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Green Party MPs threatened to leave, sit as Independents if leadership race suspended

Green MPs Elizabeth May and Mike Morrice threaten to sit as Independents if leadership race is suspended, according to email obtained by The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Green Party's only two members of Parliament threatened to leave the party and sit as Independents if the party's current leadership race is suspended, according to an internal email obtained by The Canadian Press. 

Days after the party's president resigned saying her "optimism has died," Kitchener Centre MP Mike Morrice is raising concerns over the ongoing turmoil within Green ranks.

With the party's federal council considering a pause in the leadership race and the closure of an Ottawa office space, Morrice's office sent an email to its top officials Friday saying either move would cause "irreversible damage." 

The party "can’t come back from that," the email said, adding that the Greens are at a crossroads. "In that case, the MPs would be prepared to leave the party and sit as Independents."

A spokesperson for the Green Party indicated Monday that discussions were ongoing and that officials were trying to resolve the situation internally before making further public comment.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Morrice said he is disappointed by party infighting. 

"I still believe it’s as a Green MP that I’m best positioned to advocate for my riding’s priorities and I am not planning to leave the party. With the leadership race proceeding and a slate of qualified candidates, I am hopeful for the party’s continued renewal," his statement said. 

Elizabeth May, the party's former leader and its only other sitting MP, could not be reached for comment. May is running in the leadership contest on a joint ticket with Jonathan Pedneault.

Anna Keenan and Chad Walcott, who are also jointly running for the leadership, said they are pleased with the federal council's decision to continue the race. 

"We want to be able to focus our energy on the external issues that matter to Canadians," a statement posted to their website said. "To be able to do that, and end the cycle of endless controversy, our party needs to get its own house in order."
Sarah Gabrielle Baron, another contender, says she is a school teacher from northern Ontario who is trying to take on big issues — but she is doing so while "my party appears to be falling apart around me." 

"It is a private internal party matter that has become very public and my team is still working out exactly what's going on, so at this time I'm going to try and respect my party as keeping this internal for now," she told reporters Monday. 

Late last week, the party's president, Lorraine Rekmans, resigned in a letter that told members, "there is no vision for a better future."

"I leave this party on my own terms," Rekmans wrote. "I have resigned for principle. I had no confidence in the leadership contestants, and they had no confidence in me, and I lost confidence in federal council."

Morrice and four of the six leadership candidates had recently issued a joint statement condemning the misgendering of interim leader Amita Kuttner — who is transgender and nonbinary — during a party Zoom event. 

Kuttner clarified in their own statement that Rekmans herself did not misgender them, and that they appreciated a swift apology from Rekmans on behalf of the party. 

But Rekmans said in her resignation letter that she was shut out and accused of being a perpetrator of harm in the wake of the incident.

She wrote that she had been marginalized, insulted and denigrated by leadership contestants and saw no way to continue as president when one of them would soon be the principal spokesperson for the party.

The Greens launched a leadership contest this summer to find a replacement for Annamie Paul, who resigned after a disappointing showing in the 2021 election.

Her tenure was marked by internal conflict and she accused some in the party of racism and sexism.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 12, 2022.

David Fraser, The Canadian Press