It was the first time in the campaign that Paul visited the Greens’ political beachhead of Vancouver Island, and one of only a handful of trips outside of Toronto.
Paul said she’d hoped to visit British Columbia sooner, but plans had been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Green leader said she hoped her presence would buoy her candidates’ fortunes in the region, but that she had confidence Green issues would resonate with British Columbians.
“There’s certainly a strong presence here, always fighting for the climate, always fighting for the environment, and people have that association in their minds, they count on Greens for that reputation, and again, (it) is why we need to send more Greens to Ottawa,” Paul said.
The path to federal success for the Greens has long run through B.C. and Vancouver Island in particular.
Former leader Elizabeth May won the party’s first federal seat in her riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands in 2011.
But the party has faced stiff headwinds in the 2021 campaign. While the Greens pulled 8.2 per cent of the vote in 2015, capturing a single seat, and 12.5 per cent of the vote in 2019, winning three seats — two in B.C. — they are currently polling at just six per cent.
Paul acknowledged that highly public party infighting was partly to blame for the Greens’ current situation.
Adding to the 2021 challenge: one of B.C.’s best-known Greens, former B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver, has publicly backed the Liberals and their climate plan.
“I can’t speak for Mr. Weaver. I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with him since his decision. I said that I respect him but I respectfully disagree with him on this,” she said, calling the Liberal climate plan “smoke and mirrors” and “snake oil.”
“Even if we were to do every single thing, we would not get to our destination of reducing greenhouse gasses as quickly as we need to.”
In addition to May’s seat, the Greens are locked in a tight race to defend their other B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith.
Conservative Tamara Kronis and New Democrat Lisa Marie Barron both believe they can unseat Paul Manly. The Conservatives finished second in the riding in 2019, but the region has traditionally leaned NDP.
In a sign of how competitive the parties believe the riding is, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made a campaign stop in the area at the end of August, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole visited in July.
Elsewhere on the campaign trail Saturday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau touted the importance of getting vaccinated as key to a safer future, while Singh criticized Trudeau for failing to push harder for paid sick leave and proof-of-vaccination certificates.
O’Toole, meanwhile, insisted his party was running a safe campaign but would not say how many of his candidates are fully immunized against the virus.
With files from the Canadian Press