MANDEL: Green leader’s loss calls her leadership into question

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When Annamie Paul failed in a disastrous loss to Liberal incumbent Marci Ien in Toronto Centre, she did more than lose yet another chance for her first seat in Parliament.

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She likely sealed her end as leader of the Green Party.

Unlike their last meeting in the October 2020 byelection where Paul mounted a strong challenge in the Liberal stronghold, Ien won by a large margin this time and the Green leader came in a shocking fourth.

It didn’t help that Paul had to fight on two fronts: many in her own party turned against her this spring, trying to oust her as leader and starve her of funds — all over a tweet that called for de-escalation on both sides in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

When Jenica Atwin crossed to the Liberals, leaving the Green Party with just two MPs, Paul was tarred and feathered in the ensuing firestorm of racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism.

Her party’s revolt definitely had an impact on her campaign, she admitted

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“There’s no question that it has,” Paul said earlier in the day.

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“Politics, as we conduct it now in Canada, is a very unwelcoming place. I think we have to create a better environment for people to consider entering politics if we’re hoping to have access to the best ideas, the best public policy, the best minds.

“Because it has really become a gladiator arena blood sport.”

She’s thought of stepping down “multiple times” since becoming leader. “It has been very difficult. But sometimes you take on a role, and you just become something larger than yourself.”

There isn’t a day where she doesn’t hear from someone telling her how much it’s meant to see someone like themselves reflected on the national political stage. That’s kept her going.

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“I’m still standing today,” Paul said with a weary laugh.

But for how long?

Princeton-educated, a lawyer by training, the daughter of immigrants, Paul is the first black and first Jewish woman to lead a political party. Her skilful performance at the English leaders’ debate put the others to shame.

And yet she’s fighting for her political life. This was Paul’s third electoral loss, and she knows the knives have been sharpened for her party’s automatic leadership review following the election.

Unless she steps away first.

“That’s something, once the day is over, I’ll be discussing with my family,” Paul said.

And if she leaves, the loss is ours.

mmandel@postmedia.com

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