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Does the Green Party receive more media attention than it truly warrants? Yes and no.

If you’re looking at the Green (or environmental) movement, it’s part of a larger entity that concerns many Canadians. There have been Green politicians in municipal politics. The Greens are the official opposition party in Prince Edward Island, and there are Green representatives in the B.C., New Brunswick and Ontario legislatures.

The bigger issue is the federal Greens. Founded in 1983, it’s a small, somewhat fringe outfit that’s achieved little electoral success in the House of Commons.

Here’s the short list (and it’s very short).

The first Green MP was Blair Wilson. He was elected in the B.C. riding of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country in 2006 as a Liberal. Wilson left the party amidst allegations of financial issues, although most were eventually dismissed. He sat as a Liberal without caucus between October 2007-January 2008, shifted to an Independent and finally crossed the floor to the Greens on Aug. 30, 2008. Parliament had already been dissolved, so he never technically sat as a Green. He finished fourth out of four candidates in his bid for re-election in 2008, and hasn’t run again.

Elizabeth May, who led the party from 2006-2019, has been the Greens’ most successful and visible political representative. She became Canada’s first elected Green Party MP in the House of Commons after defeating then-Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn (46.33-35.66%) to win the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands in 2011. She was re-elected in 2015, 2019 and 2021, participated in several leaders’ debates, and is generally perceived as the face of the party.

Only three other Green politicians have been elected to Parliament: New Brunswick’s Jenica Atwin in 2019 (who crossed the floor to the Liberals in 2021 and was re-elected), B.C.’s Paul Manly in 2019 (who lost his bid for re-election in 2021) and Ontario’s Mike Morrice in 2021. If you want to throw in former New Democrat Bruce Hyer, who crossed the floor and sat as a Green MP from 2013-2015 before losing his seat, and former New Democrat Pierre Nantel, who sat as an Independent in 2019, announced he would run as a Green and lost, be my guest.

That’s it, folks.

Why does the media pay so much attention to the federal Greens? It’s largely because of the bizarre, circus-like atmosphere that’s existed between the party and its outgoing leader, Annamie Paul.

Paul was elected as Canada’s first Black and Jewish female party leader on Oct. 3, 2020 after beating Dimitri Lascaris on the eighth ballot. What should have been a euphoric moment for this left-leaning party has been a complete disaster.

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, as well as Israel and the Middle East, turned into huge political battlegrounds for Green politicians, supporters and the party leader. Manly spoke out against the potential removal of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem as “ethnic cleansing.” Atwin then turned up the heat when she described Paul’s call for de-escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict as “totally inadequate,” and wrote that “Forced Evictions must end!” and “I stand with Palestine and condemn the unthinkable air strikes in Gaza. End Apartheid!”

Tensions grew between Atwin and Paul, leading to the former’s defection to the Liberals. The party cut funding for Paul’s campaign in the riding of Toronto Centre. Several party executives resigned in disgust, including May’s husband, John Kidder. Leadership reviews against Paul were announced, dates were set and things cooled off. The Greens, along with the Green Party Fund, filed a legal application in the Superior Court of Justice for Ontario against the arbitrator who brought down one of the non-confidence motions and leadership reviews. Paul countersued for compensation for costs incurred in these legal matters.

When Paul announced on Sept. 27 she would step down within two weeks, it appeared the circus was finally going to leave town.

That’s not been the case. The two legal matters have held up Paul’s departure date, which was supposed to have happened last week. On Tuesday, the Greens announced that half their staff, or 10 employees, would be temporarily laid off to cut costs and stop the party’s financial bleeding.

What a mess. It’s unlike anything ever witnessed in Canadian politics.

Many prominent Greens are frustrated by the infantile behaviour of its federal wing. Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, who sits as an MPP, is one of them. “We are deeply disappointed by Annamie Paul’s painful experience as leader of the Green Party of Canada,” he co-wrote in an Oct. 8 statement with deputy leaders Dianne Saxe and Abhijeet Manay, and they “earnestly hope that the federal party finds a way to rebuild and refocus on its key goals, especially the urgent commitment to planetary health that our two parties share.”

How will this end? The Greens will either give their heads a serious shake and clean up their political house, or Green politicians, party donors and supporters could abandon ship. It would be interesting if the mass exodus led to the creation of a new party called, say, the Environmental Party of Canada – and they nominated Paul as its first leader.

If that happened, the media would be hard-pressed to ignore the Greens once more.

