Green Party Leader Annamie Paul will be subject to a non-confidence vote in July, according to the party’s president, who described the action as the “most consequential” in party history.
In an online town hall on Wednesday, party president Liana Canton Cusmano told about 500 supporters that Ms. Paul’s failure to meet her “obligations” as leader caused the defection of Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin from the Greens to the Liberal Party earlier this month.
Mx. Cusmano added that Ms. Paul has done “tangible damage” to the party, resulting in cancelled memberships, reduced donations and withdrawals of potential candidates for the coming general election.
“The vote of non-confidence is important and the most consequential thing that has ever been undertaken by the Green Party of Canada. We do not take this matter or the decision to hold this vote lightly,” Mx. Cusmano said in a prepared statement to the town hall.
To succeed, the non-confidence vote, scheduled for July 20, would require 75-per-cent support from the federal council, the party’s governing body. Then there would be a final vote by party members on Aug. 21. If members were to vote against Ms. Paul, she would be removed as party leader.
Mx. Cusmano told the town hall that, if Ms. Paul is removed, “in all likelihood” an interim leader would be appointed.
Also at issue, Mx. Cusmano said during the town hall, is that Ms. Paul refuses to openly condemn the actions of former adviser Noah Zatzman, who publicly accused members of the party’s caucus of anti-Semitism and vowed to defeat them electorally. Mx. Cusmano also pointed out Ms. Paul’s lack of response to communications from party members, including the chief agent, regarding Mr. Zatzman.
Still, Mx. Cusmano said Ms. Paul could stop the non-confidence motion if she meets terms outlined by the federal council earlier this month, including that she repudiate comments from Mr. Zatzman.
Earlier this week, Ms. Paul told The Globe she thought the council had backed off an ultimatum that she denounce Mr. Zatzman’s comments and reaffirm her support for her MPs.
“When I said the process is over, what I meant is that the president had decided to skip directly to a vote of no confidence, and had produced a new set of allegations,” she clarified Wednesday, in an interview.
Mx. Cusmano denied, in response to a question from a party member at the town hall, that the Green Party is in financial distress, despite word of an undisclosed number of layoffs of party staff. “The past few months have been difficult and have had an impact on our finances, but the party is not bankrupt,” Mx. Cusmano said, without elaborating.
Asked by a different party member how potential candidates could prepare for an expected federal election if the leadership of the party is in question, Mx. Cusmano acknowledged how “difficult, and uncertain and challenging” the past few months have been for everyone involved.
But Mx. Cusmano said the Green party and its values endure. “None of that has changed and so the Green Party is here to stay. The Green Party is founded on the participation and dedication of its members, and the integrity of its processes.”
In an interview Wednesday, Ms. Paul downplayed the challenge to her leadership, saying she is focused on rallying voter support now that changes in pandemic limitations have better allowed her to get out and connect with the public.
“The thing that propels me forward these days is what happens outside that particular, small bubble,” she said of the controversy with council. “There are many more people who are supportive of me in this role and me fulfilling my mandate than those who might not be.”
She dismissed the move against her as the work of a “rump group” of a few councilors, including the president, whose terms are set to end soon. “This is not where I believe their focus should lie,” said Ms. Paul, noting they should work to help the party prepare for the next election and build on voter support.
Asked if she was tempted to abandon the leadership, Ms. Paul said, “Today, as you ask me that question, my answer is that I am committed to fulfilling the mandate I was given by our members.”
She said she could not comment on the possibility of staff layoffs because questions would have to be directed to the management of the party. “All I can say is our staff are incredibly dedicated and they have my full support.”
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