After only eight months at the helm of the Green Party of Canada, Annamie Paul is already looking like a spent political force.
With the defection today of Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin to the governing Liberals, Paul has lost one-third of her caucus and the party’s only toehold outside British Columbia.
During a media availability following Atwin’s announcement, Paul was asked if she felt any responsibility for the MP’s departure. Paul offered no accountability for losing one of her party’s three MPs, despite the fact Atwin had just expressed a desire for fewer “distractions” and a more “supportive and collaborative” working environment.
When asked if Atwin’s departure stemmed from a dispute about the party’s statements on violence in the Middle East, Paul rejected the very premise of the question. And yet, only a short while earlier, Atwin had said “it certainly played a role.”
Asked several times if her former advisor went too far when he accused “many” Liberal, NDP, and Green MPs of anti-Semitism, Paul refused to answer, let alone defend the reputations of those who had been unfairly smeared.
In fact, the Green leader even refused to confirm media reports that the advisor had indeed been let go. “There’s information about that available and so the answer to that question is already public,” she said.
This pattern of avoidance, deflection, and refusal to answer questions reminded me of an online foreign policy debate I covered during the Green leadership race.
Paul steadfastly refused to answer six rapid-fire questions posed by moderator Judy Rebick because they called for “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” responses. The other seven candidates had no problem with the format, but Paul called it “a bit like bingo.”
The loss of a young and dynamic MP like Atwin, who I recently interviewed for my podcast, is a tremendous blow to a party that seemed poised for further growth next election.
That momentum has now been stalled, if not completely derailed.
The only Green MP ever elected outside British Columbia is now a Liberal.
And the only Green leader ever to inherit a three-member caucus is known as someone who won’t answer questions, refuses to be held accountable, and fails to protect MPs from vicious attacks by party staffers.