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Rights + Justice

May to Weaver: No Extremist Fringe Elements in Green Party

But federal party leader stands by decision to purge shadow cabinet over Weaver criticisms.

Jeremy Nuttall 15 Sep

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee’s reader-funded Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here. Support his work here.

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Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May says she had to fire three shadow cabinet members due to their ‘gigantic error of judgment in offering any criticism of the leader of the Green Party of B.C. while using a federal title to do so.’

Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May doesn’t agree with the leader of the BC Greens, Andrew Weaver, who said “extremist fringe elements” are trying to take over the national party. Still, she stands by her decision to oust from her shadow cabinet those who criticized Weaver.

Meanwhile the Quebec leader of the party says both May and Weaver are acting against the wishes of Green members by opposing a party move to support a cause meant to pressure Israel into leaving occupied territories.

That’s the kind of week it’s been for the Greens.

May insists the Greens are as united as ever despite a public airing of grievances and subsequent removal of Lisa Barrett, Colin Griffiths and Dimitri Lascaris from the party’s shadow cabinet this week.

The three, and 21 other party members who signed the piece, criticized provincial Green leader Andrew Weaver in an opinion piece in The Tyee for his stance on the party’s adoption of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The movement urges all three measures be taken against Israel in response to concerns over human rights violations perpetrated by the state against Palestinian people.

Opponents of the movement say it is rooted in anti-semitism, while supporters argue special interests are trying to paint them as bigots.

The piece in The Tyee said Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is “misguided” for his vocal opposition to it.

Weaver fired back in The Tyee story’s comment threads and in an interview, emphasizing the provincial branch of the party is wholly separate from the national Greens, and is considering changing its name to distance itself from the federal branch and “extremist fringe elements” trying to take it over.

But May, who publicly mulled leaving the party over the BDS vote, said there is no attempted takeover by such outsiders.

“He’s entitled to his opinion. I don’t think that’s the case,” May said. “Certainly he was entitled to be angry finding that a whole bunch of federal Greens had signed something that decided to criticize him.”

Shadow cabinet firings over ‘a matter of trust’: May

May said the BDS vote only passed because the party didn't vote in its usual way, instead passing the motion on the floor at the Ottawa convention in August by simple majority. The result will be discussed in Calgary at a special meeting in December in a process meant to build consensus.

She said the situation underlines “how we make decisions, not the decisions we make.”

May said the members were kicked out of the shadow cabinet for criticizing another Green Party leader as party representatives.

“It is a violation of the trust of serving on my shadow cabinet,” she said. “You can’t sit on shadow cabinet unless you're prepared to apologize for what was a gigantic error of judgment in offering any criticism of the leader of the Green Party of B.C. while using a federal title to do so.”

But Quebec Green party Leader Alex Tyrrell also signed the letter and said May’s actions in support of Weaver have damaged the party and said she’s contradicting years of her own claims the party is the most democratic.

Tyrrell, who said he has a “negative” opinion of Weaver, questioned May's siding with someone who admittedly isn’t a federal Green party member over the actions of party members speaking in support of a motion passed by members.

“May has lost a lot of support within her own party over what’s taken place so far,” Tyrrell said. “I think by throwing out members of the shadow cabinet for elaborating a simple criticism of Andrew Weaver’s position on the matter is a completely exaggerated thing to do.”

He said the party was united on the BDS stance and it didn’t begin to become an issue until after it was passed and said Weaver was “asking for” the criticism.

May out of step with membership: Quebec leader

According to Tyrrell the party is far more left-wing than its current leadership and needs to shift away from the centre and modernize to reflect it, starting with a hard look at the results of last election where the Greens saw their share of the popular vote diminish.

“The Green Party in Canada needs to remain relevant,” he said. “The fact Elizabeth may refuses to accept any kind of responsibility for the decrease in the popular vote is problematic.”

He blames May for being “detrimental” to the organization and said the leader has lost her ambition, resigned to concentrating on ridings the party can win. He said he believes May can fix the problems he identifies, but questions if she wants to.

Eva Manly, another Green member who signed the letter and a delegate for the Women’s Boat To Gaza, said she was taken by surprise by the dismissals Tuesday.

Manly said she is “shocked” by what has transpired over the last few days and wants May to reverse her decision to expel the trio.

“I always believed Elizabeth May would not censor people in the party,” she said.

Manly said the opinion piece in The Tyee was merely supporting what became party policy during the vote.

Meanwhile May said she has support from “the vast majority” of the party members on both the issue of her leadership and the decision to revisit the BDS vote results. She said she hasn’t been stressed by the controversy.

She said the dispute has come out into the open as the party works to build consensus on issues.

“The reasons we have any signs of people being unhappy is because there were winners and there were losers,” she said.

She said the Green Party will restore its usual process for consensus building and that “reasonable people will be able to agree” on “thoughtful and coherent” policies.  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice, Politics

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