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Greens' interim leader hoping for clear victory in weekend leadership decision


OTTAWA — Interim Green Leader Jo-Ann Roberts says she is hoping for a clear winner Saturday when the party's new leader is elected, to put to rest concerns the race was not legitimate.

The eight-month contest to succeed Elizabeth May will culminate this weekend at an event in Ottawa, where one of eight candidates will take the party's top job.

But events in the last two weeks have clouded the race: Montreal immigration lawyer Meryam Haddad was temporarily expelled, and former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray discovered the party hadn't forwarded all the donations meant for his campaign.

Roberts said she is concerned by some of the things that happened but doesn't think it will mean whoever wins won't have a legitimate victory.

She said the party handled those problems as well as it could, even if she is disappointed any of it happened.

"I'm the first one to admit that," she said. "I don't think it's changed the legitimacy. I think when people hear the results, it will be great we've chosen a new leader. I hope it is a clear-cut choice in the end."

A bigger problem facing the party may be unity, with not all candidates promising to throw their full support to anyone who wins.

Murray, also a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister who is seeking to return to politics to push for bolder action on climate change, said he may not seek a seat if Montreal class-action lawyer Dimitri Lascaris wins.

""I would stay involved in the party but I'm not sure I'd be ready to be a candidate under that circumstance," he said.

May, whose battles with Lascaris have been quite public in recent years, said "I doubt it" when asked if she would support the winner no matter who it is.

She said it won't matter, though, because the leader doesn't have that much control over the party's direction, and is not going to be "my boss." May will, for now, remain the parliamentary leader, as none of the candidates has a seat in the House of Commons.

Lascaris has said the party became too mainstream and centrist under May. Four years ago May fired him as the party's justice critic for his support of the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, which many say is an anti-Semitic effort to destroy Israel.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Lascaris of "vile, anti-Semitic smears" when Lascaris accused two Liberal Jewish MPs of being loyal to "apartheid Israel" in 2018.

It's a label Lascaris rejects, saying his criticism of Israel's treatment of Palestinians is legitimate.

He is considered one of the front-runners in the contest, along with Annamie Paul. The two have led the fundraising and donor numbers for the last several months.

Lascaris said he thinks he and May can make it work if he wins.

"My goal would be to start fresh with Elizabeth, to have a productive relationship with Elizabeth," he said.

Paul, a Black Jewish mother of two who once worked in the prosecutor's office at the International Criminal Court, wants to bring diversity to the party, something she said is sorely lacking in the Greens. She said she has been the target of a lot of hate throughout the campaign, particularly anti-Semitic comments on social media.

While May didn't officially endorse Paul, she did help her fundraise a bit, a move others criticized since May was asked to remain neutral.

Roberts said bringing the various factions in the party into the same tent won't be an easy job, but she thinks at least at first, the new leader will be given a chance by all.

"Then, because we're Greens, if it isn't working, we'll hear about it," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2020.

Rabson Mia, The Canadian Press

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