Doorstep Postings: The problem with the Green Party, after Annamie Paul

Annamie Paul with Canadian media legend Nardwuar the Human Serviette.

This is the 17th in a series of opinion columns on the 2021 Canadian federal election, written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN—you can find more in our section called Perspectives.

Here’s how you know the anger directed against Annamie Paul was tinged, and in some cases more than tinged, with antisemitism and anti-Black racism: if she were any other of the party leaders who massively underperformed last week, she would have her loyalists spinning overtime on her behalf. 

But since the Greens never were loyal to her, she stepped out, leaving many to wonder “What took her so long?” 

A losing party, even one holding just a few seats in the House, is always looking for something, or someone, to blame for their problems. Usually, direct criticism of the leader is muted. The mutterers and plotters, not wanting be looked at as disloyal just because they’re trying to backstab a leader (perish the thought!) come up with post-hoc justifications containing the tiniest kernel of truth for their actions.

The more loudly they deny that it’s personal, the more likely that it’s personal.

Paul’s decision to run twice in Toronto Centre was a bad decision. On its own demerits, placing fourth in a riding you barely left over the course of a five-week election campaign is a good reason to resign. On the other hand, Maxime Bernier isn’t resigning, and that guy got destroyed in a riding he used to hold. One of these things is not like the others. 

Politics, as it turns out, is not Annamie Paul’s strength, and I’m not sure that that’s anything for her to be ashamed of.  

But since it was never just about Paul’s political skills, or lack thereof, it’s impossible to separate the personal from the political in her case.

The loudest voices that were calling for Paul’s ouster will also be the first to tell you that it had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with Paul’s Jewishness or the colour of her skin. I, and other apologists for Israel, am just conflating antisemitism with anti-apartheid. 

Even though Dimitri Lascaris, one of the leading lights of the throw-Annamie-Paul-down-the-well campaign, is on record as saying that Paul needed to clarify her stance on Israel in a “come-to-Jesus” moment, and even though Green MP Jenica Atwin left the party because it was insufficiently anti-Israel only to join the Liberals, it remains difficult for some Greens to understand how someone could get the impression that the party has some sort of weird obsession with Israel that crosses the line. 

So let’s engage in a thought experiment, and ask ourselves how these dissidents would be treated if they were members of any other party. 

We know that no journalist worth their salt would devote as much time to the efforts to replace Justin Trudeau or Erin O’Toole as they have to Paul’s leadership woes. I guess the drama is just more captivating when the party in question has no chance of forming government. Yeah. That’s it. 

Some of us with longer memories might recall countless articles about how former environment minister Catherine McKenna was the subject of vicious sexist harassment by online white supremacist trolls. You might wonder why Paul’s critics aren’t spoken of in the same way, or why the same people who deplored the attacks on McKenna can’t see the racism in the efforts to unseat Paul for trying.

And when debate moderator Shachi Kurl deigned to ask the leaders about the more problematic aspects of Quebec’s Bills 21 and 96, she was dogpiled as well, to the disgust of the same enlightened observers who can’t see the common thread between Kurl’s treatment and Paul’s.  

But if the Greens are willing to engage in thought experiments of this nature, they’re not saying so aloud. And since they’re not willing to examine whether their beef with Paul was personal, they may find that the issue of Israel will continue to plague them—even now that she’s gone. 

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.

HEAR the election recap from Josh on Bonjour Chai