Jenica Atwin leaves the Greens for the Liberals

As every first year Canadian politics class covers ad nauseam , the first past the post electoral system is great for large parties and terrible for small ones. Since you only win MPs by winning a plurality in each electoral district, parties that have a small but significant amount of support spread between many ridings may end up electing almost nobody while the parties that win the largest share of the vote end up with an even larger proportion of the seats and usually all the influence.

The sheer difficulty of electing someone from the Green Party as an MP makes running a bit of a quixotic gesture, with most candidates, staffers, and volunteers aware that their chances of winning are negligible and so the value of participating in the election may be about contributing to the discourse rather than a hope of victory.

With each Green MP so precious and unlikely, it must be especially galling to see Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin cross the floor from the Greens to the Liberals. At least according to the CBC, one reason she chose to make the change is Green Party infighting about the Israel-Palestine dispute. To me, this is suggestive of two things. First, how the agreed portions of a ‘green’ agenda don’t really add up to a complete set of policies, and so green supporters may have to deal with an unusual amount of in-party disagreement about non-environmental matters (and perhaps also on how to solve environmental problems). To me it’s also suggestive of the emphasis on symbolism and moral righteousness or superiority within the progressive left. It’s questionable whether Canada as a whole has any meaningful influence over the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and it’s basically certain that a fringe party with just a few MPs doesn’t. That makes the dispute seem a bit like a high school student council voting on whether to praise or condemn a foreign government; it has considerable scope for generating conflict among those involved in the vote, but no real prospect of making a difference in the world at large.

30 thoughts on “Jenica Atwin leaves the Greens for the Liberals”

  1. Atwin blames her departure from Green party on leader

    Newly minted Liberal MP Jenica Atwin says she would still be a Green MP if party leader Annamie Paul had supported her after the events of May 14.

    Atwin left the Greens on Thursday because of disagreements within the party about the situation in the Middle East.

    “Annamie and I had a communication breakdown,” Atwin told iPolitics on Friday. “To be openly attacked and not supported (was) unbearable.”

    Atwin was referring to the May 14 Facebook post by Noah Zatzman, Paul’s then-senior adviser. In that post, Zatzman went after Green MPs Paul Manly and Atwin for their tweets about the Israel-Gaza conflict. In one tweet, Atwin said she condemned the air strikes in Gaza and called the situation there “apartheid.”

    When Paul was asked by reporters on Thursday if she would take a stand by either condemning or condoning Zatzman’s Facebook post, Paul refused to answer.

    Atwin says she’s been struggling since mid-May.

    “(I) was harassed, and there were many sleepless nights, and many tears were shed,” Atwin said Friday.

    Atwin also denies contacting the Liberals herself, as some observers and party insiders have said. “I didn’t reach out to the Liberals; it was the other way around, and it is nice to feel supported and wanted,” Atwin said.

    The NDP didn’t approach her, and she only briefly considered joining the party, she said.

    Atwin spoke to her two Green MP colleagues, Elizabeth May and Manly, before her announcement on Thursday.

    “Their reception was devastating; they tried to convince me to say,” Atwin said, adding, “We will be friends for life.”

  2. Green Party melts down as many expect fall federal election

    Only eight months ago, it seemed the newly chosen party leader was a newcomer with some political game. She was the first Black and first Jewish woman to lead a national party represented in the Commons. She is articulate in English and French. She seemed to have focused ideas about selling the party. She looked like a potential electoral threat to the Liberals and the NDP.

    But she has evidently not managed a crucial task in the Green Party: keeping the motley collection of activists of various types that make up the Greens united, and with her.

    The Greens aren’t like the Liberals, pulled together by the magnetic force of power. It’s a party of earnest activists. And as Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin has shown us, they aren’t as malleable about what they believe as Liberals.

    Ms. Atwin left the Greens after accusing Ms. Paul of failing to stand up for Palestinians, taking issue with the leader’s statement calling for de-escalation in a tweet that read: “There are no two sides to this conflict, only human rights abuses. #End Apartheid.” Last week, Ms. Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals, and this week, to match the politics of her new party, started to issue statements like Ms. Paul’s.

    That wasn’t the Green Party’s first internal fight over Middle East politics. Former leader Elizabeth May threatened to resign in 2016 after party members passed a resolution calling for an economic boycott of Israel. A compromise policy was crafted, which still called for an arms embargo.

    But the flashpoint for many Greens – and the thing Ms. Atwin now cites as the reason for her departure – was not Ms. Paul’s statements on the Middle East, nor Ms. Atwin’s tweets about them.

    It was the social-media response from Ms. Paul’s adviser, Noah Zatzman, who accused critics including unnamed Green MPs of antisemitism, said he will work to defeat them, “and bring in progressive climate change champions who are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists.”

