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Manitoba Green leader James Beddome stepping down

Green Party of Manitoba leader James Beddome at a leaders debate in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. Beddome is planning to leave after spending more than a decade growing the party's visibility and share of the popular vote. He says he will not run for another term as leader when his current one expires in the fall. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

The leader of the Green Party of Manitoba is planning to leave after spending more than a decade growing the party’s visibility and share of the popular vote.

James Beddome says he will not run for another term as leader when his current one expires in the fall. Instead, he plans to focus more on his work as a lawyer and on his personal life.

Read more: James Beddome challenged for leadership of Green Party of Manitoba

“I find myself a little bit stretched between my volunteer commitment as leader … my own personal life and running my business as well,” Beddome, 38, said in an interview Tuesday.

The change is an opportunity for party renewal, he said.

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Click to play video: 'Manitoba Green Party Leader James Beddome' Manitoba Green Party Leader James Beddome
Manitoba Green Party Leader James Beddome – Aug 14, 2019

“Sometimes it’s time to get out of the way and allow some other plants to grow through into the sunshine.”

The Greens have never won a seat in the Manitoba legislature and garnered little attention before Beddome took over in 2008.

Under his leadership, the party increased its share of the popular vote in every provincial election — from one per cent the year before Beddome’s first term to six per cent in 2019.

Read more: Greens say 20 per cent tax on sweet drinks would reduce diabetes

In 2011, Beddome was the first Green leader invited to participate in televised debates.

He used the platform to push ideas, including a universal basic income to fight poverty, first to New Democrat Greg Selinger and then to Progressive Conservative Brian Pallister when they were premiers.

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“When I first became leader, it was an out-there idea that no one would even consider. We spent a lot of time working on the numbers and showing that it could actually be done under current resource constraints,” he recalled.

Click to play video: 'Green Party of Manitoba leader, Green Party of Canada leader talk guaranteed annual income' Green Party of Manitoba leader, Green Party of Canada leader talk guaranteed annual income
Green Party of Manitoba leader, Green Party of Canada leader talk guaranteed annual income – Apr 15, 2016

Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba, moderated the 2011 debate.

“Mr. Beddome always struck me as a poised, articulate and informed leader who presented the Green party positions in a credible manner,” Thomas said.

Read more: Manitoba Green leader gets boost from federal counterpart in poverty action

Beddome was an early proponent of a ban on cosmetic pesticides, which the NDP government enacted in 2014. The current Progressive Conservative government has introduced a bill to ease some of the restrictions.

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Beddome stepped down as leader in 2013 after graduating law school and was replaced on an interim basis. He had a change of heart and ran for the leadership again the following year and won.

Click to play video: 'Green Party addresses fears of fringe party voting during 2016 Manitoba election' Green Party addresses fears of fringe party voting during 2016 Manitoba election
Green Party addresses fears of fringe party voting during 2016 Manitoba election – Apr 15, 2016

In the 2016 election, the Greens came within 400 votes of winning a seat.

The Green candidate finished second to the NDP incumbent in Winnipeg’s Wolseley constituency. Beddome would work in mentions of the Wolseley race during debates in the 2016 and 2019 elections.

Read more: $1.6-billion basic income plan highlights Manitoba Green Party’s election platform

“He’s really brought a lot to the party, helped grow the party and … has done a good job at shining a light on … our … candidates,” said Pearson Singbeil Montgomery, Green party president.

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The Greens plan to have a leadership race in the summer and to elect a new leader in the fall.

Click to play video: 'Green Party of Canada leader shows support for provincial greens during Manitoba election' Green Party of Canada leader shows support for provincial greens during Manitoba election
Green Party of Canada leader shows support for provincial greens during Manitoba election – Apr 15, 2016

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