Michael Taube, a columnist for Troy Media and Loonie Politics, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

“When I was elected and put into this role, I was breaking a glass ceiling. What I didn’t realize at the time was 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 … I was spitting up blood, but I was determined to be there.”

—Annamie Paul, during her Green leadership resignation speech

After months of petty infighting, a torrid election campaign and the short-lived leader’s resignation, Canada’s Greens must confront an existential crisis. Will the federal party be able to rebuild and continue as an electoral force, or will its collapse prove too catastrophic to recover from?

Until quite recently, the Green political movement had been basking in momentum and promise. The federal caucus finally elected a second member in 2018, followed by a third in 2019, with the Maritimes quickly developing into another regional hotbed for the party. Provincial politics were especially propitious, with Greens elected as Official Opposition (party with the second-most seats) and bolstered by more than 30 percent of the vote in Prince Edward Island in 2019. A year earlier, the New Brunswick Greens trebled their seat count, while the Ontario Greens elected a member.

With Annamie Paul’s rise to the national leadership last October, a woman of colour had taken the helm of a major federal party for the first time in Canadian history – and it’s worth remembering that no major party other than the Greens has been led into a general election by a woman since 2000, back when Alexa McDonough led the NDP, which feels like a political lifetime ago.

With Paul in charge, the Greens initially seemed destined to continue expanding their electoral footprint – despite minor cracks in the party’s foundation that appeared soon after Paul replaced Elizabeth May as leader. Paul earned an impressive 32.7 percent in last year’s Toronto Centre by-election – by far the best federal Green performance ever in Toronto – despite beginning her campaign late, due to overlap with the party’s leadership contest. Greens often end up winning seats where they initially finish second and are able to convince the electorate to vote with their heart, rather than strategically – and this Liberal “fortress” in Toronto suddenly looked eminently winnable.

Paul also earned plaudits for her impressive performance in the televised English-language leaders’ debate earlier this month, with audience members certainly noticing that she was the only woman at the podiums.

But despite such tremendous potential, the 2021 election ultimately proved to be a trouncing for the Greens. Incumbent Paul Manly lost his seat, finishing third – the only time that an elected Green in senior government has failed to win re-election. The party’s popular vote declined by almost two-thirds from the previous election (plummeting from 6.6 percent to just 2.3 percent), and the Greens were unable to nominate a candidate in 86 ridings – in both cases, their worst performance since 2000, back when the party was still very much a fringe entity. Newfound popularity in the Maritimes mostly collapsed. And despite the silver lining of the party electing its first member in Ontario, leader Annamie Paul this week felt there was little choice but to depart from what has become a highly toxic political party – meaning that Canada’s first Black federal party leader lasted less than a single year.

How did it all go so wrong, so quickly?

Was it the nearly non-existent leadership transition? The highly-politicized federal council that refused to accept the new leader and attempted to undermine her at every step? The new leader not devoting enough time to building bridges between warring factions or assuaging change-averse mandarins? The ill-fitting political appointments that polarized the party and alienated its sitting MPs, leading to a cross-floor defection? The fomenting systemic racism among a mostly white and economically-comfortable membership? The venomous internal debates over peripheral policies, such as international relations? Members who bristled when Elizabeth May lapel pins were no longer compulsory? Half of the party’s staff being laid off ahead of a snap election, to complement the bare financial chest? Or the legacy of constant turnover among staff, volunteers and candidates, leaving anemic institutional memory?

For the Greens, the past year was an omnishambles lacerated through a blender of vitriol. And thankfully, it’s over.

But what happens next? Will the party be able to regain its past popularity, and possibly even push beyond its legacy of three seats? Or will it revert back to essentially the status of an environmental non-profit, exploiting the soapbox of elections to make noise during campaigns but failing to win seats and disappearing for the lengthy remainder of the electoral cycle?

Internally, the Greens are split along many political fissures, with the primary schism arguably eco-capitalism versus eco-socialism. For a party that officially subscribes to principles such as “participatory democracy” and “respect for diversity,” it’s perhaps ironic that its internal culture has come to somewhat resemble politics in Thailand – if I don’t get my way, instead of focusing on winning the next vote, I’ll just do my utmost to undermine the current regime and encourage a coup. Until someone with masterful leadership skills – be they diplomatic or otherwise Machiavellian – can bring harmony to the party, Greens may remain more focused on each other’s throats than their actual parliamentary adversaries.

