Jenica Atwin hopes for new Green 'energy' from next party leader

Jenica Atwin hopes for new Green 'energy' from next party leader

Jenica Atwin, Fredericton's newly elected Green MP says she's hoping for a federal leader who will bring energy and new voices to the Green Party.

The leadership became vacant Monday, when Elizabeth May said she was stepping down from the role she's held for 13 years. 

"Filling those shoes is the most important thing," said Atwin, who was with May in Ottawa when she announced her resignation.

Atwin, who for now has ruled out running for the leadership herself, said she is hoping May's successor will be courageous, challenge the status quo and focus on building the party across Canada.

Only three Greens — May and Paul Manley, who are both from British Columbia, and Atwin — won seats in the federal election last month that gave the Liberals a minority government. May will continue as caucus leader in Parliament.

Atwin said the next leader has to be able to inspire, grow the party and create an inclusive environment that will bring people in from different places on the political spectrum, she said.

"Someone who can really focus their energy on bringing in new voices," Atwin told Information Morning Fredericton.

Atwin said she was saddened by May's decision to resign, which she'd known about for a couple of weeks. 

"I know Elizabeth herself has already expressed in the past, the desire to pass it on to someone else and really focus on her family. It was just a matter of when that would happen."

She described May as an "incredible leader, politician and person."

"She's given so much to Canada and her constituency. It's sad to see her go."

A Fredericton focus

Atwin said she was flattered by the number of people encouraging her to run for the leadership, and although she isn't considering the position now, she's not ruling it out entirely. 

"It would be premature for me to take my name out permanently," she told Information Morning Fredericton.

But for now, her priorities are her Fredericton constituents.

"Right now, especially with the minority government situation and how much that might last … it's going to be about focusing on the team, the caucus and on the work that's needed in Fredericton."

Throughout the federal campaign, Atwin, who works in Indigenous education, focused on climate change, mental illness, poverty and a need for reconciliation with First Nations.  

Mike Heenan/CBC

The 2019 election was the party's second-best showing under May's leadership. The party achieved 6.5 per cent of the national vote, marginally less than the 6.78 per cent the Greens won in the 2008 campaign. 

"We achieved more than one million votes for the first time ever," May said Monday.

"As I look around the world … there is no other country with first-past-the-post that has achieved what we've achieved."

Former New Brunswick journalist Jo-Ann Roberts will serve as the party's interim leader before a new leader is selected on Oct. 4, 2020, at the party convention in Charlottetown.