Green Party president drops the gauntlet on Annamie Paul’s leadership

·4 min read

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is back under fire after interim president Liana Cusmano confirmed to party members that the Federal Council will pursue a non-confidence vote on her leadership.

During a town hall meeting with party members Tuesday, Cusmano read a letter outlining the allegations against Paul that claim she failed in her obligations as leader, justifying the move.

“This vote of non-confidence is important and the most consequential thing that has ever been undertaken at the Green Party of Canada. We do not take this matter, or the decision to hold this vote, lightly,” Cusmano told members. “But we know this: The Green Party deserves strong, thoughtful, action-oriented leadership that aligns with the values and policies of the party.

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

Paul pushed back hard.

“These actions by the president are unprecedented in the history of the Green Party,” she said. “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.

“However, a small group of rogue councillors, whose terms will expire in August, will not deter or distract me from the mandate I was given by our members last October, or the important work that they elected me to do.”

Among the allegations Cusmano read to members are that Paul failed “to openly condemn the actions of Noah Zatzman” — her former political adviser who publicly threatened to try to defeat sitting Green MPs who spoke out against Israel bombing Gaza — failed “to collaborate with and support members of the caucus,” and failed “to respond to communications from the party’s chief agent, units of the party, and members of the party regarding Mr. Zatzman.

“It is further alleged that the failure to meet her obligations as leader has caused the defection of a member of our caucus to another party, intangible damage to the party in the form of impairment to the party's reputation, cancelled memberships, reduced donations, and withdrawals of potential candidates for the upcoming general election,” Cusmano said.

Cancelled memberships, and the lost revenue that entails, are understood to be significant contributing factors behind the decision to reportedly lay off staff ahead of an expected federal election call.

Zatzman disputed the allegations in the letter, calling on the party to walk back its remarks.

“If the party does not immediately retract this attached statement that was just read out publicly, I will begin legal action,” Zatzman wrote in an email to Cusmano and interim executive director Dana Taylor that was viewed by Canada’s National Observer, copying a host of other party emails.

“Liana, your conduct is truly appalling, your statement contains alternative facts, and you should be ashamed of yourself for these Soviet-style tactics,” he wrote. “This is Canada — a free and open democracy — your actions are autocratic, borderline Orwellian, and wrong; and have caused me great harm.”

Cusmano did not immediately return a request for comment.

One notable candidate who dropped out over the infighting is Dr. Lisa Gunderson, who announced on June 19 that she was withdrawing from the nomination contest to represent Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, citing concerns that “recent events are not consistent with Green values” at the time. On Monday, Gunderson announced a new target in her sights: A vice-president role on the party’s Federal Council.

“This is a critical moment for the Green Party of Canada and its future, and we need a Federal Council that can truly listen and work collaboratively for our party’s success,” she said in a statement.

Green Party members across the country are running for spots on the Federal Council, with voting scheduled to close July 12, and results announced on Aug. 19.

Cusmano’s town hall meeting with members comes on the heels of recent public disagreements among the party’s top brass. Paul told the Globe and Mail the Federal Council was no longer requiring her to renounce Zatzman, pushing Cusmano to tell the Canadian Press that was false.

Earlier this month following a heated press conference, where Paul accused her detractors on the Federal Council of “racist” and “sexist” remarks after trying to topple her, Paul took to social media to say that “Collaboration and collegiality doesn't require bowing down. It doesn’t mean being brought to heel or giving into ultimatums.”

If on July 20, at least 75 per cent of councillors support a non-confidence vote, then Paul’s leadership will be put to a vote at a general members meeting Aug. 21. Previously, Paul was told she could avoid a non-confidence vote by publicly renouncing Zatzman, but to date, she has not.

John Woodside, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer

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