Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is stepping down as leader of the party following another electoral defeat and months of internal turmoil. Paul called her time as leader a “tremendous struggle” and acknowledged that the Greens were “not likely going to do well” in the election.
“I just don’t have the heart for it,” said Paul in a press conference on Monday morning.
Paul’s resignation comes after she finished fourth in her Toronto Centre riding behind Liberal incumbent Marci Ien, who had also defeated her in a 2020 byelection. It was also her third time losing in Toronto Centre in as many years.
In winning the leadership bid in October 2020 with 54 per cent of the votes on the final ballot, Paul became the first Black Canadian and Jewish woman to head a federal party.
“When I was elected and put in this role, I was breaking a glass ceiling. What I didn’t realize at the time is 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 throughout my time as a leader,” Paul said.
“And when I arrived at that debate stage, I had crawled over that glass, I was spitting up blood, but I was determined to be there. I was determined to be there so that the next time someone like me thinks of running and wonders whether it’s possible to be on that stage, they will know that it is possible to do that.”
Following the election, Paul said there were a couple of things that caused her to “think about what I wanted next” and noted the communication from the Green Party Federal Council had been in contact with only the bleakest of news.
“On the day of the election in the morning, the only email that I received from our council, from the president of our council, was an email calling for a meeting to launch an emergency leadership review,” she said, noting that on Saturday night she received an email that a leadership review would begin.
Paul said she could no longer “put up with the attacks” and “continue to struggle” with her leadership being questioned while acknowledging she did not see a path forward.
“It is quite clear to me that I am not going to have the opportunity to lead, I have not been given that opportunity. … I just will not spend any more time focused on political games as opposed to public policy.”
“I chose to continue because of some of the people that are standing here today,” she said, referencing some of the candidates she brought in, as well as her family.
Since gaining the leadership, Paul’s tenure has been filled with controversies.
In June, one of three Greens sitting in Parliament, Jenica Atwin, decided to cross the floor to sit with the Liberals. Atwin’s decision to switch teams came after internal conflicts within the party over the Israeli–Palestinian crisis. At the time, a senior adviser to Paul blasted both Atwin and fellow Green MP Paul Manly, saying “we will work to defeat you.”
The two remaining Green MPs, former party leader Elizabeth May and Manly, issued a statement of support for Atwin, insisting that Paul had made the situation untenable.
Shortly after Atwin’s crossing, the party launched a process calling for Paul to denounce her senior adviser or face a non-confidence vote. An arbitrator decided that the Council could not cast a non-confidence vote or review. This led to the council filing a legal motion to have it overturned and keeping a legal battle going.
The infighting, however, did not stop. Paul criticized a letter that was written to her by members of the party’s federal council as “racist” and “sexist.”
As election day neared, Paul was hit with a few more challenges, including candidates who did not want her to campaign with them, troubles with the party’s finances, and a shortage of candidates. The Greens were unable to nominate a full slate of candidates for the Sept. 20 election, falling nearly 100 short of the 338 ridings across the country.
That did not sit well with former party leader Elizabeth May, who comfortably won re-election.
May said she’s “never seen the party so unprepared for an election,” while also referencing the future of the party.
“There are certainly issues the party will be discussing internally,” she said, at the time noting that there would be a post-mortem done to decide how to move forward.
Come election day, things took a turn for the worse for the Greens. Their share of the popular vote dwindled to 2.32 per cent in 2021 from 6.55 per cent in 2019. Support for the Greens fell to just under 400,000 votes in 2021, down from nearly 1.2 million in 2019.
While the results fell well short of where the Greens wanted to be — and with many questioning why Paul decided to run in Toronto Centre, a longtime Liberal stronghold — she was quick to note that there wasn’t a ton of support for her from the party.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that when you head into an election without funding for your campaign, when you head into an election without the staff … (and) under the threat of a court process from your party, it is going to be very hard to convince people to vote for your party,” she said.