Annamie Paul is stepping down as Green Party leader | CBC News LoadedPolitics
Annamie Paul is stepping down as Green Party leader
Paul’s time as leader was hampered by internal squabbling
John Paul Tasker · CBC News · Posted: Sep 27, 2021 11:15 AM ET | Last Updated: 5 minutes ago
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul announced today she is stepping down as leader of her party after its disastrous showing in the recent federal election, prompting a search for a new leader less than a year after the last one concluded.
Paul said she is stepping down now because she can’t bear to go through a fractious leadership review, a process that was formally launched Saturday by members eager to replace her after the party’s poor showing in the 44th general election.
“I just asked myself whether this is something I wanted to continue, whether I was willing to put up with the attacks I knew would be coming, whether to continue to fight and struggle just to fulfil my democratically elected role as leader of this party,” Paul told reporters at a Toronto press conference. “I just don’t have the heart for it.”
Paul, a bilingual former diplomat, was picked by members to take the reins of the small party last October, becoming the first Black permanent leader of a major federal political party.
She pushed to make the party more diverse and reflective of contemporary Canada but her time at the top will be remembered most for the internal squabbling that undermined her leadership and the party’s electoral fortunes.
After posting its best result ever in the 2019 election, the resignation of its former leader Elizabeth May prompted soul-searching among the party’s ranks as an ethnically and ideologically diverse group of candidates lined up to replace her.
Paul, a relative moderate, narrowly beat out an opponent who described himself as a “radical” and an “eco-socialist.” Paul promised aggressive action on climate change and policies to address systemic discrimination.
Leadership tainted by infighting, policy disputes
But Paul was hampered by party infighting and a dispute over the party’s policy on Israeli and Palestinian issues.
During the last Middle East crisis in May, Paul, a Jewish woman, called for de-escalation and a return to dialogue — a response that was seen as insufficiently critical of Israel by some in the party, including one of its then MPs, Jenica Atwin.
Atwin, who eventually joined the Liberals and won re-election under that party banner last week, said Paul’s response to what she called an ongoing “apartheid” was “totally inadequate.”
WATCH: Annamie Paul resigns as Green leader
Annamie Paul resigns as leader of the Green Party
1 hour ago1:27After failing to win her riding in Toronto Center and months of party infighting leading up to the election, Paul has decided to resign as leader of Canada’s Green Party. 1:27
Another then-Green MP, Paul Manly, said the removal of some Palestinian families from East Jerusalem amounted to “ethnic cleansing.”
The caucus pushback led one of Paul’s senior staffers, Noah Zatzman, to accuse politicians, including some unspecified Green MPs, of discrimination and antisemitism.
“We will work to defeat you and bring in progressive climate champions who are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists!!!!!” he said in a May social media post.
Paul stood by Zatzman, which angered some members who saw the leader’s inaction as a sign that she endorsed her staffer’s call to replace two incumbent Green MPs. The Zatzman post and Paul’s reaction prompted Atwin’s floor-crossing — a devastating blow to a party that had only three MPs.
Paul then faced several calls for a leadership review. At one point, party executives even tried to rescind her membership — an extraordinary move only weeks out from a widely expected election call.
Paul blamed the party’s poor showing on unnamed senior party members who, she said Monday, “took great pleasure in attacking me.” She said the party’s national council stymied any chance of her doing well in the election because it held back some of the resources needed to run a winning campaign.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that when you head into an election without funding for your campaign, when you head into an election without the staff to staff your campaign, when you head into an election without a national campaign manager, when you head into an election being again under the threat of a court process from your party, it’s going to be very hard to convince people to vote for your party,” Paul said.
‘It has been the worst period in my life’
Paul said she had thought of quitting before all the votes had been cast because her time as leader has been such a miserable experience.
“What people need to realize is that when I was elected and put in this role, I was breaking a glass ceiling. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was breaking a glass ceiling that was going to fall on my head and leave a lot of shards of glass that I was going to have to crawl over throughout my time as a leader,” she said.
“This was not easy. It has been extremely painful. It has been the worst period in my life, in many respects.”
Paul spent nearly all of the recent campaign in the riding of Toronto Centre, where she was running for a third time.
Paul justified the limited itinerary by saying some Green candidates didn’t want her in their ridings during the election. She ultimately finished a disappointing fourth place in her bid to become an MP.
Under Paul’s leadership, the party’s vote dropped from a high-water mark of 1.1 million votes and 6.5 per cent of the national vote in 2019 to less than 400,000 votes and 2.3 per cent of the vote share in the most recent contest.
