While the Green Party of Canada might be mired in infighting and a sharp decline in support, the Green Party of Canada is continuing a series of historic firsts in federal politics with the announcement of an interim leader.
Amita Kuttner, 30, is the youngest, first trans person, and first person of east Asian descent to lead a national political party. Kuttner succeeds Annamie Paul, the first Black and Jewish person to become a party leader in Canada.
Kuttner, who ran against Paul last year’s leadership election, recently completed their PhD in astrophysics, with a specialization in black holes. They are also the founder of the Moonlight Institute, a non-profit that explores climate crisis adaptation frameworks.
Kuttner, who uses they/them pronouns, calls the appointment an “honour and a serious responsibility.”
In an interview with rabble.ca, Kuttner said while the news caught them off guard, they’re ready to help get the party back on track.
“This is really our opportunity to rebuild and strengthen and grow,” Kuttner said, adding they would like to see a smoother process for electing the party’s next leader.
Kuttner plans to work in collaboration with the party’s federal council, shadow cabinet, and caucus to determine how to move forward.
“The infighting is definitely there,” Kuttner admitted. “It’s up to the people who have been in conflict with each other to step up to the plate to resolve those [conflicts] and get to a place where we’re really treating each other with full respect again.”
Kuttner knows climate disasters firsthand
Kuttner, who has been a member of the Green Party for three years, previously served as the party’s science and innovation critic.
Bringing meaningful climate action remains atop Kuttner’s priorities. They hope to use their own lived experience with a national disaster to inform the party’s climate politics.
“I lost my own home and my mother to a mudslide in 2005,” Kuttner said, while expressing sympathy for the residents of British Columbia as they experience an ongoing state of emergency and evacuation orders due to flooding. “It’s very real. That’s what we’re doing this all for.”
While the interim leader’s mandate is limited, Kuttner is hoping to bring a new perspective to the leadership.
“Marginalized identities will be more likely to experience different things or have a different view of society,” Kuttner explained. “In my case, looking at the national conversation, thinking about people who live in poverty, communities of colour, queer communities, and the intersections of all of those spaces.”
Kuttner also believes the pandemic and wealth inequality need to be priorities for the party moving forward.
Former leader Elizabeth May “thrilled” with Kuttner’s appointment
Kuttner, who can only remain at their post for a maximum of six months, does not hold a seat in the House of Commons. The two Green MPs are former leader Elizabeth May (Saanich — Gulf Islands) and rookie Mike Morrice, who won in Kitchener Centre after Liberal incumbent and frontrunner Raj Saini withdrew his candidacy following allegations of sexual misconduct.
Former MP Paul Manly (Nanaimo-Ladysmith), the expected frontrunner, dropped out of the race hours before the appointment. His withdrawal is fueling speculation that Manly, who spent two years in Parliament before coming up third in the most recent federal election, is going all in on the next leadership bid.
“Of the 20 excellent applicants from across the country, half were from equity-seeking groups, a third were bilingual, half were under 50 years of age, and several were very qualified youth candidates,” a Wednesday press release from the party read.
In an emailed statement, May said she is “absolutely thrilled” to see Kuttner step up to the interim leadership position.
“We can now turn the page on a very difficult period in our party and move on to rebuild,” May said, calling Kuttner “smart, caring, thoughtful and brilliant.”
“As interim leader, they have put themselves out of the running for permanent leadership,” May added. “It is a critical act of selflessness that Amita is taking on leadership at this critical time. Amita has my full support.”
Kuttner is facing an uphill battle with the Green Party after a messy year under the leadership of Annamie Paul. In the most recent election, the Greens lost all momentum gains from the two previous elections, failed to offer a candidate in every riding and ultimately garnered fewer votes than the People’s Party of Canada.