said.

Mr. Pedneault came to British Columbia in July to continue the conversation.

He said he was initially wary, and wanted to get to know Ms. May better. Eventually, he agreed the partnership could work, noting no institution can survive or grow without the memory of people, such as Ms. May, who have been in it for a long time,

“For me, it’s important that co-leaders work together, and like each other and are able to solve differences and have a way of navigating complex questions together in a way that is civil and constructive,” he said.

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