High-profile resignations force Green Party to consider scaling back leadership contest

In the wake of several high-profile resignations from its leadership committee, the federal Green Party is looking at curtailing some aspects of its leadership race.

Four people have quit the leadership committee in recent weeks

In the wake of several high-profile resignations from its leadership committee, the federal Green Party is looking at curtailing some aspects of its leadership race.

According to multiple Green Party sources, party officials are discussing how they can run a leadership contest now that four members of the committee have resigned.

The sources, who are not authorized to speak publicly, tell CBC News the party may hold fewer formal leadership events and is considering condensing two rounds of voting into one.

The party was expected to announce the leadership finalists following the first round of voting on Oct. 14 and then introduce its new leader on Nov. 19.

The Green Party federal council, the party's governing body, has made no decisions yet. The body is scheduled to meet next Wednesday. Interim leader Amita Kuttner told a news conference on Wednesday that the race is still on and the party will publish more details soon.

This month, Lorraine Rekmans resigned from her role on the leadership committee and as president of the party. She cited the party's refusal to pause the leadership race until it could investigate allegations of systemic discrimination in the party — allegations which came to the fore when Kuttner was misgendered at a leadership launch.

LISTEN: What's going on in the Greens? CBC breaks down the internal strife within the party

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The CBC’s David Thurton talks with interim leader Amita Kuttner, outgoing party president Lorraine Rekmans and others about internal strife within the Green party.

Following Rekmans' resignation, three other committee members — Natalie Odd, Michael MacLean and John Wilson — quit their posts via email.

"I am surprised and disappointed to learn that the (leadership committee) recommendations to federal council, for the protection of LGBT+ members against possible harms during the operation of the Leadership Contest, was refused," said Wilson's resignation email, viewed by CBC News.

"We regret the unfortunate sequence of events that have occurred. It is not what we had envisioned," said a joint resignation letter filed by Odd and MacLean and obtained by CBC News. "Contest operations are transferred to (Green Party) staff who will work with volunteers."

Although Odd, MacLean and Wilson have left the committee, they retain their key roles on federal council and with the Green Party Fund.

Sources tell CBC their departures undermine preparations for the leadership vote, which was supposed to be conducted primarily online. When the leadership race launched in August, the party promised it would be its most technologically advanced ever.

Virtual campaign events and the party's website require a lot of technical and time-consuming work. But the Green Party of Canada is facing a financial crunch and relies on unpaid volunteers. Some of that expertise is now gone due to the recent resignations, sources said.

MP Elizabeth May, the party's former leader, is running for the post of co-leader this time. She said the party must proceed with the contest despite the setbacks.

"I was in the leadership race in 2006," May said. "And we had less resources, fewer people, and we ran a very credible campaign and leadership contest, with a debate in English in Calgary and a debate in French in Montreal. Several bilingual debates in Ottawa."

Former Green Party interim leader Jo-Ann Roberts said the party should be able to proceed with the race without too much difficulty because most of the hard work — setting the rules, vetting the candidates — is already done.

"The leadership organizing committee has done the heavy lifting," Roberts said. "So I think whoever comes in has a very strong foundation."


David Thurton

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Correspondent

David Thurton is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He covers daily politics in the nation’s capital and specializes in environment and energy policy. Born in Canada but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, he’s moved around more times than he can count. He’s worked for CBC in several provinces and territories, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

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