Annamie Paul resigns as Green Party leader
OTTAWA -- Annamie Paul is resigning. The embattled Green Party leader announced Monday that she’s started the process of withdrawing from the role, calling her less than a year at the helm of the party “the worst period” in her life.
Paul’s decision to step down comes on the heels of the party initiating a review of her leadership given the results of last Monday’s federal election.
Paul said that when the review of her leadership launched this past weekend, she asked herself whether she had it in her to continue in the job knowing she’d be facing an uphill battle.
“I just don’t have the heart for it,” she said. “I just will not spend any more time focused on political games as opposed to public policy, which is what I entered politics for in the first place, particularly at a time when it is so needed.”
Paul did not take any questions from reporters after making the announcement.
In the 2021 federal vote, Paul failed to win a seat, or grow the Greens’ seat count in the House of Commons.
Moreover, the Greens saw a significant drop in their share of the popular vote, after only managing to put a Green candidate on the ballot in 252 of the 338 ridings.
It was the fewest number of candidates the party had run in a federal election since 2000. The party placed sixth in overall percentage of the vote, dropping to 2.3 per cent from the 6.5 per cent secured in 2019. In 2021 just 398,775 Canadians voted Green, in contrast to the 1,189,631 votes secured in 2019.
Party bylaws stipulate that because Paul did not become prime minister, she would have to face a leadership review within six months. Voting in that process was set to begin Oct. 26 and end on Nov. 25, according to the Green Party. Now, the Greens will likely be looking to name a new interim leader before launching their second leadership race since the 2019 federal election.
“There is a struggle that is going on for the soul of the party,” Paul said to Green Party members as they head into this new chapter. And to her detractors? Paul said that while they may take “small comfort” in seeing her go: “You will not succeed in the end, and I will look to those other people to take up the baton and to move the party in the direction that I still believe that it can go in.”
GREENS HOLD 2 SEATS IN HOUSE
After spending the majority of the federal election campaigning in her home riding of Toronto Centre, Paul placed a distant fourth. It was her third time running, and losing, in that riding.
In an interview with CTV National News ahead of the federal vote, Paul defended her choice to run in what historically has been a Liberal stronghold, saying that there wasn’t another so-called safe Green seat waiting for her.
The Green Party will be sending two MPs to Ottawa for the 44th Parliament: Longtime Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C. MP and former leader Elizabeth May and rookie Mike Morrice representing Kitchener Centre, Ont.
Incumbent Green MP Paul Manly lost in a tight race in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, B.C., despite Victoria being one of the few regions Paul visited in the final days of the campaign.
“The last campaign was a major setback for the Green Party and its brand. At a time when there are wildfires in British Columbia, and people worried about the environment, the fact that the Green Party came lower than the People's Party of Canada—which is a protest party—should be a big wake up call for the greens,” said Founder of Nanos Research Nik Nanos.
Former interim party leader Jo-Ann Roberts says the party has struggled for some time to transition to “the next level of politics” and that Paul’s resignation will be a moment of reflection.
“We have to learn from this, we have to start repairing and rebuilding this party,” she told CTV News Channel’s Power Play. “I think we will thank, years from now, Annamie Paul for the work she did on the Green Party, we’ll be a better party because of what we learned from her.”
A TUMULTUOUS TENURE
On Monday, Paul said she has no regrets, but she knew going into the campaign that it was going to be “very hard” to convince Canadians to vote Green given she did not have adequate funding or staff, and was under “the threat of a court process,” from her party.
A leadership review nearly took place in June, as part of a bout of intra-party politicking that also included an attempt to strip Paul of her Green membership.
The rift between Paul and some outgoing Green Party governing body officials included concerns over the Greens’ financial standing, and the handling of the defection of former Green MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals over a difference of position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Paul fought ardently against claims made about her leadership style, suggesting they were based in racism and sexism.
This all saw Paul under intense scrutiny in the months leading up to the election and left her on shaky ground heading into the vote, which prompted some candidates to ask that she not come campaign in their ridings.
When she became leader in October 2020, Paul made history as the first Jewish woman and first Black woman to be elected leader of a major political party in Canada. Her pitch to voters in the 2021 vote was to “be daring.”
“When I was elected and put in this role, I was breaking a glass ceiling. What I didn't realize at the time is that I was breaking a glass ceiling that was going to fall on my head and leave a lot of shards of glass that I was going to have to crawl over,” Paul said Monday.
“When I arrived at that debate stage [the English-language 2021 leaders’ debate] I had crawled over that glass, I was spitting up blood, but I was determined to be there. I was determined to be there so that the next time someone like me thinks of running and wonders whether it's possible to be on that stage, they will know that it is possible to do that.”
Paul’s executive assistant Victoria Galea, who also ran as a candidate during the election, said the premise that the party undermined Paul’s campaign is “almost an understatement.”
“The party did not want to provide us with money in order to siphon our success. There’s absolutely no reason for them to lay off half of our staff leading into an election including the entire leader’s office,” she said on CTV’s Power Play. “It was not a money inflow issue it was money mismanagement issue.”
Galea said while the conflict with Atwin acted as a “catalyst” for the ensuing issues, Monday’s outcome was inevitable.
“I absolutely think we still would have ended up here. All roads led to this path, when you’re not supported in your own party even though you were democratically elected to be the leader,” she said.
Asked whether she believes there are racist members within the Green Party and whether racism was used against Paul during her tenure, Galea said “yes, I think absolutely that occurred.”
Former Liberal Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who has been vocal about the racism she experienced while serving in Parliament, responded to Paul’s announcement.
“I am disappointed in myself that I was shocked and surprised because inevitably, that is what we’ve seen unfold for women of colour, especially Black women within politics,” she said on CTV’s Power Play.
“Somebody that puts their name on a ballot, who decides they want to step up and serve our country in its democracy should not be treated that way.”
Earlier in the day, Kayne Alleyne-Adams, the debate preparation coordinator for Paul and her former policy director, told CTV News Channel he joined the party because he was inspired by Paul, but “what I've seen is appalling, and what I've seen is not something that I want to be a part of upholding. So unless serious changes are made today, personally speaking, I think I'll be resigning my membership.”
PARTY LEADERS REACT
Shortly after Paul’s announcement, her counterparts in other federal parties reacted to the news on social media, thanking her for her time and leadership.
“Thank you…. For your resilience and perseverance. You made it possible for an entire generation of Canadians to see themselves reflected in politics. On behalf of so many Canadians, thank you,” tweeted NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
“Thank you… for your perseverance & for being a trailblazer for Canadians from all backgrounds interested in public service. I always appreciated our discussions and admire your tenacity. Wishing you and your family well,” tweeted Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.
And, People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier—who also failed to win a seat last Monday—tweeted that while he “completely” disagrees with her views, he respects Paul.
“She is a nice and decent person… She was viciously attacked by extremists in her party. I wish her good luck in her next endeavours,” Bernier posted.
Later in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined the chorus, thanking her for “stepping forward and for serving Canadians with determination.”
“Wishing you nothing but the best in your next chapter,” he tweeted.
With files from CTV News’ Ryan Flanagan