Liberals approached me to cross the floor, issues with Green leader 'irreconcilable': Atwin
OTTAWA -- Floor-crosser Jenica Atwin says that the Liberal Party reached out to her about joining their caucus in May, and that she gave Green Party Leader Annamie Paul an “ultimatum” before she made the decision to switch teams.
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period, Atwin said that she was approached by the Liberals in late May and met with nearby New Brunswick MP and senior cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc on May 26. She said there was “not a lot of negotiation.”
Atwin said the move was not about political opportunism, rather that she wanted to work in a “collaborative respectful environment,” and that after giving Paul an “ultimatum” on changes needed in order to stay with the Green Party during a face-to-face Zoom call, she made her decision to leave the caucus.
“I really wish Ms. Paul well and I don't want to continue to be a thorn in her side and to be difficult in any way. We have irreconcilable differences at this point, so yes, that had everything to do with it,” said Atwin.
Further, Atwin said she “probably” would still be a Green Party MP if Elizabeth May was still the leader, and that she’d still like to see the party elect more MPs despite her now being a Liberal.
In a separate interview, Paul offered a different telling of the events that led up to Atwin’s departure, saying that she wished she “had the chance to persuade her to say.”
“I still have not heard from her directly about her decision, but, you know she's made it clear that she feels that she has a better home in the Liberal Party of Canada.”
The “catalyst” for her departure from the Greens was an internal feud between MPs and a now-outgoing senior adviser to Paul over social media posts related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Atwin said she stands by her pro-Palestinian position, and was hurt by the accusation made that she was anti-Semitic. She said she’s been told there is a difference of opinion among Liberals and believes there will be an opportunity within her new caucus to have a more “healthy discussion and debate” than was possible with her former team.
“I know I'm going to a place where I'm not alone in how I feel about this issue, and that I'll have that collaboration to work through it and come to an understanding, and that’s what I’m very much looking forward to,” she said, without naming names.
The Conservatives have sought to attack the Liberals over the move, framing it as welcoming in “another anti-Israeli MP,” suggesting she will be “in good company.”
In welcoming their newest member into the fold, both LeBlanc and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about how confident they were that Atwin will be a positive contribution to their team.
LeBlanc said during the announcement of her floor crossing that “there is enormous room for respectful conversation, for differences of opinion,” within the Liberal Party.
On Friday, as The Canadian Press reported, the Liberals announced plans to convene “an emergency summit on anti-Semitism,” led by former Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, currently Canada's special envoy on “Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism.”
Asked what her position was on the 11-day war, Paul cited her experience with international diplomacy and conflict prevention and said that from her perspective Canada should be doing what it can to “facilitate peace and to protect civilians.”
“I am here to try to do the best I can to propose the best policies that I can on behalf of our members,” said Paul.
Now faced with the loss of one third of the Green Party caucus, Paul said that while it may be tougher in the short-term to convince people that the party is on good footing, she’s confident in the Greens’ ground game.
“My leadership is still relatively new, we're putting in the work and I know… we have some repairing to do, but we're ready to do it, and I believe that we're going to be ready for the next election.”