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This country’s political landscape changed Saturday when the federal Green party chose Annamie Paul as its new leader.
The Toronto lawyer will bring greater diversity to Ottawa.
She is Black, Jewish and, based on her impressive curriculum vitae, incredibly bright.
The first Black person to win the leadership of a federal Canadian political party (Vivian Barbot was once interim leader of the Bloc Québécois), Paul has a law degree from University of Ottawa and a master’s in public affairs from Princeton.
Fluent in four languages, she has worked in Brussels with a non-governmental organization dedicated to conflict prevention, in The Hague as an adviser at the International Criminal Court, and as a political officer with Canada’s mission to the European Union.
But it’s not only Paul’s background that will bolster diversity in Canadian politics — that seems to be part of her DNA. She describes it as a long-standing commitment, noting on her website how, after graduate school, she founded a charity that trained women and underrepresented minorities to run for office.
She has also volunteered with Operation Black Vote Canada and Equal Voice Canada.
“... What I bring is hope, hope to all the people that have not seen themselves represented in politics to this point, hope that it's possible that we can have a more inclusive style of politics,” Paul said during a news conference in Ottawa on Monday.
She said Canada has excelled in attracting top talent from around the world and at fostering diverse talent at home, but the resulting intellectual capital is being wasted when it comes to decision-making and policy.
"No one can afford that, given the major urgent crises that we're facing,” Paul said. “And, so, we're going to create better public policy when people like me and more diversity is in the room. You're far less likely to create a policing policy that targets, for instance, Black Canadians if you have Black Canadians that are at the table designing that policy.”
Paul said there is an urgent need for better policies around long-term care, universal pharmacare and a guaranteed livable income.
“These are the policies that we need to have in place as soon as possible if we're going to protect everyone and allow them to live in dignity.”
When it comes to the climate emergency — the Green plank Paul calls the “existential crisis of our times” — she said the other parties are “intellectually exhausted” on the issue and that the governing Liberals’ recent throne speech delivered little.
“I was hoping to hear something extremely inspirational. I was hoping to hear a vision for Canada that would inspire and spark the action that we need (on many issues). … What I heard was a whole lot of platitudes and, unfortunately, a platitude is not a plan.”
Will Paul’s diverse, fresh voice woo Canadians and lead her party to new heights? That is up to her. But first things first — she has set her sights on filling the Toronto Centre seat recently vacated by former federal finance minister Bill Morneau. A surprise byelection win in a Liberal stronghold on Oct. 26 would certainly send a shockwave through the political landscape.