The Green Party of Canada has a new leader: human rights lawyer Annamie Paul.
Paul won the biggest leadership contest the Greens have ever had in Ottawa on Saturday evening on the eighth ballot with 12,090 votes in a race that saw 69 per cent of party members vote.
Nearly 35,000 people were eligible to vote, nearly 10 times as many as turned out for the last leadership election in 2006 when Elizabeth May won.
Paul is also the acclaimed Green candidate for Toronto Centre and is now set to fight for the seat in the byelection being held Oct. 26.
“This is a historic moment,” Paul said in her victory speech, pointing to prominent women from all backgrounds in politics who have paved the way ahead of her.
She is the first Black person to permanently lead a federal political party and the second Jewish person to do so.
She is also the only female leader of a federal political party.
Dressed all in white — the colour of the suffragettes — Paul thanked her family for their support, including her 84-year-old mother, who could not be present for her victory because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She also spoke of the absence of her father, who died in May in a long-term care home, and said the loss drove home the need for the party to continue fighting for a better quality of life for Canadians.
“That is the question as we face down this pandemic, as we face down the climate emergency, that we must constantly ask ourselves: what is a life worth?” she said.
“There is no question that we are facing the two defining challenges of our time. How will we build a complete social safety net that allows every person in Canada to live in dignity and security, and how will we tackle the existential crisis of our time which is the climate emergency?”
There were eight candidates in the race and the party ran through announcing the individual results of each of the eight ballots before Paul won on the eighth round.
She succeeds May, who stepped down last fall after leading the party for 13 years.
May will remain a force in the party, as she is still one of its three MPs and as of now, intends to remain as parliamentary leader in the House of Commons.
Paul said the party is now facing an opportunity like never before as the country grapples with the effects of the pandemic and searches for solutions for a more livable world.
“This is a government that is intellectually exhausted,” Paul said, noting that the party has been at the forefront of pushing for guaranteed basic income, universal pharmacare and transitioning workers into the natural resources sector towards clearer technology jobs.
“You have matched a leader to the challenges of this time. I also believe we need to match a party to the needs of this moment, and there is no question this party is the Green Party of Canada.”
Paul urged voters in Toronto Centre to cast their ballots for her on Oct. 26, saying the riding has too often seen candidates “parachuted” in only to disappear to Ottawa once elected.
She vowed to be an advocate for the riding by focusing on housing affordability, Indigenous equality and justice, and addiction support.
With files from The Canadian Press.