I love to write this blog, it’s something I enjoy and it’s something I’m so glad I was able to bring back into my life after a decade on the Hill. But there are sometimes when I just get the feeling inside that I don’t want to write about a certain topic again, yet it’s inescapable. As much as you don’t want to feel like you’re piling onto the situation, new events happen that are just so out there, so mind-blowing, that it forces you to the keyboard.
That’s the point where I’m at with the internal drama gripping the Green Party right now. I’ve had plenty to say about this saga so far, mostly because it’s been so out there and mind blowing. It’s been one ugly twist after another and all the while, it’s just become a bigger and bigger disaster. After last weeks latest piece, I thought that maybe this would settle for a bit. I mean, how much crazier could this all get? Well today Alex Ballingall of the Toronto Star managed to drop another mind-blowing bomb on #cdnpoli, and folks, I think this could be the moment that changes this story:
I had to read that story twice to believe what I was reading. According to Ballingall’s reporting, the Green Party’s Federal Council met last night and launched a review of leader Annamie Paul’s membership. Not her leadership, her very membership in the party. The move didn’t require a vote of any kind, and was able to be done with the simply stroke of a pen by the party’s executive director. All parties have measures to review or remove the membership of a member, but they are rarely used. I can’t think of a single example of such a member being used against someone who was a candidate or an elected person, let alone the leader of the bloody party. Yet here we are.
Of course, this creates all kinds of new questions as it effective throws Paul into some strange state of limbo. The Greens code of conduct says that “individuals are suspended while their memberships are under review, and that during that time they cannot “represent the party in any capacity.”” So she is still leader, but can’t represent the party “in any capacity”? Seriously? That’s effing insane. I mean totally, self-immolating insane.
But for me this turn of events has the potential to change this story because of the route they have taken here and why they might have. It was just yesterday that it was reported that the Green Federal Council had a motion before it to pull $250,000 of funding to support Ms. Paul’s campaign in Toronto Centre, which was followed by further reporting that one-time Green Leader Jim Harris had previously written to the Federal Council suggesting this, and pushing Paul out as leader. Those actions, in isolation, looked terrible. But when you add them to such an apparently aggressive move to toss Paul from the party itself, it looks that much worse.
From the start of this situation, my view has been that both sides had made mistakes here and that both sides had things to apologize and answer for. No one had clean hands in this clusterfuck. Yet even as we saw weeks of back and forth on this from both sides, this piece of news ratchets things up a few more levels and in my opinion, tilts the scales of blame here. Why is that?
Well folks, it’s all about the rules and trying to work the system. If Ms. Paul faced a leadership review, as the motion passed about her a couple weeks ago suggested would happen if she didn’t take certain steps, it was going to take a 75% vote from the Federal Council as leader. That is a very high bar and with all the resignations from that council, it appeared that those who wanted to toss Paul wouldn’t likely meet that level.
But as Ballingall points out today, the Greens code of conduct says that “any Green member can be expelled from the party by a simple majority vote of the federal council after their membership is reviewed.” See, going this way would lower the bar, making it easier for them to try to toss Paul, while essentially admitting that they couldn’t get the support together to meet that much higher threshold.
Why else take such a drastic step if you could meet the 75%? Heck, given that the vote on for 75% would become on July 20th, if you had the votes, it would end this sage sooner. But by taking this route, the party member has 30 days to mount a defense. That timing put any “resolution” of this review into mid-August, right when many are expecting the election to start. That basically means you’re giving up on trying to win anything in the next election, which could spell the death of the Green Party of Canada.
Where this move changes things for me the most though is the adherence to basic fairness and natural justice. You could have argued that Paul’s leadership to this point merited a leadership review and facing potential removal, the case was there to be made and it wasn’t an inconsequential case. There was a lot of meat on those bones, and it could have stood up. If Ms. Paul lost her leadership through a process that was designed and intended for such matters, that would have met the test of fairness. Would it have been politically smart? That’s out for debate, but you could argue that it was above board and stuck to process.
But taking this step, trying to use a provision to remove members that was clearly never intended to be used to remove a leader, spits in the face of fairness and natural justice. And that irks me, badly. This group is basically admitting they can’t win the day with proper process, so they have to do this another way. I’ve never voted Green and never will, but I believe that in matters as important as this, process matters, and proper process needs to be followed. When people look for shortcuts to try to undertake such a weighty matter as removing a leader, that’s an abuse of process, period. There are many things you can accuse accurately accuse Ms. Paul of when it comes to her leadership style, but such B.S. abuse of process clearly isn’t one of them. She has made lots of mistakes, but what she hasn’t done is try to use cheap loophole tricks to try to do what she could never accomplish by following the rules.
The fact that this group seems to be going so far and abusing process in such cheap ways doesn’t speak to Paul’s leadership faults. Those failures may merit removal as leader, but they don’t merit removing her by any underhanded means necessary. Taking this approach speaks poorly of those who have decided to take the Greens down this dark, ugly path, and that’s for them alone to answer for. This all reeks to high heaven and it’s increasingly clear that this party won’t be pulling it together before this campaign, if ever again. But the one thing that’s getting clearer to me is that while Ms. Paul may not be the best leader ever of a political party, she’s clearly better than this group of Greens are showing themselves to deserve. These ends do not justify whatever means are being looked at here and if this is how you treat those who are elected to lead your party, you deserve what comes when good people won’t come forward. I know the Greens like to talk about “doing politics differently”, but this isn’t the kind of different that makes them look good at all. What a bloody, awful mess.