    That’s a pretty remarkable thing: a leader’s aide declaring war on the party’s MPs. In any party, it is going to create resentment. It was Mr. Zatzman’s job, after all, to speak for the leader. When Ms. Paul didn’t repudiate Mr. Zatzman’s comments, it engendered bitterness. Ms. May and the party’s other remaining MP, Paul Manly, explicitly blamed Mr. Zatzman’s statements for the “crisis.”

  3. Insightful comments

    So unfortunate that potential political infighting within the Green Party may have contributed to the loss of this seat for the Green Party

    Also insightful how you portray the dilemma of the Green Party

    I live in British Columbia where we had an opportunity in a referendum to replace the first past the post system with a single transferable vote system . Unfortunately it did not pass

  4. Annamie Paul faces July 20 non-confidence vote as Green Party lays off staff

    The Green Party will pursue a vote of non-confidence against its leader, Annamie Paul.

    CBC News has obtained a party statement that says the party’s governing body will hold a meeting on July 20 to vote on a motion of non-confidence. Interim party president Liana Canton Cusmano read the letter out today to a members’ town hall meeting.

    The letter says the party’s council is moving to sanction Paul for “failing to openly condemn the actions of Noah Zatzman,” Paul’s former political adviser, who called out party members online who criticized Paul’s position on the Middle East.

    The move to oust Paul follows a similar attempt more than two weeks ago. On June 15, members of the federal party council instead issued an ultimatum to Paul.

    The letter Cusmano read to today’s meeting says Paul failed to comply with the terms of that ultimatum and must now face the consequences.

    “This vote of non-confidence is important and the most consequential thing that has ever been undertaken at the Green Party of Canada,” the letter states. “We do not take this matter or the decision to hold this vote lightly.”

    For the vote of non-confidence to succeed, 75 per cent of council members will have to vote in favour on July 20. If that happens, Green Party members have the final say at an August 21 general meeting.

  5. “To insist that the reaction by a majority of her own governing council, a group now decimated by resignations to the point of having no representatives east of Ontario, is rooted in prejudicially rejecting her as a black, Jewish, female leader seems incompatible with the attitude of Green members who, in my experience, tend to be the most inclusive of all political activists.

    And to denounce their views as sexist and racist while refusing to discuss specifics raises questions about her handling of this existential crisis.

    Meanwhile, she still refuses to condemn her former aide’s unfathomable attack on the party’s MPs over Middle East politics, surely knowing this must be done if she wants to remain as leader.

    Then there was her declaration that the Green Party’s core priority is the transformation to diversity that she personifies. This apparently overshadows the party’s founding purpose, which is to advocate for ways to contain the damage of climate change, to foster the green economy and to advocate for cool-down planetary repairs.

    It all seems hard to accept that a few individual prejudices are behind serious internal allegations of lousy leadership made by those who have seen her up close.

    After all, we’re probably three months from an election. For determined Green supporters to toss out their leader at this stage is to accept their party’s death sentence at the polls.

    What’s also concerning was how Paul revealed a startling disconnect from how things operate in the dirty world of politics at her news conference.

    She denounced the Liberals for not being Green allies and being “hellbent” on winning a majority. What on Earth gave her the impression the Liberals and Greens were allies? Politics is a blood sport and winning an election, preferably with a majority mandate, is all that matters. With the Greens as an obstacle to Liberal majority ambitions, the gloves are off in their anything-goes bid for a knockout.

    Mix together the council’s caustic views of their leader’s performance and the election-eve deadline for her to show behavioural remorse in order to avoid an ouster with that oh-so-strange news conference and you have the time-lapse of a political train wreck with no sign of survivors.”

  6. What’s jarring about that decision is that not that long ago, Suzuki would have exclusively promoted the Green Party of Canada as the first choice for voters, as he outlined in a 2018 podcast.

    But Suzuki told The Tyee that one reason he is casting his net more broadly is that although “this is a moment when the Greens are desperately needed,” in his opinion the party has been “fatally weakened” by internal controversies made highly public.

    Another motivation for Suzuki — who cosigned a public letter calling for a leaders’ debate on the climate emergency — is the fast closing window to deal with the crisis.

    Impending global catastrophe prompted Suzuki to set aside partisanship, he explained. His criteria is the politician’s commitment to addressing the climate crisis, pure, plain and simple.

  7. Greens’ Elizabeth May speaks out after ‘terrible election result’

    The Greens, which ran just 252 candidates across Canada’s 338 ridings, dropped from 6.5 per cent of the national vote in 2019 to 2.3 per cent of the national vote in the 2021 election. May and one other MP — Mike Morrice from Kitchener Centre — are the only two representatives of the party in Parliament, compared to the three seats it had prior to the election.

  8. Green Party lays off core staff members amid financial drought, internal strife

    OTTAWA – Layoffs are once again hitting the Green Party as party brass look to shave costs amid persistent financial and political woes.

    The Greens are temporarily laying off half of their staff, or about 10 employees, effective Tuesday, according to three senior party officials who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal matters.

    The sources say Green executive director Dana Taylor is meeting one on one with affected workers throughout the day to inform them.

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