But I would argue that the party’s post-Paul potential is perhaps just as dependent on external factors – principally how relevant other political parties insist on keeping the Greens. With Liberals buying an oil pipeline, the NDP equivocating on climate measures (given their prioritization of labour above environment), the Albertan NDP one of the most vocal proponents of oil production in Canada, and the BC NDP happily subsidizing the liquefied natural gas industry, it appears there will continue be a role for the Green party in Canada for the foreseeable future: dragging the stubborn legacy parties, kicking and screaming, toward an inevitable post-carbon future.

Put simply, Green success is built upon others’ failings.

It’s worth noting that while Conservatives drag their feet on climate action here in Canada, over in the United Kingdom, Tories often outdo Labour and Liberal Democrats when it comes to taking a bold stance. Perhaps it’s no wonder the Greens perform relatively poorly there.

It’s an incredibly simple premise – co-opt your opponents’ strengths – that so far has mostly eluded the Liberals and NDP here in Canada. And if that continues, the Greens will retain a lifeline, even if their internal affairs happen to mimic an Argentinean telenovela.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Poking through the detritus of this week’s federal election results, the general contours of its impacts have emerged although the specific detail is yet to be refined.

The lack of change in total seat counts suggests that both the Liberals and the Conservatives will be held accountable in different ways.

Mr. Trudeau will need to find a way to recover from the personal character scars inflicted effectively by his opponents during the campaign. The party has a proven track record of reinventing itself; the search to attract new star candidates and a clearer post pandemic economic focus starts now.

The smouldering internal Conservative policy debate over the long term rewards of shifting from Harper lite to Liberal lite ones will likely flare up and consume the agenda for the next few months. That conflict may well decide Mr O’Toole’s future.

The next scene of the Green’s internecine warfare will determine not only Annamie Paul’s leadership but the party’s future itself.

While a post-pandemic populist party may be difficult to sustain nationally, the People’s Party  may leave a more lasting impact on the shape of provincial politics in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Despite an improved campaign, Mr. Singh still has to manage the expectations of critics for not returning the federal NDP to its halcyon days under Mulcair and Layton. How can the NDP avoid being squeezed again in future elections, given its likely support of the whole Liberal minority agenda beyond a few calculated tweaks? Will this necessitate yet another internal review of whether the NDP best serves as a party or a movement?

Several truisms about political campaigning have also been reinforced that our chattering classes including the media would do well to remember in their future election analysis.

Campaigns do matter, no matter the pre-election polls. Mr. O’Toole’s initial well calibrated campaign shift to the political centre including the early release of an un-costed platform appeared to take the Liberals and media off-guard.

The resurrection of Liberal fortunes from mid-campaign doldrums remind us that even short campaigns are marathons, not sprints; victory is never declared after three weeks.

Both Mr Trudeau and Mr. Singh proved to be formidable campaigners; Mr. O’Toole’s interventions increasingly lacked spontaneity  .

Did the Conservatives peak too early? Did their early success focus more media attention on the inconsistencies in their platform and drive the Liberals to unveil their time tested and proven  ‘fear ‘strategy to drive progressive voters their way (mid-town Toronto, as well as Vancouver)?

Political apparatchiks are constantly reminded that the final vote shift, especially among undecideds, takes place in the last 5 to 10 days of the campaign. A summer election reinforces this conclusion even more because most citizens are not paying critical attention at the outset of the call.

The quality of local candidates and incumbents’ effective attention to constituency needs between elections counts even more when faced with negative reactions at the door to an unpopular leader. Those are factors harder to quantify in aggregated polling.

While the Liberals lost a couple of so-called swing ridings (e.g. Peterborough Kawartha), they retained others (Oakville) in the competitive constituencies of the 905 for these very reasons.

Another consequential lesson is that ground games do matter, especially when dealing with pandemics and lower voter enthusiasm.

Identifying each party’s vote and getting them to the polls trumps amassing Tik Tok followers, likes or dislikes on Twitter, or general regional or national polling swings.

According to numerous media reports, a number of Conservative candidates could not find sufficient volunteers for their all-important E-day teams.

For the third federal election in a row, we are reminded in a first past the post system that efficiency of votes counts more to win a larger number of seats than racking up large majorities in a number of ridings that falsely skew the aggregated numbers.

Managing surprise events remains an ever present reality. While Afghanistan and the Delta variant dominated the early news, the provincial Tory vaccine passport flip flops refocused the campaign from the phoney war about the need for an election during the pandemic to the more Liberal friendly issue of management of the  crisis. Indeed, it can be argued that Mr Kenney cost the Conservative campaign its national momentum at a critical juncture of the election.

