Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s attempt to set the record straight in the wake of a disastrous election and the resignation of leader Annamie Paul, may have made things worse. In the Toronto Star opinion piece, May explains that under the party’s constitution, the leader of the Green Party is essentially the servant of the party’s executive council “with power only for selecting deputy leaders and a shadow cabinet., and for acting as the party’s chief spokesperson. Phrases like “at the helm have always been inappropriate,” she wrote.
She said Paul clashed with party culture almost from the beginning and did not include any of her leadership rivals in the shadow cabinet, with the result that none of them ran in last month’s election. She says Paul managed to negotiate with party brass the right to control communication—something that is a given with the other political parties, and she claims that even though Paul has announced her resignation, she still controls party communications and despite her news conference has not formally submitted her resignation. May says that is the reason she did not say something in support of Paul, when she was under attack during the campaign.
In explaining the situation, May has exposed the Green Party as one that essentially handcuffs its leaders and makes the leader not much more than a mouthpiece for the executive council. In doing so, she inadvertently perhaps, reveals that her own role as leader was dictated by the council, which may come as a bit of a disappointment for Canadians of all political stripes who were impressed with the way she handled herself in the House and during debates.
May says Annamie Paul “demanded relatively autocratic powers,” along the lines of a corporate CEO and that even though she has been given more power than apparently Elizabeth May enjoyed, it “fell short of her expectations.”
All of this is instructive, but it nonetheless leaves the impression of a political party so obsessed with process, and being “bottom-up,” that it becomes dysfunctional. One supposes it is a tribute to May that somehow she was able to navigate these waters for as long as she did, while still leaving the impression to Canadians that she was actually in charge.
In order to deflect the notion that the Paul debacle had anything to do with race, May lists individuals who are black or indigenous who occupy senior positions in the party. But the overall tone of the article leaves Paul portrayed as a bossy black woman who doesn’t play nice, despite May’s efforts to educate her on the limitations of the leader role. It’s hard to see how any of this will help the Green’s recover from a spectacular fall from grace.