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The fall of Green Party leader Annamie Paul: What happened behind the scenes

Click to play video: 'Annamie Paul resigns as Green Party leader, calls party infighting ‘worst period of my life’' Annamie Paul resigns as Green Party leader, calls party infighting ‘worst period of my life’
WATCH: Annamie Paul resigns as Green Party leader, calls party infighting 'worst period of my life' – Sep 27, 2021

Angry Black woman. Power-hungry. Putting on a performance. This is how Annamie Paul’s staff say she was described by members of the Green Party.

In the days leading up to the 2021 election campaign, Paul, the first Black and Jewish woman to ever lead a federal party, assured Canadians heading to the polls that she was in control of her party. But on the inside, crying, stress and micro-aggressions were more the norm, say Paul’s team members.

Paul resigned on Sept. 27, just ten months into her tenure. Now, members of her staff are painting a bleak picture of what it was like for the newly minted Green leader, saying she was set up to fail and received no support from her predecessor, Elizabeth May.

“They blatantly did not want to support a woman of colour in the party. There’s absolutely no way around it,” said Victoria Galea, executive assistant to Paul since February of last year.

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Read more: Green Party Leader Annamie Paul resigns following drop in votes and seats

Paul finished in fourth place in her Toronto Centre riding behind Liberal incumbent Marci len during this year’s election, amid months of in-fighting and an internal party push to launch a non-confidence vote against her. The in-fighting was made public in June, when former Green MP Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to join the Liberal Party, citing differing views between her and other members of the party on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

During her resignation speech, Paul said she did the best she could with little resources and funding allocated to her and an understaffed team, but ultimately, her party was “likely not going to do well.”

“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,” she said.

Corey Shefman, Paul’s campaign manager in Toronto Centre, tweeted “as someone on the inside, let me be clear that there isn’t a single grain of exaggeration in Annamie’s description of what she was put through by the Green Party.”

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The party’s leadership — its president, members of the current federal council and its executive directors — have either refused to respond or denied all requests for comment about the allegations made by Paul and her supporters. The Green Party has also declined multiple requests from Global News asking about the use of Green Party funds to fight Paul, or about racism and discrimination allegations.

But an internal ombudsman report released July 18 that was leaked to the public said racism and sexism allegations were rife within the party, promoted by high-ranking members who contributed to a “toxic dynamic.”

“Systemic racism at the governance level of the party needs to be addressed, but has not been,” the report reads.

“Transphobic and racially prejudicial statements are regularly shared, and a culture which tolerates them is endemic within the Party.”

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The report was prepared in response to a complaint filed after the Toronto Star reported the Greens were “sabotaging the first Black woman to lead a Canadian political party” in April. The report takes aim at the party’s internal culture, but also names several Greens in senior leadership positions it says perpetuated racism and discrimination from inside the party.

The report claims the Green’s interim Executive Director, Dana Taylor, had instructed members to assert that systemic racism does not exist within the party. It also found Taylor over-stepped his mandate on several occasions, muting Paul’s mic during a staff meeting and ignoring concerns raised by staff members — particularly those from “equity-seeking communities.”

The report also accused Taylor of a failure “to promptly defend staff who faced abuse from members, or to implement procedures to deal with online abuse of staff, despite repeated requests.”

Taylor did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Global News.

Read more: Green Party to drop legal action against outgoing leader Annamie Paul

Four members of Paul’s team who spoke to Global News confirmed the allegations. Galea said the Green Party often “played on a lot of ‘angry Black woman’ tropes” when referring to Paul, which she said was made evident in the non-confidence allegation against the party leader.

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A copy of the allegation, obtained by Global News, accused her of having an “autocratic attitude of hostility, superiority and rejection, failing to assume her duty to be an active, contributing, respectful, attentive member of Federal Council, failing to develop a collaborative working relationship, failing to engage in respectful discussions, and failing to use dialogue and compromise.”

“She has attended few council meetings, and when in attendance, has displayed anger in long, repetitive, aggressive monologues,” the document reads.

