National Post (National Edition)

I considered quitting Greens, says Paul



OTTAWA • Green Party leader Annamie Paul said an attack on her leadership that ended Monday almost forced her to quit, but she will carry on even though her party has not provided her with the staff or the financial support to win her riding.

Green Party board members have stepped back from plans for a confidence vote on her leadership. They also ended a proposed review into her membership in a party she has led since last fall.

Paul said she decided to battle it out because she wanted to show people there was room in politics for those who wanted to do good.

“I think that anybody in my situation that is in it for the right reasons, would have considered stepping down,” she said at a press conference Monday. “It should not be this difficult for people of goodwill, people with experience, to offer it in service to their country.”

Paul declined to give details about how the impasse was resolved but said in a statement, “This was not infighting, rather a onesided campaign to end my leadership.”

Paul acknowledg­ed there were still party members including members of the board who did not support her, but said that was true of all parties.

“I defy you to find one major federal party where every member supports the leader,” she said.

The federal council is the party's board and controls spending. The council is in the middle of an election with 75 per cent of current members set to be replaced next month. Paul would not say whether that decision was part of an agreement between her and the council, but said the Greens need to focus on the coming election.

“Sometimes enough is enough and it's important for us to be able to move forward, with the certainty we need to win seats in the next election,” she said.

The attacks on Paul's leadership began after former Green MP Jenica Atwin

crossed the floor to the Liberals. Atwin had called out Paul for a statement on the Israel-Palestine conflict, which called for calm on both sides, as “inadequate.” Atwin said at the time Israel was an “apartheid” state, but she revised her position when she joined the Liberals.

Paul's former adviser Noah Zatzman wrote a post on Facebook at the time calling out anti-Semitism among MPs of all parties, including the Greens, and calling for MPs to be defeated. The cancelled confidence vote had demanded that Paul denounce Zatzman for his comments.

Paul said the entire drama had forced her to consider leaving the party, but she refused to let down her supporters or the candidates she recruited.

The party's board cut staff earlier this month, including most of the people working directly with Paul, while leaving other party staff, including those working for former leader Elizabeth May in place.

The board has also so far declined to provide funding from the central party to her campaign for the Toronto-Centre riding. The riding has been a Liberal stronghold for decades, but Paul put on a strong challenge to Liberal Marci Ien in a byelection last fall, finishing with 32 per cent of the vote, to Ien's 41 per cent.

Paul said welcoming so many people with divergent opinions was a strength of the Greens and that meant she would never please everyone.

“Any party that is a party that is welcoming, open, that seeks diversity of opinion is absolutely going to have people, at any given time, that don't support the leader, that feel that someone else would have been a better candidate.”

A new political group also emerged Monday, Green Left is a new group that lists Paul's rival in last year's leadership Dimitri Lascaris as one of its founders. The group's website said it was committed to eco-socialist policies and believed that unfettered capitalism was driving the climate crisis.

Radhika Desai, a spokespers­on for the group, said many of the people involved in Green Left came to the Greens during Lascaris' campaign, but this new organizati­on was not a political party looking to run candidates.

Desai said the party intended to help candidates who wanted to advance eco-socialist policies.

“We certainly would support them because we want to do everything possible to advance the profile, the presence, the effectiven­ess of green and eco socialist policies.”

On the group's website, they call for people interested in eco-socialism to pay close attention to the Green's federal council elections, but they don't endorse specific candidates.

Desai said they had no intention of becoming involved in the Green party's internal turmoil. “We the rights of the Green Party ... to deal with their internal problems on their own.”

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