Green party politics

Elizabeth May fired critics after pressure from B.C. Greens

Email from federal leader to fired shadow cabinet members references upcoming B.C. election
Photo: Laurel L. Russwurm

Is the leader of the B.C. Green Party calling the shots for the federal Greens under Elizabeth May’s leadership? Ricochet has learned that May cited the forthcoming B.C. provincial election in an email where she threatened to fire three of her shadow cabinet members if they did not apologize to B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver.

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On Tuesday, Lisa Barrett, Colin Griffiths and Dimitri Lascaris were abruptly fired from their roles in the Green Party of Canada’s shadow cabinet after an op-ed published in the Tyee prompted Weaver to complain to May and eventually publicly distance himself from the federal party.

The firing of three members of the Green Party of Canada’s shadow cabinet may not yet be fully set in stone. In response to a request for comment from leader Elizabeth May, the party’s press secretary told Ricochet by email, “Ms. May has offered to reinstate Mr. Lascaris, Mr. Griffiths and Ms. Barrett if they are willing to issue a public apology to Andrew Weaver.”

In an exclusive interview with Ricochet published earlier today, Lascaris explained the reason for his firing, saying he refused an ultimatum, contained in an email from Elizabeth May, that he face firing from the shadow cabinet or apologize to Weaver, whose public criticisms of the federal party’s recent BDS resolution were addressed in the Tyee op-ed by Lascaris and others.

When asked for comment on whether an ultimatum was given and what role pressure from Weaver played in the dismissal of the shadow cabinet members, May declined to comment. Party Secretary Dan Palmer told Ricochet by email, “Ms. May took the decision to dismiss these Shadow Cabinet members for the reasons stated in in the link provided above,” referring to this brief explanation posted to the party’s website last night.

Media delivers notice of dismissal

However, Ricochet has learned that Weaver sent an email to May and other members of the federal Green Party early Tuesday morning, blasting those who had signed the just-published Tyee op-ed, including Barrett, the Greens’ international affairs critic who was fired later on Tuesday.

Email from Andrew Weaver to Lisa Barrett, Elizabeth May, Michael Barkusky and Daniel Green
Sent Sept. 13, 2016 at 1:07 a.m. PDT

Weaver wrote, specifically addressing Barrett, “Rest assured, I will be publicly distancing the BC Greens from GPC shortly. You should pat yourself on the back for destroying any credibility left with the GPC. They are utterly irrelevant now in Canadian politics.”

Within hours, Barrett and the others would be fired by May.

Before the dismissals were made, May emailed Barrett Tuesday morning, implying criticism of Weaver could impact the 2017 B.C. election and demanding a public apology:

As you know, I have been very flexible in allowing for free and open debate on BDS. But an attack on a colleague, friend and leader of a provincial party on the eve of the BC election from members of what is publicly considered my inner circle is tantamount to suggesting I share these views. It certainly appears you want to be publicly removed from Shadow Cabinet.

Can you offer any explanation? Short of a very clear public apology to Andrew Weaver, I will have no choice but to remove you from Shadow Cabinet.

Email from Elizabeth May to Lisa Barrett
Sent on Sep 13, 2016

While Lascaris said he “refused categorically” to apologize to Weaver, for her part Barrett responded to the email with a request for clarification. “I asked her to explain where in the Tyee article there was something that I'm supposed to apologize for,” Barrett told Ricochet. “I was at a loss to see how the article's observations about Andrew Weaver's comments, demonstrably inflammatory comments, about the Green Party of Canada and our values and the BDS issue would be construed as an attack on the Green Party of BC, or an attack on him. I thought they were measured, and spoke directly to the issues.”

Both Barrett and Lascaris say they first heard of their dismissal from the media. “The first I knew,” Barrett told Ricochet, “was [Vancouver Sun reporter] Peter O'Neil, saying, ‘so now that you've been publicly fired, do you have any comment on this?’”

Weaver takes his distance

Weaver’s early morning email to May was the continuation of a sharp email discussion, according to Barrett.

“Andrew Weaver came into [the email exchange between me, May, Michael Barkusky, and Daniel Green] with some rather scathing and nasty comments, and he was just outright vicious about it. And threatening about it. Jumping up and down like a child having a tantrum.”

Email from Lisa Barrett to Elizabeth May
Sent September 13, 2016

Weaver told the Vancouver Sun he was pleased with May’s move against the signatories of the op-ed. “Elizabeth did what she had to do and I’m grateful.”

Despite the firings, Weaver made good on his threat to publicly distance himself from the federal Greens, writing in the Tyee comments section, “It should be obvious to anyone reading this article why the BC Greens have taken great steps to emphasize that we are not formally affiliated with the Green Party of Canada.”

“The BC Greens will not let ourselves be hijacked by extremist fringe elements,” he added.

“How could someone who has campaigned on how we're so different from some other parties, suddenly turn around and say 'well we're not that different?'”

Barrett sees the whole affair as an affront to Green values, including the core value of participatory democracy.

“We had an overwhelming vote, in favour of it, which is the astonishing thing,” she said, referring to the passage of the boycott, divestment and sanctions resolution by party members at their Ottawa convention in July 2016. “How could someone who has campaigned on how we're so different from some other parties, suddenly turn around and say 'well we're not that different?'"

The Green Party of Canada has scheduled a membership meeting in Calgary in early December.

Barrett hopes the bigger issues don't get lost amid the controversy. "The real story is that Green Party members were courageous enough to pass a resolution that no other Canadian party would pass, and they did it in spite of Parliament passing the condemnation of BDS," she said. "The problem is the special interest groups who pressure politicians and who are determined to block any condemnation of human rights abuses against the Palestinian people."

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