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Green Party lays off core staff members amid financial drought, internal strife

Move affects about half of the party’s staff amid persistent financial and political woes
Annamie Paul addresses the media during a news conference in Toronto’s Regent Park on food security on Tuesday August 31, 2021. Layoffs are hitting the Green Party again as party brass look to shave costs at an organization with ongoing financial and political troubles.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Layoffs are once again hitting the Green Party as party brass look to shave costs amid persistent financial and political woes.

The Greens are temporarily laying off half of their staff, or about 10 employees, effective Tuesday, according to three senior party officials who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal matters.

The sources say Green executive director Dana Taylor is meeting one on one with affected workers throughout the day to inform them.

The culling will affect staff in the office of Leader Annamie Paul as well as in communications and mobilization, marking a partial repeat of temporary layoffs announced last June.

Paul, who announced last month she would resign, remains in the top spot as she negotiates with Green executives about compensation for costs incurred during legal battles with the party, sources say.

“Ms. Paul has had no say in the layoffs and was unaware of the latest staff cuts until they started happening this morning,” party spokesman John Chenery said in an email Tuesday.

On top of financial troubles, Greens face a self-reckoning after last month’s federal election where the party maintained two seats in the House of Commons but saw its share of the popular vote tumble to about two per cent from nearly seven per cent, capping off a year marked by power struggles, bitter feuds and a defection to the Liberals by New Brunswick MP Jenica Atwin.

The fractious dynamics were on display over the weekend, when the party’s 16-member federal council as well as its five-member executive council — Paul sits on both — took part in several meetings to which the leader was not invited, sources say.

The virtual sit-downs, which included discussion of the impending layoffs, were opened to all Green members for one portion that saw accusations fly over the party’s treatment of Paul, resulting in an apology from new president Lorraine Rekmans over the lack of invitation.

Legal wrangling has further tilted the Greens’ cash imbalance.

Over the summer Paul launched an arbitration related to her employment contract and moves by party brass to oust her through a non-confidence vote and a membership suspension. Both were halted by the independent arbitrator.

In response, several senior officials filed a legal challenge on behalf of the party against Paul that questioned the arbitrator’s decision as tensions between the two sides came to a boil.

Tuesday’s cuts brought on déjà vu for Greens, who saw money woes prompt staff layoffs and nixed funding for Paul’s Toronto Centre riding campaign over the summer.

Former Green Party of Canada Fund president Doug Tingey said in a July report that the “current financial situation is not sustainable.”

He told federal council members in July the Greens would have about $300,000 in the bank if an election were called the next month — the campaign wound up kicking off Aug. 15 — compared to $1.9 million at the outset of the 2019 election and $3 million when the writ dropped in 2015, two sources said at the time.

The relatively small sum did not account for a roughly $1.3-million election loan, or $150,000 in wage subsidies that came into party coffers in late July, sources say.

The cash crunch also comes despite a fundraising bump during at least part of Paul’s 12-month tenure, though party officials have also said fundraising nosedived during the campaign.

Greens raised about $1.36 million in the first two quarters of 2021 compared to about $1.2 million in the same period a year earlier, according to Elections Canada filings.

—Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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