Some Greens worry internal conflict will hobble new leader Annamie Paul in the next election

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Greens take aim at NDP seats with new strategic focus
WATCH: Greens take aim at NDP seats with new strategic focus – Feb 8, 2021

Even as it gears up for a potential spring election, the Green Party of Canada is being forced to deal with a controversial internal personnel decision that some party members say could be a distraction that could hurt the party’s election preparations.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul has been prepping policy announcements and discussions, including one Monday that reaffirmed the party’s position to campaign in favour of a universal basic income, that party strategists hope will broaden the party’s brand so that, in addition to being known for a progressive take on climate change and environmental sustainability, it will also be known for standing for a progressive take on a host of other issues, from fighting poverty to dealing with long-term care homes to addressing housing shortages.

“There is no climate justice without social justice as well,” Paul said Friday. “And so during this pandemic, our focus, while never forgetting the climate, of course, has been on ensuring that people don’t fall through the cracks.”

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Strengthening Canada’s social safety net is top priority, says Green Party leader

Within days, the party will officially announce its new national campaign director, an individual that, party sources say, will be tasked with stealing votes that went to Jagmeet Singh’s New Democratic Party in the 2019 general election. The party wants to turn the two dozen orange seats in the House of Commons into two dozen green seats.

And, on Friday, the party launched its candidate recruitment drive under the slogan “Time to Run.”

Paul says an internal and potentially divisive party debate over the circumstances by which former party executive director Prateek Awasthi quit that job is having no impact on the party’s election preparations.

Others are not so sure.

“They’re having these internal conflicts and it’s really stopping a lot of their momentum,” said Jonathan Dickie, the party’s 2019 national campaign director. “I could see the downsides going into the next election where it may be more difficult for Annamie to position the party.”

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Dickie was a signatory to a letter, obtained by Global News, that was sent to the party’s governing body, its federal council, at the end of November. Former interim party leader Jo-Ann Roberts along with a past president and a past vice-president also signed that November letter.

“A pattern of poor governance has taken hold at the Green Party. Qualified, effective, and innovative professionals within our Party are often pushed away,” the letter said. “We, as a party, must do better.”

The party is currently operating with an interim executive director and an interim president, Liana Canton Cusmano. Cusmano did not respond to requests for comment.

In a telephone interview, Dickie said he believed the Green Party now is experiencing some of the same turmoil that the NDP experienced prior to the 2019 election. Just as Singh in 2019 was preparing for his first national election, so, too, is Paul preparing for her first national election as leader.

“Much of the difficulties that the Green Party is experiencing right now, if they’re not careful, they may take a real step back because unlike the NDP, the Greens have far fewer MPs,” Dickie said. “They’re nowhere near the established sort of party that the NDP are.”

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Click to play video: 'Meet the new Green Party Leader: Annamie Paul'
Meet the new Green Party Leader: Annamie Paul

In the 2019 election, Singh’s NDP lost 15 seats and with 24 seats became the fourth party in the House of Commons. The Greens, under former leader Elizabeth May, boosted their seat count by one to three MPs.

As for dozen national polls done since the beginning of the year, the Greens have hit a high of eight per cent and a low of five per cent versus its 2019 popular vote of 6.5 per cent. The NDP is faring slightly better than its 2019 popular vote of 16 per cent, polling as high as 22 per cent in a Leger poll published on Jan. 31 and as low as 14 per cent in a Mainstreet Research poll published Jan. 20.

David Akin is the chief political correspondent for Global News.

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