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Annamie Paul says there’s a fight over the future of the Green Party, and she’s not up for any more punches.

On Monday morning, after months of infighting and a federal election campaign that saw the party’s support drop to 2.3 per cent of the popular vote from the 6.5 per cent it recorded in 2019, Paul announced she would begin the process of stepping down as leader.

“Please know this was not easy. It has been extremely painful, it has been the worst period of my life in many respects,” Paul said Monday.

Paul said she broke the glass ceiling but didn’t realize how much glass she’d have to crawl over as a result. She said by the time she reached the debate stage, she was “spitting up blood.”

“There is a struggle that is going on for the soul of the party,” she said, following months of infighting that led to accusations of racism and sexism, and eventually spilled into the courts, reportedly costing the party about $100,000 in July, and another $100,000 set aside for August’s legal fees.

Speaking to her detractors, Paul said they may take comfort in her departure, but that there were “many more people like me than there are you … and I will look to those other people to take up the baton, and to move the party in the direction that I still believe it can go in.”

University of Prince Edward Island political science professor Don Desserud says it’s important to keep in mind that a small party taking a big tumble isn’t as bad as it looks.

“The 'collapse' of the Green Party is not equivalent to what would happen if the NDP collapsed or the Conservatives or the Liberals,” he said. “There's a huge difference, and the huge difference is the psychological blow that comes from when you're a major party — or even a strong opposition party — and you believe that in one more election or two, you're going to get back in power.

“The overall vote looks much worse, but they didn't have that far to fall, and so, therefore, the pain is not nearly as strong.”

“What if they stopped trying to win in this game that is rigged and instead turned their entire movement into a mass movement pushing for climate action and proportional representation?” asks @amarapossian. #cdnpoli #Greens #elxn44

When the dust settled, the Greens’ seat count held at two, but with significant asterisks. Elizabeth May was the only incumbent Green to be re-elected. Paul Manly lost his re-election in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, and Mike Morrice of Kitchener Centre won his seat in a contest where the incumbent Liberal candidate stepped down over sexual harassment allegations.

On top of that, nationally, the Green Party didn’t crack 400,000 votes with Paul steering the ship, representing a far cry from the nearly 1.2 million Green votes in 2019. It didn’t help the party fielded only 252 candidates out of the 338 it could have.

Earlier this year, climate advocacy group 350 called for an alliance between the NDP and the Greens to elect climate champions, and in this election, it endorsed candidates it believed to be strong on climate. May, Manly, and Malpeque candidate Anna Keenan were the only Greens to land an endorsement from 350 this year, leaving Paul noticeably absent.

The group’s Canada campaigns director Amara Possian said the Green Party should use this opportunity to reorient itself around realistic goals.

“They aren't going to become the governing party, certainly not on the timeline that's needed to tackle the climate emergency,” she said. “So whoever runs (for leader) needs a plan for how to advance their agenda that goes beyond electing just a few more MPs.

“The Green Party needs to be looking at the kind of power they have access to. What are their resources? Who are their people? Where do they have influence?

“This is an opportunity to sit down and say … How can we turn what we have into the power that we need in order to make the change that we want?” she said.

Pointing to the recent German election where the Greens are expected to play kingmaker in a coalition government, Possian said the Canadian Greens need to be realistic that that type of opportunity is unlikely to be available in a first-past-the-post system.

“What if they stopped trying to win in this game that is rigged and instead turned their entire movement into a mass movement pushing for climate action and proportional representation?” she said.

A similar question was on the mind of Green Party members during last year’s leadership race that saw Paul narrowly beat Dimitri Lascaris, a Montreal-based eco-socialist.

“Even if we hadn't gone through this very difficult period where we've seen a precipitous drop in our support nationally … we would still be a long way away from having any realistic prospect of even being part of a coalition government, let alone winning a majority of the seats,” Lascaris said. “So, as Greens, we must ask ourselves this question.”

He says the main contribution the party can make in the time frame to meaningfully deal with the climate crisis is expanding the boundaries of political debate. By that, he largely means challenging the capitalist economic system.

“One thing that's abundantly clear is a system … designed to maximize the profits of a small number of persons, at the expense of the planet and the vast majority of the human population, is going to end up destroying the planet,” he said. “So we have to have a conversation in this country about a dramatic transformation of the economic system.

