Green Party Leader Annamie Paul has spent almost the entire election campaign in Toronto — and she said that’s in part because her own candidates don’t always want her stopping by their ridings.
Her admission came during a press conference on Friday, when a reporter asked Paul whether she regrets her decision not to campaign alongside her fellow Green Party candidates across Canada.
“I wanted to make sure and I still want to make sure that if I travel somewhere, first, that I’m wanted — and that’s not a given. And then secondly, that is going to help our local candidates. And that’s also, unfortunately, not a given,” Paul said.
“That’s something that I have to recognize.”
Paul has spent the entire election campaign in Toronto — save for some brief stops in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que. — while other party leaders have travelled across Canada in a bid to secure support.
Paul was pressed for more details, including whether candidates have explicitly asked her to stay away or have concerns about the impact her leadership could have on their individual races.
The short answer to those questions, she said, is “yes.”
“I really want to be sure that if I do something, it’s going to help and not harm the candidates,” Paul said.
“Part of that is recognizing that, because of what has transpired, that it’s not always going to be helpful for me to be there on the ground. And there’s certainly going to be some candidates that have made that evaluation as well.”
The Green Party has been plagued by infighting in recent months, which culminated in a bid by some members of the party brass to oust her as the leader. The very public infighting has plagued the party in the polls — and has been weaponized by her political opponents.
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As Paul and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau sparred over women’s rights during Thursday’s debate, Trudeau used the infighting to needle the Green Party leader.
“The Liberal Party has never had a woman lead it. I think it’s time for the party to examine its priorities,” Paul said.
Trudeau fired back, saying that he “won’t take lessons on caucus management” from Paul.
Paul won the leadership in October 2020 with 54 per cent of the vote on the eighth ballot. Paul’s 12,090 votes allowed her to pull ahead of runner-up Dimitri Lascaris in a race that saw 69 per cent of party members vote.
But less than two months after taking over the party’s helm, Paul started experiencing internal bumps in the road. At the end of November 2020, the party’s federal council was sent a letter that alleged a “pattern of poor governance” within the Green Party.
The internal turmoil burst out from behind closed doors when former Green MP Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to join the Liberal Party on June 10, slamming the infighting among the Greens over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a “distraction” on her way out.
Paul, however, said Atwin’s departure from the party was the result of conversations that predated this year’s flare-up of violence between Israel and Hamas.
The situation unravelled further as party executives — several of whom have since been dethroned in an internal election — tried to push Paul out of the leadership with a non-confidence vote and a membership suspension.
Both bids were stopped by an independent arbitrator. However, Paul acknowledged Friday that the stain left on her leadership could be a detriment to some of her candidates.
“They deserve the very best shot that they can have to win their seats,” she said.
“The people standing behind me are extraordinary people, they’re people that are passionate about their communities, many of them are deeply involved in their communities, many of them have set aside their jobs, their families, to do what is an incredibly intense thing, which is to run for office and to put themselves out there.”
“I want to honour that all the way through this election.”
— with files from The Canadian Press