Green MPs threatened to leave party if leadership race paused, email to party council says

Elizabeth May and Mike Morrice are two of the Green Party's sitting MPs in the House of Commons. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Elizabeth May and Mike Morrice are two of the Green Party's sitting MPs in the House of Commons. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Green Party's two MPs were both prepared to walk away from their party and sit as Independents if the federal council cancelled the party's leadership race, according to an email forwarded to CBC.

One of MP Mike Morrice's staff members sent three federal councillors a message Friday evening urging them not to suspend the leadership race.

In addition to warning that the MPs might quit the party, the email also warned against the federal council closing the party's Ottawa headquarters — a decision CBC News has reported the party may have to make because donations have plummeted.

"If [federal council] suspends the leadership race or decides to close the office (instead of moving to a smaller one), it will cause irreversible damage to the party. The [Green Party of Canada] can't come back from that," the message said.

"In that case, the MPs would be prepared to leave the party and sit as independents."

The message went on to say that the party is at a "crossroads."

"I hope [federal council] will make the right decision."

The Green Party's two MPs, Morrice and Elizabeth May, declined to comment. May is also running to be co-leader after previously serving in the role.

Green Party leadership hopefuls

A source within the party — who was not authorized to speak publicly — said the email was sent to federal councillors to explain to them what would happen if they took the drastic step of suspending the leadership race. The source also said there is no immediate threat of the MPs leaving the party.

The source also noted the email to councillors was necessary because Morrice, who usually represents caucus on federal council, was not allowed to attend Friday's council meeting.

In a wide-ranging interview with CBC on Sunday, outgoing Green Party president Lorraine Rekmans confirmed several of her councillors received an email from Morrice's staff. Rekmans described the email as threatening.

"That's a pretty serious threat," Rekmans told CBC. "I really think it is a serious infraction of [party] rules."

WATCH | Outgoing Green Party president accuses MPs of interference:

Rekmans argued the MPs used their elected office to intimidate the party's membership-driven governing body — contravening the convention that members run the party, not staff or MPs.

"So that is influence on the vote of federal council," Rekmans said. "We're a membership-based, grassroots-driven party. That's who we are. I believe that I came in to represent the members' interests in federal council and protect their interests in their party."

On Friday, Rekmans said the federal council was discussing whether to continue with the party's leadership race following allegations that the party harboured a pattern of behaviour that was harmful to Black, Indigenous and people of colour, as well as 2SLGBTQ people.

These allegations hung over the party while Annamie Paul ran the Greens; she was the first Black and Jewish woman ever elected to lead a major federal party. The accusations surfaced again after incorrect pronouns were used to identify interim leader Amita Kuttner during a virtual party event (Kuttner uses they/he/ille).

Rekmans and other councillors agreed the Greens needed to address these allegations and voted to conduct an independent investigation. They also argued that the leadership contest, which relies on volunteers, must be suspended because the party could not in good conscience allow volunteers to work in an unsafe workplace.

In the end, the federal council voted to investigate the claims of abuse and discrimination while proceeding with the leadership race, as MPs wanted.

WATCH | Extended interview with outgoing Green Party president:

Leadership contestant apologizes for comments about the president

CBC is reaching out to Green Party leadership candidates to learn what's happening in the party.

Candidate Sarah Gabrielle-Baron, who previously called the outgoing president "uninformed," apologized for her comments but declined to comment further. Rekmans was the first Indigenous president of the Greens.

"It is a private matter that is going on in our party that has become very public. I'm doing my best to mend fences on the inside," Gabrielle-Baron told a news conference in Ottawa.

"Lorraine Rekmans is a strong president. She marked our party with a pathway that was ethical. That was based in her Anishinabek roots, and I am sorry that my speech was taken the wrong way."

This is not the first time a Green MP has threatened to leave the party. In 2016, May said she could step down as Green Party leader if her party didn't reconsider its decision to endorse a movement that calls for the boycott of Israel.

In 2021, one of its MPs went further. Jenica Atwin joined the Liberal benches shortly after criticizing the former leader's response to violence in the Middle East as "totally inadequate" and accusing Israel of pursuing a policy of apartheid.