That cracking you heard on Saturday night was the glass ceiling being shattered in the historic vote that made Toronto lawyer Annamie Paul the new leader of the Green Party of Canada. Paul is now the first Black woman to lead a major Canadian political party, the first Jewish woman to lead a major Canadian political party, and she succeeds Elizabeth May as the only female leader of a major Canadian political party.
“You have matched a leader to the challenges of this time. We need to match the party to the needs of this moment. That party is the Green Party of Canada. We are the party for this moment,” Paul said in her victory speech Saturday night.
“The other parties are simply out of ideas. They are intellectually exhausted. This is a moment that demands daring, courageous leadership and this is something that we simply didn’t see in the last speech from the throne,” she added. “I only heard empty words.”
It took the full eight rounds of voting, but Paul secured first place with 12,090 votes out of 23,877 ballots cast representing 69 per cent voter turnout among Green Party members. Dimitri Lascaris, a lawyer from Quebec who was widely seen as the leading far-left candidate in the race, and a self-described “eco-socialist”, finished in a closed second with 10,081 votes.
Paul’s history making turn makes her the second Person of Colour to represent one of the five major parties in Ottawa, after NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. As a Black and Jewish political leader, she is preceded by Rosemary Brown, the first Black woman to run for a major party leadership who finished a close second behind Ed Broadbent to lead the NDP in 1975, and David Lewis, the first Jewish man to lead a major party as the leader of the NDP prior to Boradbent in 1971.
At a town hall with members of the Guelph and Wellington-Halton Hills Green Party EDAs in the summer, Paul addressed the need for more diversity in her party, and how an apparent lack of it might be holding the party back in its outreach.
“One of our core values is respect for diversity, and it’s very hard to sell that core value to Canadians in terms of our commitment to it if we are not reflecting it internally ourselves,” Paul said. “I believe that the greatest barrier to our advancement as a party it’s the lack of diversity within our party. That’s the way the demographics are trending, so it just something that makes good political sense.”
Another Green politician that made political history, at least here in Guelph, joined the chorus of congratulations for Paul on social media after her victory.
“I’m so excited about your historic election. And I am eager to work with you to bring a Green wave to Canada. Kudos to all the candidates for their spirited campaigns,” Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner said. “I’m inspired by your strong voice for racial, social and environmental justice. And your desire to work hard for the community.”
Paul is running to join Parliament in the Toronto Centre byelection, which has not yet been dated. The seat was vacated by former Finance Minister Bill Morneau earlier this year after the details of the WE scandal broke, and it was revealed that Morneau had, among other things, broken ethics rules by flying on the charity’s private jet to a WE project in Africa. Paul will be running against another Woman of Colour for the seat, and it will be tough competition in the form of CTV broadcaster Marci Ien.
At that local town hall with Paul earlier this summer, she was asked she might consider running in Guelph or another riding where the Green Party was competitive and finished second plan in the last Federal Election.
“I’m not really interested in going anywhere where I would end up usurping a good, strong local candidate,” Paul said. “I know that there’s always that temptation to find the riding where we had the best runner-up results and just take that, but I think it’s a mistake.”
Paul ran in Toronto Centre in 2019 and finished in fourth place with seven percent, which was five points behind the Conservative candidate Ryan Lester, a community activist who is running again in the byelection. Morneau won re-election in 2019 with 57 per cent of the vote.