Annamie Paul to face non-confidence vote by party brass in less than three weeks

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OTTAWA — Green Leader Annamie Paul is facing a non-confidence vote next month as internal strife continues to roil the party ahead of a possible election this year.

Liana Cusmano, president of the party's federal council, told grassroots members in a virtual town hall Wednesday that party brass would hold a vote on July 20 that could result in Paul's ouster.

The vote requires backing from three-quarters of the 13-member governing body in order to proceed to a party-wide vote the following month at a general meeting, where an ultimate judgment on Paul's leadership could be rendered by the rank and file.

The announcement follows an ultimatum from executives demanding that Paul hold a press conference alongside Green MP Paul Manly to repudiate a former adviser's remarks about antisemitism among Green legislators.

In a statement obtained by The Canadian Press, Cusmano said Paul has failed to live up to the ultimatum or to "meet her obligations as leader," citing Green MP Jenica Atwin's defection to the Liberals earlier this month.

In a statement sent Wednesday evening, Paul said Cusmano did not have the authority to convene a town hall or speak on behalf of the entire federal council. She called Cusmano's actions "unprecedented" in the history of the Green Party of Canada.

"I have said before that when people like me achieve positions of senior authority, all of a sudden the rules change and the goalposts are moved," Paul said in the statement.

She said she would not let the "small group of rogue councillors" distract her from the work she was chosen to do as leader.

"That includes electing as many Greens as possible, proposing solutions for the climate crisis and helping people through the pandemic," she said. "That is where the attention of every councillor should be."

Cusmano acknowledged the last few months have been "tumultuous" for the fractured party.

"We do not take this matter or the decision to hold this vote lightly. But we know this: the Green party deserves strong, thoughtful and action-oriented leadership that aligns with the values and policies of the party," Cusmano said at the Zoom town hall.

"Moreover, we believe a leader unites instead of divides. All this will be tested on July 20."

Cusmano also said the party has seen "reduced donations and withdrawals of potential candidates" for the next federal election under Paul's tenure.

The Greens raised more than $677,500 in the quarter ended March 31, up from about $576,600 during the same period in 2020, according to Elections Canada figures.

The town hall followed a council meeting Tuesday night where executives passed a motion asking Atwin to come back into the fold.

It also came after an all-staff meeting Wednesday morning where council announced layoffs of about half of party employees, according to two sources who were not authorized to speak publicly about the events.

The fallout from discord in Paul's party has continued apace, with four federal council members resigning over the past month.

The rifts stem in part from a statement by Paul's then-adviser Noah Zatzman, who said in a social media post on May 14 that "we will work to defeat you," referring to unspecified Green MPs, among others, whom he accused of antisemitism.

The post came after Atwin called the Green leader's statement on violence in the Palestinian Territories "completely inadequate" and called on Israel to "#EndApartheid" in a Twitter post on May 11.

That post has since been deleted, though Atwin told CTV's Question Period on June 13 that "I certainly stand by what I'm saying." The next day, she adjusted her stance on Israel to align with the governing Liberal party she had just joined.

In a statement Wednesday, Zatzman called Cusmano's move to hold a non-confidence vote "autocratic" and "truly despicable."

"The original motion and this statement is but further evidence of an organization whose leadership fosters a culture of systemic antisemitism and discrimination," he said. "Annamie was elected by a majority of party members to change this, and I have faith that she will."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2021.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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