OTTAWA — The federal Green Party is changing course in the middle of its leadership race, dropping from two rounds of voting to one in the latest sign of turmoil for the troubled political organization.
The party’s internal governing body, the federal council, voted on Wednesday night to eliminate the first round of voting in the leadership race. The move was announced Thursday morning in a news release that said voting in the contest will now begin on Nov. 12 and conclude as scheduled with an announced winner and new leader on Nov. 19.
The change was opposed by Green MP Mike Morrice, according to a recording of the Wednesday meeting obtained by the Star.
In the recording, Morrice is heard sharing concerns about the change moments before federal council voted to approve it. One federal councillor can also be heard voicing concerns about a “conflict of interest,” given that the party’s other member of Parliament, Elizabeth May, is a contestant in the leadership race.
“From a caucus point of view, we would just like federal council to know that we would encourage you to continue with the two rounds,” Morrice says in the recording.
“We are concerned with the implications of, already, media who are calling with respect to … questions with respect to bringing it down to one round.”
Asked about the meeting, Morrice’s office told the Star on Thursday that the Kitchener Centre MP attends council sessions as a non-voting member and that he “respects council’s decision.”
May declined to comment because she said she had not received reports of the previous night’s meeting.
During the meeting, interim executive director Dana Taylor says party staff would have recommended postponing the entire race if it wasn’t for the proposal to merge the two rounds of voting into one.
“We did not have the capacity to deal with it, so that would have been the result had we not pivoted to the point where we are now,” Taylor said.
Michael MacLean, the federal council representative for Prince Edward Island, told the meeting that the change was necessary because of a “collapse of volunteer motivation and morale” following unspecified events earlier this month.
Neither MacLean nor Taylor immediately responded to requests for comment.
On Sept. 9, the council voted to investigate allegations of discrimination inside the party after its interim leader, Amita Kuttner, was misgendered during an event for the leadership race. That same night, the council voted against suspending the race while that investigation took place, according to party sources.
Two members of council — party president Lorraine Rekmans and Ontario representative Krystal Brooks — then resigned in disgust, pointing to an email from Morrice’s office that they took as a threat from caucus that the two Green MPs would quit and sit as Independents if the race was suspended.
Morrice and May have denied making such a threat, although May told the Star last week that they have discussed the possibility of sitting as Independents.
The latest drama comes after more than two years of party infighting. Annamie Paul, who was elected leader in late 2020, resigned in disgust in late 2021 after months of turmoil that saw her level allegations of racism and sexism against federal council as officials tried to stage a confidence vote in her leadership and suspend her party membership.
Some of those officials alleged Paul’s leadership style was the problem, as one Green MP defected to the Liberals amid a controversy over the party’s response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Greens posted their lowest total vote share since 2000 in last year’s federal election, and the party has since reported to members that it is losing money and might have to close its headquarters in downtown Ottawa.
Contestants now vying for the leadership have pledged to resolve inner conflicts through structural changes. That includes a proposed co-leadership model that May is pitching alongside fellow leadership candidate Jonathan Pedneault. Chad Walcott and Anna Keenan are also running on a pledge to become Green co-leaders.
In a statement, Walcott and Keenan welcomed the move for providing clarity for how the contest will proceed.
“It is a testament to the passion and hard work of the party volunteers and staff behind the scenes that we can focus on campaigning and presenting our vision to members in the coming weeks,” they said.
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