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Annamie Paul speaks to the media during a press conference announcing she is officially stepping down as Green Party leader, at Suydam Park in Toronto on Sept. 27, 2021.Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

The job that outgoing Green Leader Annamie Paul described as worse than a thankless task is up for grabs now. It doesn’t look likely to be rewarding for the next leader, either.

This is a party so deeply mired in dysfunction that it was intent on ripping itself to pieces, election or not. It was clearly not nearly as consumed with addressing a climate emergency as it was with settling internal disputes.

On Monday, Ms. Paul said she just didn’t have the heart for it any more. Anyone in their right mind who aspires to replace her will have to wonder if the party can save itself.

Who will answer the Help Wanted ad that seeks a leader for a party that is bent on relentlessly undermining both its leader and itself? Who wants a job experience that the previous occupant described as the worst period of her life? This is a party that, in Ms. Paul’s words, is in a struggle for its soul.

A year ago, it seemed that Ms. Paul might be the next-generation talent the Green Party needed. She became the first Black person and first Jewish woman to be elected leader of a national party, and her victory speech gave New Democrats and Liberals a shiver of worry that the Greens might have chosen someone who had game.

But the rookie leader couldn’t steer through the Green Party’s turmoil. In fact, she made it worse.

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She was dealing with a Green Party Federal Council that insisted on controlling the party and its purse strings. It even refused to properly fund her by-election campaign. Eventually, the council cut her staff and budget, hobbling her ability to campaign before the Sept. 20 general election. But Ms. Paul had her own failings. She wasn’t able to build alliances in the party. Some members said she just didn’t communicate.

In a Twitter dispute over Mideast politics with Jenica Atwin, who at the time was a Green MP but is now a Liberal, Ms. Paul’s advisor accused unnamed Green MPs of anti-Semitism, and said he would replace them. Ms. Paul remained silent.

She was subjected to anti-Semitic remarks during her leadership campaign, and spoke in broad terms of racism and sexism she faced from the party and its Federal Council, which sought to remove her. But eventually she left that to lawyers and told Canadians she couldn’t comment.

It’s a mess, and in some ways one that was made possible over years in a party characterized by competing righteous causes and small-time governance – a fact that was hidden behind the well-known face of Elizabeth May while she was leader from 2006 to 2019.

Some Greens will be tempted to bring Ms. May back now. At best, that would allow the party to put off growing up for a few more years. And it would not bring a quiet resolution to the party’s problems. Ms. Paul referred obliquely to attacks she suffered from “former leaders” of the Greens. And there are lingering questions about why she didn’t get one unimpeded run at an election campaign as leader.

On Monday, Ms. Paul said she had to move on, but she seemed to be asking others to keep up the fight.

She directed part of her resignation statement at “those Green Party members who have taken great pleasure in attacking me, and calling for assaults against me, and calling for organization against me, and suggesting I am part of a conspiracy against the party,” and told them, “you will not succeed in the end.” She said there is a struggle for the soul of the party.

The thing is, there is a Green movement, but not much of a party, at least at the federal level.

There are Green members of Vancouver City Council and there is a Green Official Opposition in Prince Edward Island. But the federal party now has two seats, including one it picked up when a Liberal candidate was forced out of the race. This leaves little more than a patchwork collection of various ideologies and a small-time party structure that revolves around intra-party disputes.

This is a party that warns there is an overwhelming cause, a climate emergency that must come before anything else, and that there’s no time to waste. The next Green leader will only have so much time for that, while the party struggles for its soul.

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