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Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

OTTAWA — Green Leader Annamie Paul is facing a no-confidence motion from party brass that could ultimately oust her from her perch atop the party.

OTTAWA — Green Leader Annamie Paul is facing a no-confidence motion from party brass that could ultimately oust her from her perch atop the party.

The leader of Quebec's Green party, Alex Tyrrell, said the federal party's governing body is poised to kick off a process Tuesday night that aims to dethrone Paul less than a year after she won the leadership.

The move follows months of internal strife over the party's direction and the leader's stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It also arrives less than a week after Jenica Atwin, one of three Green MPs, defected to the Liberals, citing the "distraction" of party turmoil over the latest Mideast crisis.

Paul said Tuesday, before word broke of the federal council's motion, that Atwin's stated rationale for crossing the floor was a "completely manufactured reason" and noted that the MP said the Green leader was not a key factor in her departure.

Tyrrell said he believes Paul should step aside after she failed, in his view, to unite disparate party factions and disavow comments from her former spokesman, Noah Zatzman, that accused Green MPs of antisemitism.

"I've never seen this level of conflict and discord within the federal Green party," Tyrrell said in an interview.

"I think that it’s time for Annamie to step back from the leadership for the good of the party. I think that the conflict has reached a point where it’s difficult for people to work within the party."

Paul rejected calls from the Greens' Quebec wing over the weekend to resign.

"I received a very strong mandate from our membership," she told reporters Tuesday. "I believe that I have been given the instructions to work on behalf of Canadians for green recovery, to work on behalf of Canadians to ensure that we complete our social safety nets and to forge a just society."

Paul won slightly more than half of the leadership vote on the eight ballot in October 2020.

The council vote slated for Tuesday night would need more than half of the body's current 15 members, who include Paul, to support it.

If the motion passes, the leader would have 30 days to prepare a response, after which a meeting would be held in mid-July on whether a leadership vote should go ahead. That second motion requires backing from three-quarters of the council, and would open the door to yet another motion to remove Paul from her post at a general meeting of party members.

A spokesperson for Paul confirmed that the federal council will convene a special session Tuesday evening, but declined to respond further to questions.

Green MPs Paul Manly and Elizabeth May — former party leader — did not comment on the slow-motion coup attempt playing out on their governing body.

In a joint statement hours after Atwin's defection on Thursday, May and Manly said "the attack against Ms. Atwin by the Green Party leader's chief spokesperson on May 14" set the stage for the lawmaker's departure.

Paul has said Atwin first reached out to Liberals before that date, however.

"As much as you try to bring everyone together, there are those that are going to continue to support others, including some of the other candidates who ran. I would just encourage them again to respect the will of the members," Paul said Tuesday.

A leadership review will follow the next federal election, she pointed out, "so the members will be able to pass judgment soon enough."

Tyrrell, who was one of more than a dozen contenders who initially signed on as leadership candidates, said Paul has failed to respect MP independence in a caucus that is not whipped.

But Paul said Monday that she and Atwin never had a conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

"I had never, while she was an MP for our party, ever asked Ms. Atwin to rein in her comments. I have never sanctioned her in any way for her comments," Paul said.

She also noted that Atwin, who said in a Twitter post last month that Israel should "#EndApartheid," joined weeks later a party whose position on the conflict is "at least if not more moderate" than that of the Greens.

Operation Black Vote Canada said in a statement it was "disappointed and dismayed" to learn of the no-confidence motion.

"As the first Black Canadian to ever lead a major political party, the election of Ms. Paul represented a step forward in the mission to diversify our politics, and have more Canadians represented in the institutions that represent them. Today's developments represent a step backward in that endeavour," the group said.

Atwin's defection leaves the Green party with just two lawmakers in the House of Commons, reeling from ongoing fallout over policy disputes, power struggles and bruised egos.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2021.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press