OTTAWA—With the prospect of a federal election looming, the Green party’s interim executive director convened a virtual staff meeting last Wednesday to announce that nearly half of the party’s employees would soon be out of a job.
But when Green Leader Annamie Paul denounced the cuts, going back and forth with interim executive director Dana Taylor on a Zoom call, the embattled leader was told she was going to be put on mute.
Paul was seeking clarity about how many staff members would be laid off and from which departments, said a source at the meeting who spoke to the Star on the condition that they not be named.
Taylor, the source said, felt Paul already had the answers to the questions the leader was asking — a point the source disputed.
Before the leader could react to the warning, Taylor had his assistant turn off Paul’s microphone.
The attempt to silence the leader was met with shock and surprise from a number of staff members on the call, the source said.
Paul was asked to speak again only after two attendees refused to ask questions until the leader was able to finish her remarks.
Neither Paul nor Taylor were available to comment on the matter.
The testy exchange is the latest in an ongoing standoff between Paul and members of the party’s federal council, the most powerful governing body within the Greens.
According to a letter signed by Taylor and sent to staff, the party will be slashing the number of people it employs by 15 positions. Senior-level positions, including the leader, are excluded from the cuts.
Affected employees were meant to be informed of their fate July 3, with the layoffs planned to come into effect on Thursday. Employees were also asked if they would accept “voluntary layoffs.” Two party insiders told the Star that it’s not yet known who was let go, though the cuts could affect anyone from the party’s governance, communications, campaign and technical support arms.
Staff were told they could be asked back at a later date, if the party’s “situation improves.”
At the Wednesday staff meeting, the source told the Star that financial concerns were cited as a reason for the cuts.
According to data provided by Elections Canada, the party brought in just over $100,000 more in fundraising in the first quarter of 2021, when Paul was leader, than it did during the same period last year.
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The source told the Star that the party had also raised more funds in June of this year — the same month former Green MP Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals — than it did during the same month in 2020.
Aside from an impending election, the layoffs come at an unusual time, said Sean Yo, who managed Paul’s campaign in a federal byelection last year.
The party recently posted its intent to hire an operations manager on its website, which was taken down Monday. The position, considered to be a senior role within the party, involves supervising and managing the party’s operational staff.
“The role itself seems to be substantially redundant with the executive director role,” Yo told the Star. “But… literally days before they made the layoff announcement, to post a new management role, really didn’t seem to add up to me.”
Compounding the internal strife — which the Star first reported on back in April — the ultimatum presented to Paul last month calling on her to repudiate a former senior adviser or face a vote of non-confidence in her leadership has evaporated.
The Green party will convene a special federal council meeting on July 20 to put forward the vote, according to a letter viewed by the Star.
The letter — read by interim party president Liana Canton Cusmano at a town hall held for members following last Wednesday’s staff meeting — claims Paul failed to “openly condemn the actions” of her former adviser Noah Zatzman. Cusmano also said Paul failed to “collaborate with and support members of the caucus” with respect to Zatzman’s comments, and failed to “respond to communications” from the party about his remarks.
In May, Zatzman, who has now taken a step back from his adviser role, accused unnamed Green MPs and other politicians of stoking anti-Semitism and discrimination, pledging to defeat unspecified MPs. His comments came after Atwin publicly criticized Paul’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which the then-Green MP stated: “I stand with Palestine and condemn the unthinkable airstrikes in Gaza. End Apartheid.”
In an email to the Star on Tuesday, Zatzman condemned the letter, calling it “further evidence of an organization whose leadership fosters a culture of systemic anti-Semitism and discrimination.” Paul, he wrote, “was elected by a majority of party members to change this, and I have faith that she will.”
Cusmano also alleged that Paul’s tenure as leader has led to cancelled party memberships and dwindling donations.
In a statement to the Star, the party says its numbers are only growing.
“We are excited to see that our donations, and number of donors, continues to climb. Since electing Annamie Paul as leader, the Green Party of Canada has enjoyed an increase in donations each quarter, when compared to the same period in the previous year,” the statement read.
For the upcoming vote of non-confidence to succeed, at least 75 per cent of the federal councillors must vote in its favour. If that result is achieved, party members will participate in a final vote to determine Paul’s fate at a general members’ meeting on August 21.
Raisa Patel is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel
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