Politics

Threatened with insolvency, Green Party considers closing its head office

As it looks for ways to cut its costs and avoid insolvency, the Green Party of Canada is considering ditching its Ottawa party office.

Party’s financial arm says threat of insolvency became 'very real' in the spring

Green Party interim leader Amita Kuttner listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

As it looks for ways to cut its costs and avoid insolvency, the Green Party of Canada is considering ditching its Ottawa party office.

A report from the party's financial arm, presented to party members at last weekend's virtual general meeting, says the cash-strapped party is considering all of its options, including shutting down the office.

Donations to the Green Party fell off a cliff in June as efforts by members of the party's executive council to oust leader Annamie Paul spilled over in public. The drop in donations also coincided with the recent federal election.

"This past year has been challenging for the Green Party of Canada Fund. The threat of insolvency became very real in the spring and the summer," the party's financial report says. "That threat continues to this day."

WATCH | Amita Kuttner discusses Green Party finances on CBC's Power & Politics

Threatened with insolvency, Green Party considers closing its head office

2 months ago
Duration 7:13
Green Party Interim Leader Amita Kuttner joins Power & Politics to discuss the state of the party's finances and what it plans to do to resolve it. 7:13

The fund administers the Green Party's finances and holds its assets. It incurs all party expenses, negotiates contracts and deals with legal matters within the party.

According to the latest numbers released by the party's financial arm, the Greens have lost 1,722 monthly donors since January 2020 — 499 since July.

The report also says the party has lost roughly 6,259 members since July. Membership in the Greens stood at 35,000 nearly a year ago, after the party's last leadership race.

The last several months have been tumultuous ones for the Greens — marked by MP Jenica Atwin's defection to the Liberals, attempts to oust Paul from the leadership, legal proceedings and accusations of racism and sexism.

Paul officially resigned the leadership last month and gave up her party membership.

"This was not easy. It has been extremely painful. It has been the worst period in my life, in many respects," she said during her final news conference as Green leader in September.

"The downward trend in the number of monthly donors and total monthly donations is a very serious concern," the fund's report states. "We are now considering other ways to reduce costs, including a reduction in the leader's office budget and possible termination of the Ottawa office lease in 2022.

"These reductions may be avoided if fundraising increases, particularly in the critically important December 2021 fundraising period."

Losing the Ottawa office would not affect the work of the party's two MPs, whose offices and staff in Ottawa are funded by the House of Commons.

The party has tried to economize in other areas. It launched a round of layoffs in July and October, cut contracts and renegotiated its Ottawa lease.

Paul's exit blamed for 'significant legal costs'

The fund report says that legal proceedings involving the former leader consumed a lot of time and money, as did its collective agreement with newly unionized staff.

"Negotiations over [Paul's] departure as leader of the party and as an employee of the fund have required the fund to incur very significant legal costs over the past year," the report says. "Almost the entirety of the funds were spent defending the GPC and the GPC Fund in the arbitration or negotiating the terms of her departure.

"Contrary to media reports, no final judgments were made in her favour."

WATCH | Annamie Paul resigns as leader of the Green Party

Annamie Paul resigns as Green leader, citing lack of party support

4 months ago
Duration 6:41
Annamie Paul has announced she is stepping down as Green leader after the party's disastrous showing in the recent federal election. 'I just don't have the heart' for a fractious leadership review, she said. 6:41

Paul had been leader of the Green Party for just over a year when she quit. After Atwin crossed the floor in July, the party's federal council began trying to remove Paul from the leadership through an early confidence vote. Paul took her party to arbitration and an adjudicator ruled in Paul's favour, preventing the party from proceeding.

Paul led the Greens into the election, which saw the party lose ground in the national vote. Paul blamed the party's dismal results on unnamed party members who she said "took great pleasure in attacking me." She also accused some federal council members of writing a list of allegations against her that were racist and sexist.

At a news conference on Parliament Hill Wednesday, the party's new interim leader said they did not know how much the party paid Paul on her way out. Amita Kuttner acknowledged the infighting over Paul's leadership affected donations.

"If you are looking to support a party, you'd hope to be getting something out of it. And if you're not getting the sense that you're going to get a return on your investment, you certainly wouldn't be donating," Kuttner said.

The report says the fund is taking steps to get its finances in order. It's launching consultations on re-organizing the fund management team and changing the scope of the party's executive director position, harnessing the work of volunteers and focusing on fundraising.

"We hope that better fundraising results in December will enable us to build a more sustainable financial future for our party in 2022," the report says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.

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