“I have no illusions just expanding the boundaries of political debate is enough, but if we're not even starting with that, it's a certainty reforms will never occur.”

John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer

Updates and corrections

| Corrections policy
September 28, 2021, 11:15 am

This story has been corrected to show 350's call for a climate alliance was for the 2021 election.

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What party insiders or other unknown (to the public) persons did to Ms. Paul was an absolute disgrace. I understand being "sore losers" or not getting what you wanted, but she won a leadership campaign. That others were willing to destroy the Party rather than give Ms. Paul an opportunity to lead was disgusting. She showed in the "debate" that she certainly had something to offer, it is a shame that Canada will never know what that was, or what we may have lost.

I might agree with you if not for the dust up over an unelected Zionist office worker threatening a sitting MP without being publicly censored by the leader. It's hard to believe you can be a Green climate activist and ignore the situation in Gaza..........but we shouldn't overlook the possibility that Demitri lost the leadership, and Paul won it, for precisely this reason.
Our Canadian Greens, and dear Elizabeth among them, are usually only too willing to ignore the plight of the indigenous people of Palestine. A people who are probably more Semitic than the European Jews intent on replacing them....have been erased by western media and western politician. This feels like imperialism in action to me, this smells like colonialist denialism. As if we have any hope of defeating climate change while retaining our imperial rights to the lands of others!!!

For this reason, I have a hard time feeling sorry for Paul. Those of us who support BDS, those of us who wonder why the west is so silent about the atrocities periodically visited upon Gaza and the West Bank, found it difficult to believe sexism/racism were Ms Paul's main problems. As a Jewish convert, she simply didn't have the Chomsky gene.......she couldn't unequivocally censure her assistant and put social justice over religious partisanship.

That's not Canada, that's generally Blue.

"Jewish convert"? "Chomsky gene"? Which people are the "more Semitic"? Where is this coming from? Where is it going?

Couldn't agree more! Well said

The Green Party's focus should be on the environment and the greatest threat to civilization, the climate crisis. Of course, they need to take positions on other issues, like the Israel/Palestine problem that people pretend to want to solve. But to be honest, this is a pointless side show and I'm hugely disappointed that this religious conflict, which has virtually nothing to do with Canada or the climate, derailed years of progress for the Green party.

I don't know about all that drama Gary Beemer but I do think that Ms Paul was not right. The discord and rancor that she sowed is on her. Not only by her imperious ways but in her sectarian views which in themselves alone put chase to her flagrant dog whistle cries of prejudices. Beware the operator who always points fingers and blame at others. I'm a card carrying Green who cast my vote for her and I feel I made a mistake.

I share with you having voted for Annamie Paul as leader, Bob Cat, but demur on your view that she sowed discord and rancor. On the contrary, it is those operatives who had it out for her from the start who kept doing the sowing. Should she have disavowed her advisor's views immediately? I believe that too. Note, however, that her initial statement on the Israel/Gaza issue was a soft one -- one could read it as essentially doing what several other comments suggest the Green Party should do: Basically not get involved.

Of course that makes those who want to load on the Green Party of Canada an answer to all the problems in the world unhappy. Too bad.

And then there are those, including her closest rival for the leadership, who see the Green Party as spearheading a transformation of Canada's economic system. Good luck with that.

A small party like the Greens has to pick its issues. Its documents such as the 2019 and 2021 platforms did a good job of that. Annemie Paul had pulled together a very impressive Shadow Cabinet -- news that never made it into the mainstream media, preoccupied as it was with the juicy stories of conflict and accusation.

I have observed Annamie Paul up close, and the whole nation has seen her perform in the national debates. She most definitely had much to share. Political space in Canada would have become much improved with her presence. It is a real shame that largely unnamed forces have engineered her departure.

The tragedy of the Green Party has little or nothing to do with racism and glass ceilings. Annamie Paul was chosen as leader at least in part BECAUSE of her identities - certainly not in spite of them. The party, and the country as a whole, is harmed by her continued divisive use of identify politics - her repeated allegations of racism, sexism and anti-semitism. It is not anti-semitic to object to having the Green Party characterised as "Zionist." What brought the Green Party to its knees was not Annamie's race, religion, or gender, but her refusal to respond appropriately to this and other outrageous, uncivil, un-inclusive and ungreen comments of her advisor. This at a time when the Greens are needed most. It breaks my heart,

Totally agree!

