Les Leyne: Mideast attacks spark federal Greens firefight

Imagine the beleaguered people of the Middle East, huddled over their phones, refreshing their feeds every few seconds, anxiously awaiting new developments on …. the Green Party of Canada’s official stance on their differences.

No. Don’t bother. It’s impossible to picture.

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The what party of Canada? The Green Party of where?

Nonetheless, the little eco-conscience party of the frozen North is under the impression that its views matter on that tragic problem. To the point where one MP quit the outfit last week (a 33 per cent reduction in their caucus) at least partly over their position. That ignited a leadership crisis that Leader Annamie Paul tried to address Wednesday with flaming denunciations of some members of the council that runs her party.

It’s remarkable to see them shelve climate change and pipelines to tie themselves in a knot over an argument in which they matter so little. It’s good to have a social conscience, but it makes you wonder when expressing it creates such rampant internal hostility.

Like a wildfire, the initial argument exploded in a new direction and Paul poured a lot of gas on it Wednesday.

It’s reminiscent of the People’s Front of Judea, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. That bumbling little cabal issued dire threats against oppressors, expressed contempt for the arch-rival Judean People’s Front, and was full of comical self-importance.

“What have the Romans ever done for us?”

Considering that Vancouver Island now hosts 100 per cent of both the federal and provincial caucuses, it’s probably worth keeping an eye on this. But honestly, the home base for every Green MP and MLA in the entire country (4) is probably as unmoved by what started this Canadian spat as the Mideast is.

What’s going to drag Vancouver Islanders into this mess is how quickly the argument jumped from that faraway desert to Paul’s leadership style in the space of a few days.

The crisis started when New Brunswick MP Jenica Atwin bolted the caucus for the Liberals, citing objections to the leader’s statement about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Paul had issued a neutral statement of concern. Atwin wanted to stand for Palestinians.

Atwin later had to adjust her reasons for departing – in order to fit the Liberal line. The argument got so vicious that Paul got dragged into it. In no time flat, she was under fire and facing a possible leadership review.

The party held off on that process — for now — after a late meeting Tuesday.

But Paul took on all challengers Wednesday, regardless.

She said that some members of the party’s appointed leadership have no confidence in her and are scheming against her.

“They produced a list of allegations that were so racist, so sexist that they were immediately disavowed by both our MPs, as offensive and inflammatory …”

That’s saying something, because Island MPs Elizabeth May and Paul Manly reportedly have differences with Paul.

“I support our MPs, I support our MPs, I support our MPs,” a frustrated Paul told reporters.

The first Black, Jewish woman to lead a national party, she bitterly described her first few months on the job.

“Often when people like me are elected … the rules seem to change. Suddenly there is need for more oversight and accountability, and more severe sanctions and hiving off of responsibilities …

“That is something I will resist.”

That list of allegations was promptly leaked to the CBC. It’s an incendiary indictment of her “autocratic hostility and superiority” and failure to be respectful.

Skipped meetings, “long, repetitive, aggressive monologues” when she does show up and no recognition of ideas except her own, said the document, written by two members. Although Paul condemned it earlier, she refused to discuss it when a reporter cited the letter.

Paul referred to her “very strong mandate” from party members, but she won the leadership with 51 per cent of the vote, after eight ballots last October. So it wasn’t exactly a landslide.

It’s odd how firefights so far away can indirectly create the potential for casualties in Ottawa, of all places.

Just So You Know: She could still survive this mess. But if she doesn’t, past and present Islanders may be pressed into service. It was May’s resignation as leader that created the opening and she could step back in temporarily. Or the previous interim leader — former Victoria CBC Radio host Jo-Ann Roberts, now in Halifax — might be called upon.

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