It was just last week that I wrote about the defection of former Green MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals. At the time, I described the move as “devastating” for the Greens, pointing out that she was “exactly the kind of MP any party would want in their caucus” that “the Greens were quite fortunate to have her there” and seeing her bolt took “someone who was a great asset to their caucus and turned her into a motivate opponent.”
I even went on to say that for the Greens, this was “the worst-case scenario in this case, at maybe the worst possible time.” Well clearly I spoke too soon because the events of today have come to prove just how naïve I might have been about what the true “worst-case scenario” for the Greens might be. And folks, it moved fast. Here’s what happened before Noon today:
The day started with that piece from Michael Harris in The Tyee, in which more details about the strife on the Green team comes to like. It speaks of allegations about an unresponsive new leader, a caucus member trying to reach out and all of that. But most striking was the piece about the rest of the Green caucus basically trying to convince Atwin to re-join their caucus, apparently of their own accord without Green Leader Annamie Paul. In doing so, Paul’s predecessor Elizabeth May threw her under the bus with a very “non-committal” statement of support for her leadership of the party. She went as far as to suggest that Paul was in the wrong, that she needed to apologize and that “losing Jenica is not something I am prepared to accept without a fight.”
Wow folks, wow. “A fight with who?” one might ask, but it’s clear that May and Paul Manly are quite unhappy with what went down. I don’t see how the scrambled egg of a defection to another caucus gets undone, but this is all pretty damning stuff. Paul is refusing calls to resign and is even trying to deflect blame, claiming that the floor-crossing was a “deliberate, dastardly act” by the Liberals to “sow division” within her party. That was added to her previous comments on Twitter, where she claimed that the Liberals were out to get them because they were on the rise. Forget that public domain polling shows nothing of the sort, it’s the kind of argument that you can somewhat understand in the moment. Most leaders would never admit they have been hurt by such an action, but that doesn’t make those denials ring true.
But comments like those seem to make those details in The Tyee piece ring a big truer, and surely don’t put this new leader in a good light. But to be fair, for so many parties bluster and talk about internal struggles, leadership challenges and fighting, it’s not really anything until someone actually takes the steps to push the leader out. We’ve seen so many parties go through this, with people grousing and making big pronouncements, yet never actually take the step to try to remove the leader. So surely this case wouldn’t go that far, right? Right?
Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!!! They are actually going there, the Greens actually seem to be going full on internal war. By triggering this process with the party’s federal council, they are setting up the situation for this all to blow right the heck up. And let’s not try to undersell what’s happening here. You need to have a strong level of support to call for such a vote, which is why when you see griping and sniping behind the scenes in all parties, it rarely goes beyond that. You actually need to get people to vote to start the process, and most aren’t willing to go beyond that. Yet here we are, and it looks like there are enough Greens around their executive table to pull the trigger on this.
If I were in Ms. Paul’s shoes, I would be quite worried about where this is going and how fast it’s heading there. The fact that it’s gone to this step, and gotten there within less than a week, is quite unprecedented in Canadian political history. We’ve seen parties tear themselves apart before, but not so swiftly and efficiently. This is almost like if an episode of “Game of Thrones” melded with #cdnpoli. This is basically “The Green Wedding” and after its gone this far, it’s hard to image how it goes back to any semblance of normal.
With that being the case, I won’t repeat the assertion that this is “the worst-case scenario”, because on July 15th this is likely to get much worse for the Greens, whatever the outcome. But the fact remains that this is the worst possible timing. With that date on the horizon, the Greens will be spending the next month focused inwards, fighting each other for the throne and trying to determine who will lead them into the next election, which is likely to come in the Fall. If Ms. Paul wins the day, she goes into the election hurt from internal conflict and likely with a weakened party at best. If she loses, the Greens will be even more divided, leaderless and will look even less ready for primetime. Neither of those scenarios are good for the Green team, and that’s no one else’s doing but their own. We’ll see where this all leads, but in the meantime, this story sure is taking “silly season” to a whole new level.
Update: June 15, 2021 – 3:13 PM EST: CBC has issued a correction about the state of a vote on Ms. Paul’s leadership. Another step that still needs to be taken, but still a bad situation for her leadership.