The non-confidence vote was suddenly called off by party executives on July 18, with no explanation given.

Click to play video: 'What is future of federal Green Party after Annamie Paul resigns as leader?' What is future of federal Green Party after Annamie Paul resigns as leader?
What is future of federal Green Party after Annamie Paul resigns as leader? – Sep 27, 2021

Elizabeth May told Global News she would support a “full and independent investigation” into the allegations raised by Paul.

“As a party, of course, we’re part of Canadian society, and it would be idealistic and unrealistic to imagine that any institution in Canadian society is immune to the systemic racism we see within Canadian society,” she said.

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Asked why it took so long for May to respond to racism and discrimination claims within the party, May said she was given instruction from Paul’s office not to talk to national media outlets.

“I am doing something that I’ve been asked not to do, which is talk to any reporters and specifically, I would say, even if I was allowed to do an interview in the last year, it was specifically mandated that I not talk about internal Green Party matters,” she said.

According to May, Paul had overstepped her mandate, “obtaining far more resources, far more authority, more power than I’d even ever asked for or imagined.”

“I think it is her honest impression was that somehow she was denied things she ought to have had. And it surprises me to this day because I certainly made it clear to her and to every other leadership candidate: you need to know you don’t have power to be running and saying, I’m going to take the party in X direction,” May said.

“The leader essentially is the chief spokesperson and nothing else. Annamie managed to — and I hope this precedent that she set will not be repeated — take control and power over much more. The empirical result of that was the poorest election result we’ve ever had.”

Read more: Green Party lays off half of staff members as financial drought, internal strife deepens

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But Maia Knight, a campaign operations and strategy manager for Paul, disagreed with the notion that Paul had too much authority.

Knight, who was also a federal election candidate in Ajax for the Greens in 2019, said Paul faced opposition at “every turn,” from the appointment of Taylor against her wishes instead of selecting someone from a marginalized community, to the party’s Federal Council blocking funding to her campaign.

“Every time we felt like we were getting back on our feet, the party did something else, something new, found a new way to cut her down. That would take a toll on anyone,” she said.

She said Paul was consistently asked about her stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of her faith and saw examples of anti-Black racism that took a visible toll on Paul. Knight said working for Paul was “heartbreaking.”

“She’s never been accepted for who she is. That’s really unfortunate and it’s a true loss to the party,” Knight said of Paul.

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After Paul’s resignation, members of her party blamed her directly for the Green’s shoddy performance in this year’s election. But Elizabeth May told Global News she isn’t blaming Paul for the Greens’ election results.

“Somebody somewhere within the party made sure we didn’t have candidates in every riding,” May said, noting that “good candidates were denied the right to run” even when the writ was dropped.

“We had people wanting to run in every riding. We had people who were qualified, strong candidates who were denied running.”

She noted that the Greens’ constitution gives the federal council the authority to choose candidates — not the party’s leader. This year, May said the party was short 86 candidates, almost a third of its slate — something she said has “never” happened before.

“I don’t rule out actual sabotage, but I don’t want to sound paranoid,” she said. “You’d have to be remarkably gullible not to at least entertain the thought.”

Read more: Future of Canada’s Greens in the spotlight after election setbacks

There was also something else working against the party during this year’s election: its finances.

“It’s generally accepted that the finances of the party were deteriorating,” Douglas Tingey, who was president of the Green Party of Canada Fund during Paul’s tenure, told Global News.

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Two months after Paul was named leader, contributions to the party soared to more than $1.4 million, data from Elections Canada shows. But by the next quarter, Elections Canada reported contributions had dipped by $757,606.98, reaching a low of $588,841.09 by March of this year.

The party laid off more than a dozen staff members over the summer in what they said were attempts to cut costs. Despite objections from Paul, all of her staff were laid off including Galea and Jessica Hamilton, Paul’s liaison in Toronto. Zahra Mitra, the party’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion director, was also dismissed.

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But Tingey said the Greens’ financial woes began earlier than that.

