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Elizabeth May steps down as leader of Green Party

WATCH: Elizabeth May 1-on-1 on decision to step down as leader of Green Party of Canada | FULL

Elizabeth May has stepped down as the leader of the Green Party of Canada, effective immediately.

Jo-Ann Roberts, the party’s deputy leader, will be the interim leader.

Green Party leader resigns suddenly
Green Party leader resigns suddenly

May, who had served as the leader of the party since 2006, made the announcement Monday. The 65-year-old told reporters she promised her daughter three years ago that the 2019 election would be her last as party leader — though not necessarily her last as a member of Parliament.

READ MORE: Green Party wins historic 3 seats in election dominated by climate change

“I was working seven days a week. I only had one day off per month and sometimes I lost that day off,” she said.

May says she’ll be designated leader in House of Commons despite not being head of party
May says she’ll be designated leader in House of Commons despite not being head of party

“I don’t feel that I’m actually leaving,” May added, saying she intends to stay engaged in federal politics, particularly issues related to climate change.

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May took aim at the climate policies of major federal parties during the news conference, saying there is no party that is equipped to handle the challenge.

“None of them seem to understand that we’re heading toward an abyss.”

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A formal leadership contest for May’s replacement will be held in October 2020.

“I want to encourage people who voted Green to get involved … speak up for what you want to see in the next Green Party leader of Canada,” May said.

READ MORE: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May wins re-election in Saanich-Gulf Islands

Neither of the other two Green MPs elected last month — Jenica Atwin in Fredericton and Vancouver Island’s Paul Manly — were tapped for the interim job, ensuring they are eligible to seek the permanent job.

Atwin, however, told reporters she does not intend to seek the position.

Including May, three Green MPs were elected last month, the most in its history but far shy of the 12 needed to gain official party status.

New Green MP rules out running for party leadership
New Green MP rules out running for party leadership

May hinted recently that she may be interested in running to be Speaker of the House of Commons but ruled out doing so in the short term because Manly and Atwin asked her to remain in the caucus.

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Roberts, who is a former journalist, told reporters she is looking forward to taking on the task of interim leader. She added that the Greens are grateful for May’s contributions to the party.

May became the first elected Green MP in 2011.

READ MORE: May says Greens will vote against confidence motions without stronger climate targets

“This is a woman who came in with a group of political activists and created a national party that could hold its own on the national stage,” she said.

“I know that Green Party members are forever grateful but I do believe Canadians are forever grateful.”

Wait, There’s More: A conversation with Elizabeth May

Roberts said she does not intend to be a “replacement” for May and will focus on overseeing the leadership race.

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Those outside the Green Party also paid tribute to May’s time as party leader, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“.@ElizabethMay, you’ve been a champion for the environment for decades, and your leadership on the climate crisis has helped push our country forward,” Trudeau tweeted.

“I know you’ll continue to inspire Canadians of all ages & political stripes to fight for a better & cleaner future.”

Conservative Leader thanked May for her service, writing, “Thank you @ElizabethMay for your many years of service to Canadians as Leader of the Green Party, and I wish you well as you continue to serve your constituents in Saanich-Gulf Islands.”

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wrote: “Elizabeth May has worked hard for her constituents, her Party and in the House of Commons. Congratulations on your leadership of the Green Party – glad to hear you intend to continue serving as the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.”

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Former justice minister and current Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould also sent well wishes to May.

“To my dear friend, @ElizabethMay… Gilakas’la 4 your service as the leader of the @CanadianGreens,” Wilson-Raybould tweeted.

“I know your passion, determination & thoughtful advocacy on the environment, true reconciliation w/ Indig. peoples & dem. reform will be ever-present.”

— With files from the Canadian Press