On August 15th 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the government will set in motion an early election scheduled for September 20th. With the campaign lasting only thirty-six days, this election marks the shortest campaign period under federal law.
Green Party leader Annamie Paul faces unique challenges given that she has yet to earn a seat in parliament. In combination with the fact that the Green Party has faced a summer of infighting and turmoil, Paul is presented with a significant uphill battle.
Paul will once again be running in the Toronto-Centre riding, in which she captured nearly 33% of the vote in the October 2020 by-election. In order to earn a seat, Paul will have to surpass Liberal MP Marci Ien, who earned 41% of the vote in the same by-election. If the Greens won even a small handful of seats this fall, it would be a historic achievement.
A tumultuous summer for the Green Party
The Green Party has also encountered considerable financial constraints over the past few months. This past summer, the Green Party staff has been cut in half including Paul’s interim chief of staff, Phil Spidle.
In a press conference to reporters in Toronto, Paul expressed her frustration over stated issues with her leadership in the past several months, saying “It should not be this difficult for people of good will, people with experience, to offer it in service of their country,” she said. “There are too many good people that have found it impossible and I simply didn’t want to be one of them.”
Given that the Greens only had three seats when Paul took power, it stung all the more deeply when former Green MP Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals in June 2021. Atwin’s decision to leave was the result of a series of infighting in the party over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In particular, Paul’s former spokesperson, Noah Zatsman expressed solidarity with Israel in a social media post and condemned unnamed Green MPs, calling them anti-semitic for supporting Palestinians. Former Green leader, Elizabeth May noted that Annamie Paul’s failure to condemn Zatsman after his statements ultimately led to Atwin’s departure.
The resilience of the Green Party
Paul asserted to the CBC that despite these challenges, the Green Party continues to demonstrate its resilience.
“Change is not always easy. But it’s always worth it. And so we’re going through that. But we’re a party that I believe unifies at the times that matter the most.”
The new Green candidate to replace Jenica Atwin in Fredericton, Nicole O’Byrne, told the CBC that she is not concerned about the bad press that the Greens have gotten this summer. O’Byrne expressed that strong local campaigns will determine how successful the Greens are this time around. “I’m not running to be part of the party apparatus,” she said. “I’m running to be a member of Parliament for Fredericton to represent the views and the values of the constituents here.”
O’Byrne also explained that the pandemic has people thinking differently about problems like climate change, which once seemed insurmountable.
The good news for Annamie Paul is that the Green Party of Canada elected a new group of executives to its top spots, with her supporters compromising the majority of the new crop.
This new 18-member federal council, made up primarily of Paul’s supporters, drastically reduces the chance of Paul facing a vote of non-confidence and membership suspension. The council includes Matthew Piggot, who volunteered on Paul’s leadership campaign in October and served as the party’s national field director before being let go against Paul’s wishes.
In terms of the Green’s election platform, the party plans to release its commitments one-by-one throughout the campaign. However, during Annamie Paul’s campaign trail in Toronto on Wednesday, she shared her vision for the future which included radical reform of long-term care homes, guaranteed liveable income, affordable housing for all, universal pharmacare, universal childcare, free post-secondary education, and universal dental care. She expressed that these reforms are meant to provide Canadians with a complete social safety net.
As September 20th 2021 quickly approaches, all eyes will be on Annamie Paul to see if she can finally secure a seat in Toronto-Centre.