P.E.I.'s Anna Keenan aims to turn federal Green Party around

·3 min read
Anna Keenan, right, is running as co-leader alongside Montreal's Chad Walcott. (Anna Keenan/Facebook - image credit)
Anna Keenan, right, is running as co-leader alongside Montreal's Chad Walcott. (Anna Keenan/Facebook - image credit)

After what she describes as a "dumpster fire" for Canada's Green Party in 2021, Anna Keenan of P.E.I. is looking to take the party in new directions.

Keenan is one of six candidates for the federal leadership. She is proposing a new co-leadership model, alongside Montreal's Chad Walcott. When people first approached her about the leadership, Keenan said she dismissed the idea.

"My French isn't good enough, and I might need to get another 10 years of experience before I try that sort of thing," she said, but the talk didn't go away.

"I just kept hearing the same thing, from both locals and from Greens who'd been watching my work across the country, they said we'd like to see you do this."

Eventually, she said, she was convinced that enough people across the country had faith in her, and that she should have faith in herself.

An international and a provincial leader

Keenan has a long record as an environmental activist, and has had success as a Green Party organizer.

She has led international teams of volunteers for Greenpeace and 350.org. In 2016, she became president of the P.E.I. Green Party. At the time, the Greens had recently elected their first Island MLA. The party set a goal to form the Official Opposition by 2023.

It did that in 2019.

Those organizational skills would be challenged leading a Green Party that imploded with internal squabbling as it moved into a federal election campaign last year, a campaign in which she was a candidate.

The party ended up with just 2.3 per cent of the popular vote.

"I'm not afraid to use the word dumpster fire," said Keenan.

"2021 was a very rough year for the Canadian Greens."

But Keenan believes the party can come together under new leadership, and focus on issues that matter to Canadians.

She is placing that focus on improving democracy, addressing the climate crisis and building an economy that is based on well-being.

"If I saw other parties getting results I might not feel the need to run, but our national emissions, our carbon emissions, are the same now as they were 20 years ago," said Keenan.

"We've seen a massive change in rhetoric on climate change, but our emissions have not gone down at all."

Co-leadership common in Europe

There is currently no provision in the Green Party constitution for the co-leadership that Keenan and Walcott are proposing.

But it is also a plan being proposed by candidates Elizabeth May and Jonathan Pedneault, and Keenan notes it is a common model for Green parties in Europe.

In practice, Keenan said if she or Walcott win, they would immediately appoint the other deputy leader, and then begin work on amending the party constitution to allow joint leadership.

As leader, Keenan said she would lean on her experience as an international organizer of largely volunteer organizations.

"I'm not going to try to micromanage," she said.

"I'm going to try to empower a large team. We're going to get this done together. I can't do this on my own."

The first round of voting, which will create a shortlist of four candidates, will be completed Oct. 14. The final runoff will be completed Nov. 19.