OTTAWA – Elizabeth May remains silent as the Green Party she led for 13 years descends into a bitter infighting that threatens her successor Annamie Paul’s grip on leadership.
Within days of the party’s highest governing body holding a vote of no confidence in Paul’s leadership, May’s office has repeatedly rejected the Star’s requests for comment, citing the recovery of the Saanich-Gulf Islands deputy from surgery in mid-June. .
May did not respond to an interview request on Friday, the fifth such request sent to her office this week, and she did not respond to emailed questions, even if she still supports Paul as a leader.
May was also silent on the pending issue of Paul’s party membership. Three party sources said the status of Paul’s membership was discussed in a closed-door meeting of senior officials Tuesday night, and a source told the Star that Green Party Acting Executive Director Dana Taylor decided place Paul’s membership under formal review.
As of Friday afternoon, the party had yet to confirm the status of Paul’s membership, which according to its rules would be suspended during the review. The party has also not said whether Paul can remain leader while his membership is suspended.
According to the Greens Code of conduct, suspended members cannot “represent the party in any capacity.”
May’s silence occurs when the party she led from 2006 to 2019 is mired in internal discord. He was the face of the Green party through four federal elections and won his first seat in Canada in 2011. And he continues to be an influence on the party, according to more than a dozen Green sources who have spoken to the Star in recent weeks.
The fact that he has stayed out of the fray over Paul’s leadership makes some party members wonder why May hasn’t used her position to defend the current leader.
“I think his influence is waning,” said a longtime Green operative, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about the party’s current turmoil.
“But at the same time, if she came out and said, ‘This is ridiculous, this must stop,’ she would stop,” the source added.
“And she hasn’t done that.”
While recovering from surgery, May has not been completely inactive. Calvin Neufeld is a social justice advocate in Perth, Ontario. who recently announced that he would seek the green nomination for riding from Lanark – Frontenac – Kingston. He told the Star on Friday that he made the decision after speaking with May “for more than an hour” on June 29 “while he was recovering from his knee surgery.”
Neufeld said he did not speak to Paul about trying to represent the party, but that he will support her if she survives current threats to her leadership, which she called an “unfortunate distraction.”
The party’s second deputy in the Commons, Paul Manly, has also not responded to requests for comment from the Star in recent weeks. However, he told the Ladysmith Chronicle in his Nanaimo, BC which he donated to Paul’s Toronto Center campaign. He did not respond to a question from the Star on Friday about whether this means he supports Paul as a leader.
May has helped Paul before. During last year’s leadership race, she co-hosted a virtual fundraising tour for Paul, despite vowing to remain neutral in the contest given her status as an outgoing leader. She defended the measure at the time saying she was willing to help all “equity seeking” candidates raise money.
Four months later, fundraising statistics suggested that Paul’s main rival for leadership was Dimitri Lascaris, a Montreal lawyer who ran as an eco-socialist. In the final weeks of the leadership race, May lobbied top Green officials to revoke Lascaris’s party membership over concerns over allegations that he had made anti-Semitic remarks in the past, according to a series of emails obtained by Star.
“I urge all of you to consider what steps we can take … (to) remove the deep stain of anti-Semitism on Dimitri Lascaris,” May wrote, suggesting that he be forced to make a public apology. “It is preferable,” he added, “let’s remove your membership.”
However, Lascaris was not eliminated. He continued to place a close second to Paul in the leadership vote less than three weeks later, on October 3.
(In an emailed statement on Friday, Lascaris called the allegations of anti-Semitism “false” and said he knew at the time that May was seeking to have her membership revoked. Lascaris added that she did not publicly complain because the party failed to do so. . listen to his call to get it out.)
In the months that followed, the party was plagued by internal discord when multiple sources, including Paul’s former campaign manager Sean Yo, described how the new leader faced resistance from the federal council when trying to make decisions. I and many other sources who spoke on internal affairs on condition of anonymity pointed to a group on the council that included May’s husband, John Kidder, as well as others who ran for their positions in 2020 under the banner “Greens for advice, ”Which May seemed to have endorsed.
During those council elections, May included a link to the group’s website in her supporter newsletter, which did not mention any other council candidates. She also posted on Twitter that she was “so inspired by the quality candidates” for the council and that “I love the effort found” on the group’s website.
The group included four current council members, plus Kidder, who resigned as England’s vice president this spring, and Taylor, who was not elected to the governing body but was hired as the party’s acting chief executive officer last year.
Three sources told the Star in April that Paul opposed Taylor’s appointment to that position.
May’s apparent endorsement of the group has fueled the perception among many in the party that its members harbor greater loyalty to the former leader than to Paul, something May dismissed as “ridiculous” in an April interview with The Star.
Kate Storey, the Green Party fund representative on the council May has endorsed, denied that this group had resisted Paul’s leadership in April, stating by email that “due diligence is being falsely interpreted as resistance.”
The council is scheduled to hold its vote of no confidence on Tuesday. If three-quarters of the members agree to overthrow her, Paul’s fate as leader will be decided by party members at a general meeting scheduled for August 21.
Last year, the day before Paul won the leadership, May told the Star that the job does not come with full control of the party. Nor did she rule out returning to herself as a leader one day, stating that “it would not close the door to anything, because the future is, as we all know, quite uncertain.”
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