Looking forward, Liberal last minute musings about changing the first past the post electoral system [where have we heard this before] and the likelihood of the broad implementation of the Liberals child care scheme with the remaining provinces may prove to be even more existential threats to the Conservative goal to topple the current Liberal regime.

Make no mistake. Beyond the numbers, a lot has changed in Canadian politics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

The Liberals released their full platform this week, and what is immediately noticeable in it is just how much back-patting there is throughout. The Liberals are very much running on their record in this election, and they want you to know how much they got done, as a prelude of what they plan to do going forward. This being said, when compared to the other two main platforms, the Liberals have a lot less hand-waving around their promises, in part because much of what is in their plan is built off of what is in Budget 2021 – and with good reason. But it’s also carrying on the theme that a lot of the mainstream commentariat seems blind to, which is inclusive growth.

To be sure, much like the other two parties, there are a lot of promises to work with provinces in order to accomplish specific goals, but unlike the other two parties, the Liberals are less eager to sign over blank cheques – or fiscal transfers – and are more interested in attaching strings to these dollars in order to get specific outcomes. This is important because while provinces may balk, it sets minimum standards and has some base level of accountability for the federal dollars that get transferred. This remains one of the biggest differences between the parties – those who are counting on the good will of premiers to do the right thing with those federal dollars in spite of a history that has shown that provinces will spend their health transfers on things that aren’t healthcare and which don’t fix the problems in the system, and the Liberals, who ensure that there is verification along with trust.

It’s also worth noting that the Liberals are planning on introducing specific amendments to the regulations attached to the Canada Health Act to ensure better abortion access in the provinces. While this stems largely from a dispute in New Brunswick where abortion access is limited to three locations and a private clinic was established in Fredericton to meet the needs of women in that region, which the province refuses to fund or reimburse. While the federal government has withheld portions of the province’s health transfers equal to the fees the clinic charges (clawbacks which were suspended during the pandemic), the fact that they want to place this in the regulations is a sign that is absolutely a wedge, but one that will work because Conservatives keep bringing forward private members’ bills designed to limit abortion in one way or another, and their own platform boasted of “conscience rights.”

There are also instances where they commit to not backing down on several of their established plans, such as bringing back the proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act to capture web giants – which the other parties agree with to an extent (the Conservatives’ only real objection is apparently in demanding that YouTube be exempt), and reviving their proposals on combatting online hate (which have some problematic elements), bringing in Australian-style legislation to force those web giants to the table when it comes to paying for journalism, and reviving their legislation to eliminate many of the mandatory minimum sentences that disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous populations. And of course, they commit to moving ahead with their child care plans and carrying on the work of establishing national pharamacare (presuming they can get the other nine premiers on board).

But it’s the particular policy planks dedicated to women, Black Canadians, the disabled, the LGBT+ communities that seem to have confused some of the punditry around the platform. For example, Paul Wells considers this all to be the pinnacle of micro-targeting voters to ensure that they have announceable policies specific to them, and considers the platform incoherent as a result:

A platform used to be a proposed program for government that was designed to show a political party had thought clearly about a modest number of important files. Coherence and practicality were virtues. These days I think coherence couldn’t matter less, because the goal is to have hundreds of proposals you can send to previously-identified voter cohorts.

What Wells misses is that there is a coherent theme to it that’s right in the title – “Forward, for everyone” refers to inclusive growth. Traditional platforms are mostly for middle-aged straight white males who are looking for tax cuts (and we especially saw this after Budget 2021, where a group of business interests calling themselves “Coalition For a Better Future” are convening a summit on future growth because the budget didn’t have enough tax cuts for their liking). If the Liberals are going to demonstrate they are in it for inclusive growth, they need to show how, which is one reason why the document includes Gender and Diversity Impact Summaries at the end of each section. Inclusive growth means you can’t just have the same old, and they are doing the homework to show that they understand what it means.

If anything, the fact that you have mainstream voices like Wells not clueing into the broad theme of this platform shows that Trudeau and the Liberals are underselling the inclusive growth aspect (just as they have undersold the need for the election given the five months of procedural warfare that stalled virtually all bills, and the partisan dickishness that consumed the committees). They also undersold it with the budget as well, which hasn’t been helped by a commentariat that remains stuck in the belief that it’s 1995 and will always be 1995, and that those solutions are the solutions for the current reality we find ourselves in. There is a case to be made for “building back better,” and working to fix the cracks in our social fabric that the pandemic exposed – but they need to actually articulate that case in a clear and bold manner. Thus far, they’ve focused too much on the wedges and not enough on the vision, and that could be what costs them ultimately.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

There’s a real possibility that Annamie Paul could be booted out as Green Party leader in a month’s time. If so, it could potentially spell the end of this minor party in many voters’ eyes.

