Annamie Paul: All Canadians ‘should have access to a certain quality of life’

By Scott Costen

AFTER spending her career in places like Brussels and Barcelona, Annamie Paul has her sights set on a new role in Ottawa.

One of eight candidates vying to replace Elizabeth May as Green Party of Canada (GPC) leader, Paul believes she is the right person at the right time.

“I am well-matched to this time, both in our country’s history and also in the evolution of our party as well,” she told Redaction Politics.

“We’ve never had a Black person leading a federal party,” she said. “We’ve never had a woman of colour leading a federal party.”

By electing her next month, GPC members would be sending a “powerful intentional signal” and help “change the conversation,” she said.

The daughter of Caribbean immigrants, Paul grew up in Toronto and showed an early interest in politics, serving in the Ontario legislature’s page program at the age of 12.

She put herself through university, earning a law degree and a post-graduate degree in public affairs.

“We lived a very, very modest life growing up and you had to work,” she said. “I knew I was going to have to pay for university and I did. I paid for the entire thing from start to finish myself. I was always working.”

Paul founded and directed a non-partisan charity that helped people from marginalized communities run for elected office.

And she embarked on a career in international affairs that saw her work as a conflict prevention official, an advisor to the International Criminal Court, and a political officer at Canada’s mission to the European Union.

“All of the challenges that we’re facing these days – particularly the biggest ones like the climate emergency, the pandemic, the future of work – all of these things are really global in nature,” she said. “So, understanding how agreement is forged and how cooperation is accomplished, I think is certainly one of the biggest takeaways from all of those years working abroad.”

While Paul is advancing policy ideas as part of her campaign, she is not proposing a ready-made election platform for the GPC.

“One of the big differences between us and the other parties is that our policies are really member-developed and member-driven,” she said. “The role of the leader is essentially to be a very compelling spokesperson for those policies.”

One idea she’s asking members to consider is a rural revitalization strategy that would expand infrastructure, promote sustainability and enhance service delivery.

“It’s really important to me because I believe that, wherever you live across Canada, you should have access to a certain quality of life and to certain services,” she said.

Another one of Paul’s priorities is channeling the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement to address systemic racism within the criminal justice system.

“It’s always about taking the opposition and the mobilization that is happening in the streets and converting it into proposition,” she said. “The tipping point is really when you successfully make that transition.”

On the environment, Paul has put forward a plan entitled “Chance of a Lifetime” that maps out an accelerated transition to a green economy.

“We have a chance to recreate and reimagine our economy so that it is just, so that it is sustainable, so that it reflects the finite resources of our planet and also creates the jobs of the future,” she said.

Prior to launching her leadership campaign, Paul served in the GPC shadow cabinet as international affairs critic.

She was also the Green candidate in Toronto Centre in 2019, finishing fourth with about 7 per cent of the vote.

That seat, a long-time Liberal stronghold, is now vacant following the resignation of its former MP – and the country’s former finance minister – Bill Morneau.

As leader, Paul said she would consult within the party before deciding when and where to seek a seat in the House of Commons.

“I would be open to running wherever it makes sense,” she said.

Nearly 35,000 party members are eligible to vote for the GPC’s next leader. The winner is expected to be announced October 3.

Featured Image: Annamie Paul campaign

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