Source: CBC News
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J.P. Tasker is a senior writer in the CBC’s parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Green Party in tatters, after disappointing election finish
September 22, 2021
OTTAWA — The Green Party faces a self-reckoning after a federal election that dashed hopes of growth following a year marred by internal strife, say Green officials past and present.
Leader Annamie Paul finished fourth in her riding of Toronto Centre, and as of Wednesday the party had two candidates elected — one fewer than in 2019.
It also endured a drop in its share of the popular vote to 2.3 per cent from 6.55 per cent last time around.
Paul supporters say a dearth of resources and staff layoffs hampered any attempt at a co-ordinated countrywide campaign, which lacked a national director during all five weeks. Meanwhile, the leader barely left her riding as she tried to compensate for funding that was earmarked for her local campaign but nixed by party executives.
A bitter power struggle between Paul and members of the federal council — the Greens’ main governing body — dragged on for months ahead of the election, culminating in attempts to oust Paul that served up snapshots of a party in disarray.
The turmoil resulted in only 252 candidates being nominated, rather than a full slate of 338, the first time the party’s fallen significantly short of that benchmark in more than two decades.
However, a glimmer of hope emerged Monday when Green candidate Mike Morrice cruised to victory in Kitchener Centre, a new beachhead for the 38-year-old party.
More than 7,000 mail-in ballots are also still being counted in Nanaimo–Ladysmith, where Green incumbent Paul Manly trails a New Democrat and a Conservative in a tight three-way race.
Regardless of whether Paul opts to stay on in the short term, the party mandates a leadership review within six months following a federal election. She would need a membership endorsement of at least 60 per cent to remain in the top spot.
The party now confronts alternate visions of how to move forward, with ex-interim executive director Anik Lajoie saying it needs to rebrand and shore up power in the leader’s office, while others stress reconnection with the grassroots in a more bottom-up revival effort.
“They need to have a leader and not a spokesperson,” Lajoie said, referring to how the leaders’ role is viewed by many Greens.
“Right now all the power is in the federal council. I understand that this party is based on members and membership, but at one point when you have a leader, you need to let them lead.”
Lajoie is also calling for a more extensive ground game and professional approach to communications.
“They don’t even know how to set up a press conference, have the right flags, have the right angle,” she said, recollecting an event in Quebec in 2019.
“Where’s the Facebook Live? Where’s the camera? Where’s that? ‘I don’t know. We don’t have that. Oh, we need that?”‘ she recalled. “It was ridiculous ΓÇª It’s like they don’t want to play the game.”
Other Green stalwarts say the problem lies in harnessing the energy of the base, not in the party’s decentralized structure or unvarnished branding.
“This Green Party can rebuild and become relevant again by becoming a movement from coast to coast to coast. This will require reconnecting with our grassroots and unleashing it effectively,” former federal councillor Samuel Moisan-Domm said in a text, adding that the leader should be sensitive to both the libertarian and eco-socialist streaks in the party culture.
“Think and act like a movement!”
He and Lajoie agree, however, that the party narrative and platform need to evolve, and that greater unity is essential. “The party needs a spokesperson (or two) that can unify different factions,” he said.
For now, many Greens remain dispirited after a shattering defeat.
“We’re all still wrapping our head around last night,” said Corey Shefman, Paul’s campaign manager in Toronto Centre.
“It’s an absolute shame,” said Phil Desrosiers, who served as deputy campaign manager. “It breaks my heart.”
Nonetheless, he sees reason for hope.
“There is definitely a path to rebuilding because of Mike Morrice,” he said, adding that the federal party’s first Ontario beachhead bodes well for provincial Greens as well, who have a seat nearby in Guelph under leader Mike Schreiner.
“I think that that’s where a lot of people will put their efforts ΓÇª It’s a real opportunity. And if this is done correctly I think that it can lead to a lot more seats in Ontario.”
The Greens lost their foothold in Atlantic Canada after Jenica Atwin, who snagged Fredericton in 2019, defected to the Liberals in June and clung on to the riding in a nail-biter this week.
On top of morale, money remains an issue. The Green party shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal battles with Paul over the summer, worsening an already rough financial situation.
Douglas Tingey, then president of the Green Party of Canada Fund, stated in a July report that the “current financial situation is not sustainable.”
The party did secure a $1.3-million loan for its national campaign, according to three sources who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2021.