Green Party threatens to expel aspiring leadership candidate

OTTAWA — Quebec Green Leader Alex Tyrrell is appealing his expulsion from the federal Green Party, alleging the process used to boot him last week — as he was preparing to launch a bid for the national leadership — was unfair.

The appeal, which Tyrrell submitted to an internal party appeals body on Monday, comes as the federal Greens search for a new leader amid ongoing financial troubles that — according to a recent report to party members — could force the organization to close its office in downtown Ottawa and freeze spending.

Tyrrell, the “eco-socialist” leader of the Quebec provincial Greens for the past nine years, was expelled as a member of the federal party at a meeting Friday night. The party informed him, in letters Tyrrell provided to the Star, that a “majority” of members on its top governing body — the federal council — voted to revoke his membership.

According to the letters, the council determined the 34-year-old breached the party’s code of conduct by controversial statements about the war in Ukraine, including that the West should accept Russia’s demands and that the annexation of Crimea was justified. It also said he discredited the party by casting it as supportive of the oil industry when criticizing former leader Elizabeth May in 2019.

The federal council “concluded that these actions did impinge on the reputation of the Green Party of Canada and brought discredit to the reputation of the GPC,” one of the letters from council president Lorraine Rekmans stated. As a result, the council “had no choice but to pass a motion to revoke your membership and expel you” from the party, Rekmans said.

Neither Rekmans nor the party’s spokesperson responded to questions from the Star on Monday about Tyrrell’s expulsion.

It’s the latest controversy to strike the party’s nascent leadership contest, staged in the aftermath of a tumultuous period last year when then-leader Annamie Paul warred with top officials inside the Green organization. Several aspiring candidates have expressed concerns about the rules of the contest, arguing they leave limited time to bring much-needed money and members into the party.

Some have also warned fresh conflicts could arise because of how the federal council — the party’s internal governing body that tried to stage a confidence vote to depose Paul ahead of last year’s federal election — plans to subject the next leader to a “continual” job performance review.

“What’s happening right now is a symptom of a party that’s in crisis, in free fall,” Tyrrell said Monday, where he staged a news conference on the street outside the Green Party’s head office in downtown Ottawa.

“The federal council’s grounds for expelling me from the party are my opposition to the war in Ukraine, as well as my opposition to the Alberta tarsands. You know, most people would think as I do, that the Green Party of Canada should be a strong voice for the environment, a strong voice against wars, a strong voice against U.S. and NATO military expansionism.”

In a 16-page letter to the party’s Ombuds and Appeals Committee, obtained by the Star, Tyrrell said the allegations against him are “baseless” and that the Green Party should embrace different opinions amongst its membership. He also said last week’s meeting to cancel his membership was the second time this year that the federal council called a meeting to discuss his status within the party.

His criticism of May’s stance on the oilsands in 2019, as well as his statements on the war in Ukraine, are “rooted in my values of environmentalism and world peace, both of which are founding principles of our movement,” he said.

At his news conference, Tyrrell also pointed to the federal council’s latest annual report to Green members.

The report, which is dated June 30 and was sent to party members last Friday, states the party continues to face “significant financial challenges” after the disappointment of the 2021 election, when the party’s vote-share dropped to the lowest level since 2000 even as it elected two MPs.

Inside the party, this created “mistrust, lack of confidence and uncertainty, resulting in blame, shame, exclusion and underperformance,” the report says.

It also says the “reputational damage” to the party during the infighting over Paul’s leadership in 2021 “resulted in a significant decline in member donations,” as party expenses outstripped revenues for 11 of the 12 months last year, and continues to run monthly deficits this year.

“All options to reduce costs are being considered,” the report says, “including the option of closing the office in Ottawa and implementing a spending freeze.”

Asked when the party will make those decisions and what it is doing to improve the situation, Green spokesperson George Orr said the party is “running a dynamic leadership contest, and through that and other initiatives, is working with current members and recruiting new members to restore the party’s resources.”

Najib Jutt, a political strategist in Alberta who worked with Paul and is contemplating a leadership run, said it is “ridiculous” that the party has designed a leadership race with limited time to fundraise and sign up members at a time when money is sorely needed.

The campaigning is “limited” until Aug. 31, while members must sign up by Sept. 7 to vote in a first round before the new leader is announced Nov. 19.

Jutt also criticized Tyrrell’s expulsion, stating the Quebec Green leader is “entitled to his opinions” and that it should be up to members — not party brass — to decide if he is a legitimate contender in the race.

“There’s a beautiful, perfect way to actually prove whether or not Alex’s ideas … should be in the Green Party of Canada,” he said. “We have a leadership race coming up. Let him compete.”

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By Jon Doe