I have no way of knowing who is more to blame for this disaster.

It certainly appears that Ms Paul was badly served by the party's leaders or whatever.

Regardless, it very clearly cost them dearly in this election.

I've never seen a party cannibalize itself in this way, to this extent, even after decades of watching the Liberals and Conservatives.

Of all the times to lose the voice of a party dedicated to environmental improvement.......this is horrendous

I'm quite willing to believe that some of the top Green people had it in for her, for factional reasons--there seems to be a significant split in the Green party. And there may have been some racism involved at some level--probably not overtly, but . . . yeah. And the one gaffe where she didn't censure that guy, while bad, should not in itself have been enough for the party to try to totally dump a new leader just before an election. What were those people THINKING?!

But Paul is clearly a CRAPPY politician. If she was a GOOD politician, she would have been able to stop all that stuff from escalating that far. Instead it seems like she made everyone around Green party HQ hate her guts, while failing badly on an organizational level, right down to the part where her communications manager or whatever that guy was, felt like he could unleash a divisive bombshell without vetting it with her first. I don't know if anyone remembers Rosemary Brown of the NDP--imagine she'd become the leader of the Green party. She would never have let the situation fall apart like that. She would have taken tough stances and still made everyone love her.

My wife initially liked Paul, and didn't know much about the whole infighting thing. But as she saw Paul in more appearances, she told me she thought the woman was cold and arrogant--treating her husband like a prop, telling the crowd "YOU are my real family" when he's standing right beside her, suddenly turning away from Elizabeth May and ignoring her in the middle of a greeting. Turned her off. Again, I don't think that's an earmark of a successful politician (except sometimes in the Conservative party, where it seems like people are supposed to be mean).

All in all, it's a pity it all played out so destructively, but Paul probably shouldn't be the leader of a political party. I don't think she's good at it.

AP is cold & arrogant, but that's becuz she has narcissistic tendancies. I saw this in her when I watched the GPC leadership debate. Unfortunately, Ms May was duped by AP, as many other GPC members were...& she won. Then when AP refused any communication w a sitting MP (Atwin), it showed her lack of leadership skills. Instead she claimed racism in the media. Ms May & Paul Manly,, sitting GPC MP's supported Atwin. AP brought in legal claims against the GPC. The GPC spent most of it's $ dealing w her on this & had to let staff go. The legal battle continues...which is why AP said she is 'in the process" of resigning.

It seems that Annamie Paul gets sympathy because she gets to put her well-lawyered case to the media, while for the most part the media ignore the grassroots party members who are horrified at her conduct. Failing to follow party policy when commenting on the multiple abuses which the Israeli state was inflicting on Palestinians in the spring. Failing to dissociate herself from Zatzman's vicious remarks and keeping him on staff until it was no longer possible for her to do so. Forcing a sitting MP out of the party through her refusal to provide her with any support. Failing to appoint a deputy, and leaving shadow cabinet appointments until the very last minute, with the result that the election platform was inadequately thought through. Demanding and getting an extortionate salary in a party which was already facing a funding crisis. Obtaining a long and complex contract which the members of the party - the people she was supposed to serve, represent and speak for - are not allowed to see. Making no visible effort whatsoever to build relations with her fellow leadership candidates. Blocking election candidacy for some of the party's best candidates. Presiding, through her vetting procedure, over the first failure to run a near-full slate nationally in over a decade. Dissembling and diverting when asked straightforward questions by party members.
But the Green Party has participatory democracy as a core value, so the people who are attracted to it are not going to be too happy with a leader who fails to represent them. Unlike all those traditional NDPers who pretended at least for a time to be in full support of Mulcair's rightwing leadership, Greens don't expect to play follow-the-leader. We expect the leader to follow the will of the party.
It didn't have to work out the way it did. Ms Paul could have listened to the party and changed her ways. But she didn't. And so the electoral disaster was inevitable.
And Ms Paul's departure is therefore also inevitable. The only question now is how much damage she manages to do on the way out. And then the party starts to rebuild - and, I hope, learn from the mistakes that made this episode possible.

Thanks for the cogent rebuttal! Frankly, I don't understand how anyone who has followed the internal upheaval of the federal Greens can believe that Ms Paul is the wronged party. She has failed, at every point, to be accountable to the Party or to demonstrate any insight into her own behaviour so as to correct course.