During a spirited Wednesday news conference with reporters on Parliament Hill, federal Green party Leader Annamie Paul came out swinging against both members of her own party’s governing body who have called on her to resign and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom she characterized as being a faux-feminist by undermining her leadership.
She called out a “small group” from within the Green federal council who “sought to force a vote of non-confidence in my leadership” and “did so with no substantive consultation with the members they represent.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Liana Canton Cusmano, president of the Green party’s federal council, released a statement regarding a motion passed at a more than three-and-a-half-hour long special session on Tuesday night.
It requested that Paul and Green member of Parliament Paul Manly, who represents the B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, “organize a joint statement and a press conference, where Annamie Paul would repudiate Noah Zatzman’s attacks and explicitly support the [Green Party of Canada] caucus,” which now only includes Manly and former leader and fellow B.C. MP Elizabeth May following Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin’s recent move to the Liberal caucus.
In a since-removed Facebook post last month, Zatzman, Paul’s now-former senior advisor, accused “Green MPs” of “appalling anti-Semitism and discrimination” and vowed to “work to defeat you and bring in progressive climate champions who are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists!!!!!” This followed a tweet by Manly who compared the planned removal of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem to “ethnic cleansing” and a tweet by Atwin, who found the party’s “calls for an immediate de-escalation” in the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict “totally inadequate.”
Manly declined to comment on the party’s internal fissures, and May, Atwin and Zatzman did not respond to a Tyee request for such.
On Wednesday, Paul stressed with reporters that she has never sanctioned any party members “for their views on any foreign policy matter,” but said she also doesn’t “agree with many of the views that have been expressed by our MPs, but they, of course, [are] welcome to express them.”
The federal council’s motion said that if Paul did not renounce Zatzman’s remarks, a vote of confidence in her leadership would be held on July 20, according to the 30-day notice period under the Green Party of Canada constitution.
Paul said she had “not formally received the resolution” and wants to take the “serious matter” raised “very seriously,” but noted she did not participate in the late-night meeting and declined to comply with the requirement regarding Zatzman.
Instead, she took aim at Green federal councillors who “produced a list of allegations that were so racist, so sexist that they were immediately disavowed by both of our MPs as offensive and inflammatory and contrary to party ethics.”
On Wednesday, CBC reported that it had obtained a copy of a letter, which prompted Tuesday night’s emergency meeting.
The letter, reportedly signed by Beverley Eert, the council’s Manitoba representative, and Kate Storey, the party’s fund representative, accused Paul of “act[ing] with an autocratic attitude of hostility, superiority and rejection” and of “failing to assume her duty to be an active, contributing, respectful, attentive member of federal council” since she was elected the party’s ninth federal leader with 54 per cent of the vote on the eighth ballot at last October’s leadership race.
They said that Paul “has attended few council meetings, and when in attendance, has displayed anger in long, repetitive, aggressive monologues and has failed to recognize the value of any ideas except her own.”
When asked to comment on the letter at the news conference, the Green leader declined to do so, and expressed surprise that it had been circulated beyond the council.
However, Paul said the “plan by this small group of councillors, who are on their way out, did not succeed.”
The first female Black Jewish leader of a major federal party, Paul said that “being the first comes with added responsibility.”
“I’m clearing a path for myself, but I am also clearing one for those who come after me,” she said. “There are many people across the country and around the world that are looking to see whether someone like me and someone like them can succeed in a role like this.”
Paul pledged to “have the humility to recognize that I will make mistakes” and seek to “repair damage” that she causes and learn from the experience “as I grow as a leader.”
“However, often when people like me are elected or appointed to senior leadership roles, the rules of the game seem to change,” she said. “Suddenly, there is a need for more oversight; heightened accountability; swifter and more severe sanctions, and a hiving off of responsibilities previously related to the role. Now that is something that I will resist.
“I do not need a bespoke set of rules established for me, and I haven’t asked for any special accommodation. But I am seeking the same freedom to lead and fulfil my role as leader of the Green party on behalf of our members.
“Collaboration and collegiality does not mean bowing down. It doesn’t mean being brought to heel.”
Paul then turned her sights on the federal Liberal party for its “role in this,” which she said has demonstrated is “hell bent on winning [its] majority at almost any cost.”
The Liberals, “by their own admission,” she said, “have sought to sow division and to create disarray within the Green Party of Canada for their own political advantage in key regions where Greens are surging. It was cynical, it was craven, and with the help of our members, it will not succeed.” The Green leader added that the federal Liberal party’s actions fail to support its claim to support diversity in politics.
Paul called the prime minister neither “ally” nor “feminist,” and said, without elaborating, that his “deeds and words” in recent weeks “prove that definitively.”
She also had a message for Canadians. “How many times will we allow Justin Trudeau to get away with pushing strong, competent, capable women out of politics when they are seeking to serve? And how much longer we will allow him to do it with impunity?”
“Today, I am here to say that I am one woman that he will not push out of politics — and he can believe it,” declared Paul, who added that under her leadership, the Green party “remains committed” to principles of “kindness and civility” in politics.
The prime minister’s office declined to comment.
Paul said that internal polling by the Greens position them “within striking distance, or even neck-and-neck” in multiple ridings in Ontario, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, all of which have Green members in their legislatures.
Before Tuesday evening’s federal council meeting that resulted the threat of holding a leadership review if Paul didn’t comply with demands, Paul held a long and tense meeting with former Green leader and current MP Elizabeth May. Sources told Tyee columnist Michael Harris that Paul demanded May’s full support and said May would face repercussions if she didn’t provide it.
May left the federal council meeting before it ended and has yet to speak in support of Paul since Atwin’s aisle crossing triggered uproar in the party and a leadership crisis.
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