OTTAWA—The federal Green party’s first leadership contest in more than 13 years is starting to take shape, with a business person from Quebec and a disenchanted former Liberal in British Columbia committed to entering the race, while two other potential contenders say they’re considering whether to run.
Julie Tremblay-Cloutier, the head of a pool-and spa-inspection business in Oka, Que., told the Star she will run to replace Elizabeth May when the race begins next year, after the longtime leader resigned from her position in early November.
While she said the party had a “solid platform” for the campaign, Tremblay-Cloutier believes the Greens need to improve how they communicate policies to find a broader constituency than the three seats they won this fall — the party’s best result ever.
“We have an opportunity to renew even the way we do politics and present policy ideas,” said Tremblay-Cloutier, who received 5 per cent of the vote for the Greens in the riding of Mirabel this fall.
“I want to present myself as someone with a party that’s avant-garde, not just innovative or progressive,” she said.
Tremblay-Cloutier joins David Merner, a retired lawyer in the federal and B.C. public services, as the declared candidates in the upcoming race. Two others confirmed Monday that they are thinking of running, too.
Alex Tyrrell, the leader of the Green Party of Quebec who has publicly criticized the federal party under May’s leadership, told the Star he might try and replace her. And Dimitri Lascaris, a lawyer and activist in Montreal who sits on the Quebec Greens’ executive council, said he is consulting like-minded supporters about a leadership bid.
Both said they will decide whether to run in the coming weeks, as the federal party gears up for a 2020 leadership campaign to replace May. A party spokesperson said by email that the process for the race will be finalized “ later in January or early February.”
In a phone interview, Merner echoed Tremblay-Cloutier’s call for improved communications, adding that he believes the party needs to use its relatively robust fundraising in recent months — it has raised as much as the federal New Democrats for two straight quarters this year, according to returns filed with Elections Canada — and maintain a state of election-readiness in ridings across the country.
Originally from Alberta, Merner is a former lawyer who worked in the federal Privy Council Office and provincial justice ministry in B.C., volunteered as the president of the federal Liberal Party in B.C., and ran for the Liberals in 2015. But he said he ditched the Liberals last year over the government’s $4.5-billion nationalization of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, and joined the Greens the very same day.
After finishing second running for the Greens this fall in the riding of Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, Merner said he wants to become leader to bring together the various “factions” within the Green party that includes “eco-socialists” as well as environmentally-minded conservatives focused on fiscal and ecological sustainability.
Noting the party ran this fall on a campaign to shut down Alberta’s oilsands by 2035, Merner said he wants to focus more on eliminating federal subsidies to fossil fuel sectors and funnelling money to renewable energy industries and support programs for workers he said are understandably anxious about the transition to a greener economy.
“My vision of the Green party is that we are a big Green tent and can hold everyone,” Merner said.
“There’s so much potential to grow, but we need to mobilize folks, and we need to keep up the fundraising success.”
Tyrrell and Lascaris, the two who said they may run for the leadership, made clear they would try to push the Greens to the left.
Tyrrell — who is facing a petition from Quebec Greens to step down as provincial leader, as first reported by Le Devoir — criticized the federal Greens’ election platform last summer and called on May to commit to the “rapid shut down” of the Alberta oilsands within four years.
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Lascaris, meanwhile, is an “eco-socialist” whose party motion calling for government sanctions and a civil society boycott of Israel prompted May to threaten resignation in 2017. If he runs for the leadership, Lascaris said he will champion the broad nationalization of Canada’s energy industry, a 75 per cent income tax for people earning more than $500,000 per year, and a 100 per cent tax on net-worth exceeding $500 million meant to eradicate billionaire status in Canada.
The Greens won three seats in the federal election this fall, garnering more than 1.1 million ballots representing 6.5 per cent of the popular vote. May was elected leader in 2006, and will remain as the party’s parliamentary leader while former journalist and election candidate Jo-Ann Roberts serves as the Greens’ interim leader.
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