Green Party melts down as many expect fall federal election

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Let’s see how it’s going over at the Green Party. They have just lost a third of their parliamentary caucus. One hundred per cent of the remaining MPs, all two of them, think it was the fault of the party’s leader, Annamie Paul. She has rejected calls for her to resign.

And now Ms. Paul’s leadership is going under review.

Oh dear.

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That sounds like a meltdown, but it seems even worse when you recall that just about everyone in federal politics is expecting a general election this fall. MPs who aren’t running again have been delivering farewell speeches in the House of Commons, and the Green Party is deciding whether to say goodbye to its leader.

Ms. Paul might survive. It would take a three-quarters vote by the party’s federal council a month from now to put her leadership to a vote by party members. So if all goes well for Ms. Paul, it only means a month of intra-party squabbles that will probably leave her limping into an election as a reduced figure.

Former Green Party MP Jenica Atwin changes position on Israel to align with Liberals

Only eight months ago, it seemed the newly chosen party leader was a newcomer with some political game. She was the first Black and first Jewish woman to lead a national party represented in the Commons. She is articulate in English and French. She seemed to have focused ideas about selling the party. She looked like a potential electoral threat to the Liberals and the NDP.

But she has evidently not managed a crucial task in the Green Party: keeping the motley collection of activists of various types that make up the Greens united, and with her.

The Greens aren’t like the Liberals, pulled together by the magnetic force of power. It’s a party of earnest activists. And as Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin has shown us, they aren’t as malleable about what they believe as Liberals.

Ms. Atwin left the Greens after accusing Ms. Paul of failing to stand up for Palestinians, taking issue with the leader’s statement calling for de-escalation in a tweet that read: “There are no two sides to this conflict, only human rights abuses. #End Apartheid.” Last week, Ms. Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals, and this week, to match the politics of her new party, started to issue statements like Ms. Paul’s.

That wasn’t the Green Party’s first internal fight over Middle East politics. Former leader Elizabeth May threatened to resign in 2016 after party members passed a resolution calling for an economic boycott of Israel. A compromise policy was crafted, which still called for an arms embargo.

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But the flashpoint for many Greens – and the thing Ms. Atwin now cites as the reason for her departure – was not Ms. Paul’s statements on the Middle East, nor Ms. Atwin’s tweets about them.

It was the social-media response from Ms. Paul’s adviser, Noah Zatzman, who accused critics including unnamed Green MPs of antisemitism, said he will work to defeat them, “and bring in progressive climate change champions who are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists.”

That’s a pretty remarkable thing: a leader’s aide declaring war on the party’s MPs. In any party, it is going to create resentment. It was Mr. Zatzman’s job, after all, to speak for the leader. When Ms. Paul didn’t repudiate Mr. Zatzman’s comments, it engendered bitterness. Ms. May and the party’s other remaining MP, Paul Manly, explicitly blamed Mr. Zatzman’s statements for the “crisis.”

Some of Ms. Paul’s critics still think there’s time to mend that fence by disavowing Mr. Zatzman and his comments. But Ms. Paul herself doesn’t seem to believe that was the problem, anyway. She argues Ms. Atwin was looking to leave for the Liberals before any of that. But even if that were true, it might not matter now.

One Green MP is gone. The other two blame Ms. Paul for a crisis in the party. She faces a vote on her leadership. The leader doesn’t think she had much to do with any of it. But crisis it is.

Ms. Paul once seemed like she might lead the Greens to an election breakthrough. Now she’d do well just to lead the Greens into an election.

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