What’s going on? A strange witches’ brew of a rookie MP’s controversial statements, competing political factions in the Greens – and plenty of inside baseball.

Paul, a lawyer and unsuccessful Green candidate in a 2019 federal by-election in Toronto Centre, won the leadership on Oct. 3, 2020 after beating fellow lawyer Dimitri Lascaris on the eighth ballot. She replaced longtime Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who had stepped down on Nov. 4, 2019 – although she remained an MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands in B.C.

As the first black and Jewish woman to lead a major Canadian political party – she converted in 2000 after marrying her husband – Paul’s win was widely viewed through a historical lens. Her second bid to win Toronto Centre on Oct. 26, 2020 proved unsuccessful, but coming within 2,331 votes (or 9.25 percent) of beating former broadcast journalist Marci Ien in a strong Liberal riding bode well for her future.

Yet even during this upbeat period, there were early signs of looming political turmoil.

The Greens fell into the trap of discussing the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement during the leadership race. Lascaris supported this concept and wanted to enshrine it into party policy with respect to Israel and the Middle East. Paul and May were opposed to the idea and pushed back. This division furthered the existing cracks that already existed with respect to the Greens and anti-semitism. Paul became a primary target, which forced party spin doctors to engage in damage control.

There was also the question whether Paul was really in charge of the Green Party. She had been elected leader in a democratic fashion, but May had held that role for 13 years. Her influence was enormous, and her decision not to leave federal politics raised eyebrows. While some ex-political leaders have stayed in Ottawa and didn’t stir the pot – Joe Clark, John Diefenbaker and Ed Broadbent immediately come to mind – assuming May would follow suit seemed far-fetched to most political observers.

It’s fascinating, then, as both contentious issues awoke from a not-so-deep slumber to give the Green Party headaches once more.

This came courtesy of Jenica Atwin. She was one of three Green MPs elected in the 2019 federal election – and the first one elected outside of B.C. (She represents the Fredericton riding in New Brunswick.)

Atwin recently made headlines with some controversial comments about the Middle East. She called Paul’s call for de-escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict as “totally inadequate” in a May 11 tweet. “Forced Evictions must end!,” she wrote, “I stand with Palestine and condemn the unthinkable air strikes in Gaza. End Apartheid!” Her statement had been preceded (and possibly motivated) by a comment from Green MP Paul Manly’s depiction of the potential removal of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem as “ethnic cleansing.”

Paul didn’t say anything about those statements. One of her senior advisers did. Noah Zatzman, who is reportedly on a six-month contract in her office, didn’t name the two MPs but wrote in a May 14 Facebook post, “We will work to defeat you and bring in progressive climate champions who are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists!!!!!”

Atwin briefly became a political albatross on Paul’s neck. She ultimately crossed the floor on June 10 to the Liberals, claiming she was “at a crossroads” the past month and the whole matter had “been, in a word, distracting.” The Israel-Palestine conflict may have caused this splinter, but there’s some dispute as to when Atwin actually started negotiations with the Liberals. While Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc focused more on her Native Canadian background and interest in aboriginal issues, neither he nor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have said much about her statement. (She ultimately tweaked her position on Tuesday.)

Israel and the Middle East had caused another political eruption in Green Party circles. Two party executives also resigned during that time – including John Kidder, who just happens to be May’s husband.

May then entered the fray. “Losing Jenica is not something I am prepared to accept without a fight,” she told Globe and Mail on June 14. “She is a Green – and we want her back.”

Hold on. Atwin has already left. May’s comments seemed meaningless. An apology from Paul likely isn’t forthcoming. What was the point of this?

It was merely the opening act.

On Tuesday, the Greens triggered the process of a no-confidence vote in Paul’s leadership for July 15. She could be kicked out over this brouhaha, and the door could be open for May to become party leader once more. If Paul survives, she’ll be much weaker politically and could face an exodus of party members, supporters and, quite possibly, her two MPs, Manly and May.

The Greens are a small political outfit. This party has only elected three MPs, and its highest amount of popular support was 6.8 percent in 2008. Any hopes of a significant political breakthrough in the next federal election were pretty minuscule to begin with, and will be nearly non-existent now. Canadians aren’t going to vote for a minor party that can’t figure out its leadership situation, can’t avoid controversies and can’t establish a unified position on issues unrelated to the environment.

How do you spell Green Party? M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E, of course.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.