By January of this year, Tingey said the party was already losing money.

According to the Canadian Press, spending exceeded revenues since the fund’s board of directors was elected in February, while costs outpaced gross income by $105,000 in May and $103,000 in June.

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Tingey said the Greens’ financial situation was not sustainable with 70 per cent of all revenue spent on staffing, while party executives opted to withhold $250,000 in funding earmarked for Paul’s riding campaign in Toronto Centre.

Meanwhile, party executives said during a Federal Council meeting in July that the Greens spent about $100,000 on legal fees that month, with another $100,000 earmarked for legal expenditures in August, two party sources not authorized to speak publicly on the matter told the Canadian Press.

The Green Party did not respond to multiple requests asking how much money was used in legal battles against Paul, but according to Tingey, unexpected lawsuits commenced by Paul against the party had heightened the party’s financial woes despite significant fundraising under her leadership.

Tingey told Global News that a “very detailed assessment” of who would be laid off was based on a combination of “seniority and necessity.”

“There was every expectation that everyone would be called back the moment the writ dropped or at the moment there was a guarantee of the election happening, because we would then have access to election financing that would help cover the costs of staff,” he said. “To my understanding, virtually everyone that was laid off but two came back.”

Read more: Canada election: Green Party Leader Annamie Paul loses bid to become MP for Toronto Centre

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When staff returned to their positions, Galea said that morale on Paul’s team was at an all-time low, with staff reportedly crying during meetings. She also noted the party’s finances.

While Green Party leaders and top candidates from the previous election are “traditionally” provided between $20,000 and $30,000 per month to help with their campaigns, Galea said Paul received “zero” dollars. Galea also claimed Paul was given zero dollars when the write was dropped.

Galea noted that around $100,000 was typically spent on those ridings, which Paul “did not receive a penny of.”

“They said it was a financial issue and they were concerned about the party going bankrupt. But it is not a fundraising issue. Madame Paul out-fundraised every quarter,” said Galea.

“There was not a cash inflow issue. It was the money mismanagement issue, which is done by the fund and the interim executive director.”

Click to play video: 'Canada election:  Former leader Elizabeth May on future of the Green Party' Canada election: Former leader Elizabeth May on future of the Green Party
Canada election: Former leader Elizabeth May on future of the Green Party – Sep 20, 2021

Kayne Alleyne-Adams, who was a debate prep coordinator for Paul, added that many staff who returned after the layoffs weren’t given the tools or funding they needed to help run Paul’s campaign.

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Alleyne-Adams told Global News that he was informed shortly before the first federal leadership debate that there was no room in the party’s budget to pay him or cover his hotel expenses.

Watching the infighting “certainly made it difficult to be a member of this party,” said Alleyne-Adams.

“It made it difficult to ask people to vote Green this past election.”

Alleyne-Adams, who was also youth co-chair of the Ontario Green Party and shadow cabinet youth co-critic for the Greens, publicly resigned on Oct. 13, citing “sexual harassment, racist language and queerphobic insults” as the reason for his departure in a series of tweets.

Global News has reached out to the Green Party for comment on Alleyne-Adams’ allegations, but did not immediately hear back.

Read more: Annamie Paul’s Greens still nearly 100 candidates short for full election roster: sources

The layoffs have continued post-election. Mirroring layoffs made over the summer, the Green Party laid off half of its staff on Oct. 19, affecting Paul’s office as well as in those working in communications and mobilization departments.

Jessica Hamilton, who worked as a liaison for Paul’s office in Toronto Centre, said Paul’s failure among the Greens symbolized the party’s inability to grow and improve.

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“It’s not just about Annamie, it’s about all of the things that she represents,” she said.

“The whole reason that we got into all of this is to make Canada stronger and more equitable. To be faced with so much adversity and so much push-back from the moment you get on this team, and then to have it come to a head in an election or right before an election is just devastating, because the things that you’ve been working for and working towards are just slipping through your fingers.”

—With files from Global News’ Ahmar Khan and the Canadian Press

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