N.B. Green supporters vying for federal council seat amid party leadership turmoil

·5 min read
Four New Brunswickers are vying for a seat on the Green Party of Canada's national council to represent the province. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Four New Brunswickers are vying for a seat on the Green Party of Canada's national council to represent the province. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Well-known New Brunswick environmental researcher Louise Comeau is wading into the battle within the federal Green Party, calling on members to be nicer to each other as they sort out the future of leader Annamie Paul.

Comeau, a former provincial Green candidate, says the party's activist base is showing classic signs of what she calls "the vices of excess," an unwillingness to compromise and focus on the priorities of climate change and a looming election.

"They come from an activist background, and a lot of activism comes from being hard core," Comeau said. "You're having a fight, you're pushing hard, you're really concerned, and sometimes that doesn't lead to the best interpersonal relations.

"They need to scale back and think about what behaviours they're showing the world about Greens, when, in fact, most Greens are very co-operative, very pragmatic, very persevering and committed to what it is that we need to do."

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

Vying for federal council seat

Comeau is running for the province's single seat on the federal council, the national party's governing body.

It's the entity that has been feuding with Paul in the wake of Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin's defection from the Greens to the Liberals.

There have been reports the federal council may withdraw funding set aside for Paul's election campaign in the riding in Toronto Centre and could even revoke her membership in the party.

The vote for a new council is underway and will continue until Aug. 11. In the midst of that election, the current council members were set to vote Tuesday on a review of Paul's leadership.

On Sunday, CBC News reported the review vote has been cancelled and a vote on Paul's membership in the party also will not happen.

Comeau says her job "is to be neutral in terms of whatever happens by the time we get there, if we get there," but she's also defending the current federal council's process.

...they overlooked what should have been signals that we had some challenges potentially with this particular candidate.
- Louise Comeau, candidate in Green Party federal council election

"As I understand it … the council and the Green Fund board is acting in accordance with the requirements of the constitution, our bylaws and our rules."

The University of New Brunswick researcher also rejects Paul's argument that some of her critics are motivated by sexism and racism. Paul is the first woman of colour to lead a major national party.

"I would actually argue that what Greens have gotten themselves into is the opposite of racism," Comeau said.

"They were so keen in the leadership race to ensure that we did better on inclusion and diversity that they overlooked what should have been signals that we had some challenges potentially with this particular candidate.

"But we overlooked that because we so wanted to be better at this."

Other candidates in the running

There are three other candidates for New Brunswick's lone seat on the federal council, and Moncton lawyer Carole Chan is running to be party president.

Chan was recently chosen by Paul as a member of the party's shadow cabinet but says she's not taking a public stand on the leadership question.

"I have views as an individual member and as someone who'd like to see the Green Party thrive," Chan said, but she believes that until she's party president and knows more about the situation, she should stay publicly neutral and focus on "good governance" of the party.

Council candidate John Reist says he supports a review of Paul's leadership but he's not running for that reason. "That is not my main concern." He says he wants to give local riding associations more say in the party.

Another candidate, Rebecca Blaevoet, says she decided to run specifically to defend Paul, at least until after the federal election widely expected to be called within months.

"She is the reason I stepped forward, because she is showing a whole lot of courage and tenacity in the face of a whole lot of social media opposition," she said.

"I don't think I would have even thought of running if it weren't for these circumstances that are happening … I don't think a leader, having been in for eight months, if she's in for ten months or twelve months, is catastrophic.

"I'm a bit fed up with the fact they're going so fast with this."

Submitted/Rebecca Blaevoet
Submitted/Rebecca Blaevoet

Comeau says the uncompromising approach that Greens are showing in the leadership battle should be applied instead to its priority issues.

She pointed out that Canada submitted its latest emissions-reduction plans to the United Nations this week.

"That should be the only thing that we are talking about right now. That's where we actually should be stubborn and that's where we should be more, more persevering in our approach," she said.

"But in the context of interpersonal relationships, that is not what you want to see. You want to be listening to each other. You want to know that truth comes from all sides. We want to be more respectful."

She says it was not healthy for the party to see leaks to the media about federal council meetings.

'That is not good character'

"Reporters are covering the story 20 minutes after a meeting," she said. "There can only be one way that's happening. Let's just stop that. That's not solidarity. That is not good character."

Comeau says Greens have to focus, at least for now, on getting the organization ready for a national election campaign.

"Greens come to it for their values and because they are wanting to play a role as citizens … but the reality is it's a party," she said.

"They should be fixated on the election and not only maintaining our three seats. We have to hold Fredericton and we have to, I think, add a seat or two. So let's get focused and do that."

A fourth New Brunswick candidate for the Green federal council, Delaney Crawford, did not respond to an interview request.