Elizabeth May is expected to make an announcement about her political future Monday after publicly musing about stepping down as leader of the Green Party of Canada.
May said she was going to reflect on her position in the party after the Greens voted to endorse the principles of the Boycott Divest Sanctions Movement at the party’s biennial convention on Aug. 7 — a position she opposed.
While she said she didn’t want the party to shy away from bringing a critical eye to Middle East policy, she said the endorsement could be misconstrued as anti-Semitic and lump the party in with a larger group of activists beyond its control.
The BDS movement promotes economic sanctions against Israel over its policies on the occupied territories, but is characterized by some as anti-Semitic, despite having the support of some Jewish and Christian organizations.
May said the decision by her party to support BDS left her “heartbroken.”
In her decade as leader, May has been the highest-profile Green politician in the country, though her own popularity hasn’t translated into growing electoral returns nationally.
The Greens’ share of the overall popular vote decreased to 3.4 per cent in 2015 from 3.9 per cent in 2011. In fact, May’s best result for her party was her first election as leader in 2008, when the party won 6.8 per cent of the national vote.
Despite those electoral results, May has been very popular with party rank and file. She received 93.6 per cent support from party members during a leadership review in April.
May’s biggest success has been keeping the Greens on the national radar.
From the debate stage to the Commons
When she became leader in 2006, the party had not participated in the national televised leader debates and had no member of Parliament. It had only run its first slate of national candidates two years before.
In 2008, she participated in her first televised leaders’ debate and fought her way back onto the debate stage in 2015 after being excluded in the 2011 campaign. Her determination to stay on the national stage led to her running parallel debates on social media when she was excluded from leaders’ debates anda court challenge against a private debate organizer.
She became the first elected Green MP in 2011, representing Saanich-Gulf Islands after losing two previous attempts.
She also led a caucus of two for a while, when Thunder Bay MP Bruce Hyer crossed from the NDP to the Greens. Hyer didn’t win re-election last year.
May has become nearly synonymous with the party after 10 years as leader. This has also magnified attention on her missteps.
She raised eyebrows for a profanity-laced comedic speech at the parliamentary press gallery dinner in 2015 and was escorted off the stage by Conservative MP Lisa Raitt. May later said she was “too sleep deprived” for her attempt at “edgy” humour.
After the Fort McMurray wildfire, May appeared to draw a connection between forest fires and climate change. She later released a statement to reporters saying she was not directly tying the Fort McMurray wildfire to climate change, adding that no credible scientist would connect a single event to the larger phenomenon.
May has developed a reputation on Parliament Hill for hard work and knowing the details of parliamentary procedure.
She’s also been leading the charge for proportional representationafter securing a seat on the special parliamentary committee on electoral reform. May has said she didn’t want the controversy about the BDS movement to distract from her advocacy for electoral reform or the rest of the Green platform.
As for her future as an MP, May has said she would continue to represent her riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands and even run in the next federal election in 2019.
The question of whether she would do so as a party leader —or even as a Green — remains to be answered.