Annamie Paul faces an uphill battle and a full slate of opponents in her bid to win the Green Party a seat in the Liberal stronghold of Toronto Centre.
Ms. Paul, who won the Green leadership on Saturday, will try to catapult her party from its fourth-place showing in the 2019 election to first in the by-election scheduled for Oct. 26. The area has been held by senior Liberals – including Bill Graham, Bob Rae, Chrystia Freeland and Bill Morneau – since the 1990s.
“It’s going to be a tough race," Ms. Paul said at a news conference in Ottawa on Monday alongside former leader and Green MP Elizabeth May and Green MP Paul Manly. Ms. Paul also ran in Toronto Centre in the 2019 federal election. At the time, Mr. Morneau won the riding with 57 per cent. The NDP placed a distant second with 22 per cent of the vote, followed by the Conservatives at 12 per cent and the Greens at 7 per cent.
“We are going to make our case in all the ways we can in a pandemic," Ms. Paul said.
On Monday, the NDP confirmed it will run a candidate against Ms. Paul. The decision was met with derision from Ms. May. The Greens did not run a candidate against NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in the by-election that landed him a seat in the House of Commons. The Liberals and Conservatives are also running candidates in the race.
“I’d like Jagmeet Singh to think about it," Ms. May said at the news conference. “How classy is it to try to block the entry to the House of Commons of the first Black woman leader of a federal political party?"
Parties have sometimes extended to new leaders who don’t have a seat in the House of Commons a “leader’s courtesy” of not running a candidate against them in a by-election. The Greens were the only party to grant that to Mr. Singh last year.
When she offered not to run a Green candidate against him, Ms. May said Mr. Singh told her: “'It’s a very classy thing you’re doing.'”
In a statement, the NDP said that Mr. Singh did not ask the Greens to abstain from the Burnaby South by-election race. “Every Canadian deserves to vote for the party they believe in,” NDP national director Anne McGrath said. Brian Chang, who also ran in Toronto Centre for the NDP in the federal election, is again on the ballot.
The Conservatives noted that they are running a candidate in both by-elections being held on Oct. 26: Toronto Centre and York Centre.
“It’s our party’s responsibility to always give voters a choice at every opportunity, and these by-elections are no different,” Conservative Party spokesperson Cory Hann said. Benjamin Sharma, who also ran for the Conservatives in a Toronto by-election in 2014, is running for the Tories again, this time in Toronto Centre.
Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, which doesn’t have any seats in the House of Commons, is running in York Centre.
A statement from the Liberals did not explain why they had decided to keep their candidate in Toronto Centre on the slate but confirmed CTV host Marci Ien will be on the ballot for the Liberals.
The Green Party’s new leader spoke about the odds she faces. “I’m a first and as a first you’re accustomed to fighting, you’re accustomed to having to overcome every single barrier to get to where you’re trying to go," Ms. Paul said. She is the first Black person and the first Jewish woman elected to lead a federal party.
Extending a leader’s courtesy is a loosely followed tradition in Canadian politics, said Lori Turnbull, director of the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University. But she said in the case of Toronto Centre, having the NDP or Conservatives stand down on the ballot would likely have no impact on the result because it is “one of the safest Liberal seats in the country."
“The courtesy has to come from the Liberals in order for it to matter to the outcome," Prof. Turnbull said.
Ms. Paul has criticized the Liberals for fielding “parachute candidates" in the riding, but added that if she doesn’t win in Toronto Centre she is “willing to run anywhere."
“I have bags, will travel," she said.
The Green Party said it hasn’t yet decided whether the party will pay Ms. Paul’s salary while she tries to win a seat in the House.
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