Green Party leader makes surprise, last-minute visit to Vancouver Island

Green leader visits Island

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul broke with her tradition throughout the federal election campaign and travelled to British Columbia Saturday, marking her first visit to the only region where her party held seats before Parliament was dissolved.

Paul's trip to Vancouver Island was a departure from her approach throughout the campaign, which has seen her concentrate her efforts almost exclusively on the Toronto riding she hopes to win away from the Liberals.

The visit was announced late Friday night, prompting questions about whether she was invited by local party officials or if she was worried about declining party support in B.C.

But she said the province has long supported the party and made her feel welcome.

"Frankly I would've been spending most of the 11 months that I have been in this role travelling, had it not been for the pandemic," she said at a campaign event featuring several B.C. candidates, including former leader Elizabeth May.

"I really hope it's a boost, even if it's a boost for today then it's worth the trip."

Paul said she's tried to make the trip before but was hampered by COVID-19 restrictions, adding she's also been limited by her status as a new candidate tasked with running both her own campaign and boosting the party's national profile.

She acknowledged that party infighting had contributed to a drop in popular support heading in to Monday's election.

"There's no question, and I've said this before, the turmoil that we've been through as a party has definitely had an impact on our fortunes," she said.

Paul Manly, the Green MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, was not in attendance at the Saturday morning event, but did make an appearance at an evening event.

Paul and Manly had a public falling out over the defection of Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals.

She fielded another blow earlier this month when Andrew Weaver, the former head of B.C.'s Green Party, endorsed the climate change plan put forward by the federal Liberals.

"I respect him but I respectfully disagree with him on this," she said.

Paul criticized other parties' plans as "smoke and mirrors," highlighting the Liberal plan as not doing enough to combat climate change and carbon emissions.

The Green Party isn’t running a full slate this election, with only 228 candidates running out of 338 ridings, and has been trailing in the polls despite the climate crisis being one of the top concerns among voters, especially in B.C. where wildfires and heat waves have caused destruction and death this summer.

"The environment and climate have touched B.C. and these are things touching every part of the country," Paul said. "People in Canada, wherever they are, recognize that worse climate change is here and the question now is how much worse do we want it to get?"

The issue of old-growth logging is also important to the party, Paul added.

About 1,000 people have been arrested in the Fairy Creek area north of Port Renfrew since the RCMP started to enforce a B.C. Supreme Court injunction in May.

"We have been championing and encouraging those who have put themselves on the line at Fairy Creek," Paul said.

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