New Brunswick

New Brunswick rep quits federal Green Party council over infighting

New Brunswick’s representative on the federal Green Party council has quit after just two months in the position, saying party infighting was too stressful and was taking away from her work on climate change.

Louise Comeau was elected to the post just two months ago

Louise Comeau, a researcher at the University of New Brunswick, was elected to the Green Party's national council to represent the province two months ago. She has resigned her position, citing stress and party infighting. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

New Brunswick's representative on the federal Green Party council has quit after just two months in the position, saying party infighting was too stressful and was taking away from her work on climate change.

Louise Comeau was elected to the role in August, in the midst of internal turmoil over the future of leader Annamie Paul.

She says she went in knowing the party was in a crisis but believed she could make a difference.

"I didn't anticipate the one thing that really brought this to a head for me: my inability to actually make the professional contribution that I wanted to make," she told CBC Radio's Shift New Brunswick.

Annamie Paul announced she was stepping down as the Green Party’s leader on Sept. 27 in Toronto. Comeau said the turmoil around Paul's leadership made being a member of the national council stressful. (Sam Nar/CBC)

Comeau said Paul had "engineered a tone and a set-up" on the federal council, the party's governing body, that made it difficult for members to perform their oversight role.

"I felt I just was unable to bring the kind of thoughtfulness I had hoped to bring to the decision-making processes of council."

That included going two months without any briefing on the party's legal and financial status, she said.

In a Twitter exchange with another Green supporter this week, Comeau wrote that she was resigning "because the stress was unbearable. I have more important work to do than waste time with this kind of baloney."

She added: "Play your games. The rest of us will try and keep the planet from burning."

Comeau is a climate change researcher at the University of New Brunswick and she says another challenge she faced was trying to speak independently about climate policy when it was at odds with the party's partisan interest.

The weekend before the federal election in September, she tweeted a link to a newspaper column that argued the federal Liberals had a better climate change plan than the Conservatives.

"I was simply commenting on the accuracy of the evaluation, which I agreed with," she said. But "I was personally attacked by many Greens for having stated my professional opinion." 

She calls that an "infringement" on her professional independence.

"I am bigger than that because I think climate change is bigger than that," she says. "If I had to make a choice, climate change absolutely comes first." 

An assistant to Annamie Paul, Victoria Galea, said Paul would not comment on Comeau's remarks and has not been doing interviews since "starting the process" of resigning as leader on Sept. 27.

The Green popular vote dropped from 6.5 per cent in the 2019 election to 2.3  per cent last month. The party lost one of its three seats in the vote, and had seen Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin defect to the Liberals in June. 

The Greens gained one Ontario seat in the election and now has two MPs.

Comeau says even Paul's departure is contentious. She referred to the Sept. 27 announcement as "what we thought was the resignation of the leader" but says it hasn't officially happened yet.

She says Paul told her during a meeting that  "until we negotiate her release, she enjoys all the rights and privileges of being a leader."

Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin announced in June that she was leaving the federal Green Party to sit as a Liberal. She successfully campaigned to win the seat for the Liberals in the September election. (Guy LeBlanc/Radio-Canada)

Galea said because the party council is in a legal dispute with Paul over attempts to review her leadership before the election, Paul won't formally step down without a resolution of that dispute and some financial loose ends connected to it.

"She can't resign until they drop their court case against her."  

Comeau also said council members who questioned Paul's decisions and approach were confronted by what she calls "identity politics."

Paul is the first Black woman to lead a major national political party, and Comeau says when council members like her pushed for "values like honesty, integrity, fair dealing and leadership," they faced a backlash.

Felt vulnerable

"It was almost as if they were used as weapons. If you challenged at all and said 'No, this is too much, you can't do that' or 'That is not actually accurate,' then we were into these accusations. People were feeling quite vulnerable to that," she says.

"Not everything is about identity politics. Sometimes it's just about good character." 

In June, Paul said allegations against her by the previous federal council "were so racist, so sexist, that they were immediately disavowed by both our MPs as offensive and inflammatory."

Galea says that Paul has never made similar accusations against the new council members elected in August. "She's never said that and it's never been implied." 

 

With files from CBC Radio's Shift New Brunswick

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