Green leader Annamie Paul learns to play the game

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Annamie speaking to Green Party of Canada members and supporters at the 2019 Toronto Centre nomination meeting. Image credit: Annamie Paul/Creative Commons.

It's bizarre that the existential crisis of the Green party came about over the Mideast, and not something more in their wheelhouse like climate Armageddon or the social safety net.

It started with New Brunswick Green MP Jenica Atwin's charge that the party's mild response to the latest paroxysm there was "totally inadequate." Green leader Annamie Paul said Atwin was already in touch with the Liberals about leaving the Greens to join them, so the Mideast issue wasn't pertinent to her defection.

Really? Parties are always trying to poach from other parties, and those that succeed usually have the most goodies to dangle, like cabinet posts. An astute leader senses those risks and moves to head them off. How? By, say, talking to an especially agitated party member.

But Paul says she has never spoken to Atwin about the Mideast. Here's where I start getting flummoxed. Why the hell not? It isn't a leadership virtue to avoid discussing disagreements that could lead to defections.

It wasn't Paul but her paid advisor, Noah Zatzman, who dealt publicly with the issue by accusing Atwin and B.C. Green MP Paul Manly (who called Palestinian evictions in East Jerusalem "ethnic cleansing") of anti-Semitism and saying they'd be targeted for defeat in the next election.

Here's flummox number two: Paul said nothing in response. Huh? Does that mean she agreed with her aide, or even put him up to it? We have no idea, and she won't say.

She was obstinate in refusing to answer press questions on how she felt about Zatzman's outbursts. Not answering questions is a crucial life skill for leaders, but she managed to make others look like babbling brooks. In fact, the key to the skill is not being obvious about your resistance.

The party council then threatened to start a process to oust Paul. It involved a leaked letter accusing her of various faults. Paul finally changed the subject -- the numero uno device for evading icky questions -- by accusing them of racism and sexism. It was fairly effective and she seemed comfortable doing it, though it was a bit pointless since they'd already voted not to start the process, insisting instead that she finally respond re: Zatzman.

I sense this could go on for, like, an eternity, so let me say I had high hopes for the Greens with Paul as leader. The NDP have looked historically exhausted for a while. Jagmeet Singh says his mission is doing things for people (not even "the people"), as if other parties are anti-people. Paul seemed just right to head their replacement by a party with some clarity on why it wants power -- which is not primarily to impose justice on the Mideast. So this has been a letdown.

On the other hand, Paul is learning to play the game.

On Wednesday, she wasn't even asked by the CBC about responding to Zatzman's ongoing outbursts. Score one for her. She's counterattacking others rather than defending herself, saying Justin Trudeau can't handle strong women in his cabinet. I do find that a bit misdirected; I shudder to think where we'd be on COVID without Chrystia Freeland, Patty Hajdu, Anita Anand and Carla Qualtrough. Her target should be Singh and the NDP, who occupy the space that Greens could reasonably aim at: "progressive," with appeal to idealistic youth.

Combativeness though, against all comers, isn't a bad place to start.

On another subject. There was much dispirited "analysis" of the Putin-Biden meeting in Geneva along the lines: "No major breakthroughs." But there was never going to be action on "internal" matters like (ostensibly) reoccupying Crimea or poisoning opposition leaders like Alexei Navalny. Those were on the agenda just for show.

However, the main danger to human survival -- alongside climate change -- is nuclear war, including inadvertent. The U.S. and Russia have between them over 12,000 nukes. The other seven players have a meagre 1,200. A set of treaties had helped prevent any bombings after 1945, despite numerous "accidents."

Trump started dismantling even those limited arrangements, and if that didn't scare you, I don't understand why. Biden and Putin agreed to start restoring them, imperfect as they were. I don't think they could've made a more major breakthrough, and I'll sleep a bit better on account of it. Thanks, guys.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.