Annamie Paul is stepping down as leader of the Green Party, calling the experience at the helm of the party “the worst period in my life in many respects.”
In announcing her resignation, Ms. Paul referred to the glass ceiling she broke a year ago when she was elected the first Jewish woman and first Black person to lead a federal party.
“What I didn’t realize at the time is 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 Monday.
It was a disappointing election for Ms. Paul and the Greens, after a summer of turmoil within their ranks. The party saw its share of the popular vote fall to 2.3 per cent, from 6.55 per cent in 2019. Though it picked up a new seat in Ontario, the party ended up with two MPs, the same number as in the last Parliament. Ms. Paul, 48, placed fourth in the Toronto Centre riding where she ran, her third try at winning that seat.
She said on Monday that she was not up to trying to hang on to her job by securing at least 60-per-cent support in a leadership review to be held within six months. “I just don’t have the heart for it.”
Ms. Paul said that on the day of the election the only e-mail she received from the president of the Green Party’s federal council called for an emergency meeting to launch a leadership review – an automatic process – followed later by correspondence that a review had been launched,
“I just asked myself if this was something I wanted to continue, whether I was willing to continue to put up with the attacks I knew would be coming,” she said.
She said there were insufficient resources to compete in the campaign, including the absence of a national campaign manager.
Ms. Paul said she knew the Greens would likely not do well and that she would be blamed, but she decided to proceed because of candidates who had committed to run for the party and the need to show that “someone like me could get as far as I could.”
Ms. Paul, a lawyer, also referred back to her comment in the English-language leaders’ debate that she had to “crawl over a lot of broken glass to get” to the proceeding.
On Monday, she said, “When I arrived on that debate stage, I had crawled over glass, I was spitting up blood, but I was determined to be there; I was determined to be there so that the next time someone like me thinks of running and wonders whether it’s possible to be on that stage, they will know that it’s possible.”
The Greens have been in turmoil since the summer when Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin defected from the Greens to the Liberals. Ms. Paul was blamed for the floor-crossing because of how she handled a dispute between her former advisor and Ms. Atwin, who had challenged Ms. Paul’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ms. Paul said she lacked the strength to put up with attacks from “previous leaders,” but did not elaborate. Nor did she elaborate on what she described as a struggle for the “soul of the party.” She left her news conference without taking media questions.
Former party leader Elizabeth May, who was re-elected in her Saanich-Gulf Islands riding, declined comment on Monday.
Mike Morrice, newly elected in Kitchener Centre and the Greens’ only other MP, said in a statement: “Annamie persevered through challenges I recognize I would not have faced if I had been in her shoes.”
Mike Schreiner, the leader of the Green Party of Ontario and the sole party member sitting in the Ontario Legislature, said Ms. Paul’s departure highlights work that needs to be done about inclusion and diversity.
“As leader of the Ontario Greens, I cannot speak for the federal party, but I do recognize that the party I lead has more work to do to combat systemic racism,” he said in a statement.
The federal council of the party did not respond to requests for comment.
Dimitri Lascaris, who placed second to Ms. Paul in last year’s leadership race, said Ms. Paul’s exit was the best development for the party and Ms. Paul.
“Her relationship with the party was not working,” he said, adding that the Greens need to understand what went wrong and take a new direction. He also said there needs to be an honest discussion about all forms of racism within the party.
Mr. Lascaris said he has not decided whether he will seek the leadership again.
“The party is in a very difficult position. We’ve lost a lot of support. We have to rebuild that support,” he said.
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