Canada

Green MP crosses floor to join Liberals after challenging leader over Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Atwin’s move to the Liberals is the latest sign of internal unrest harming the Greens, who had high hopes of becoming a more influential bloc in parliament

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OTTAWA – Jenica Atwin represented a promising success story for the Greens in the 2019 election, winning her first seat in New Brunswick and potentially giving the federal party a new foothold outside of British Columbia, where its only other two MPs live.

But Atwin’s move to the Liberals on Thursday is the latest sign of internal unrest that is deeply damaging the Greens, who had high hopes that they could grow into a more influential bloc in parliament but are now shrinking instead.

Atwin announced that she would cross the floor alongside Liberal Cabinet Secretary Dominic LeBlanc at a press conference at her Fredericton home.

“I’ve been at a crossroads for the past month,” said Atwin. “It was, in a word, distracting. And so I go where I can do my best work on behalf of my community and for the people who are so important to me. “

Last month, the Greens’ clashes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict went public.

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Atwin broke publicly with the Greens chairman Annamie Paul on the subject and posted on Twitter that a statement from Paul calling for de-escalation was “totally inadequate”.

“I stand by Palestine and condemn the unthinkable air strikes in Gaza. No more apartheid! ”Atwin tweeted on May 11th.

Meanwhile, Noah Zatzman, a senior adviser to Paul, sparked a revolt within the party after a public Facebook post declared its solidarity with Israel and the “appalling anti-Semitism and discrimination” of “many liberal, NDP and, unfortunately, Green MPs” condemned had to give any name. His post stated that the Greens “will work to defeat you and raise progressive climate champions who are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists !!!!”

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The Canadian press has reported that the Green Party Executive Committee will not renew Zatzman’s contract when it expires next month.

Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Atwin said the dispute over Israel “certainly played a role” in her apostasy. She also said she wanted to work in a “more supportive and collaborative” environment, saying that many of the Liberal Party’s values ​​align with her own.

“It has always been difficult for me to decide which party flag to fly over my head,” Atwin said, noting that she was never a rigid partisan.

“I have the same priorities, the same values ​​that I’ve always had,” she said. “So I hope to keep the trust of Fredericton’s voters, my colleagues, my friends.”

Atwin’s trash leaves the Green Party with only two MPs, Elizabeth May and Paul Manly, both of whom represent riders on Vancouver Island.

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In a statement, they said they were “unhappy” with Atwin’s departure, but also blamed Zatzman’s post.

“Unfortunately, the attack by the chief spokesman for the Greens on May 14 against Ms. Atwin created the conditions that led to this crisis,” they said. “We (Paul Manly MP, Elizabeth May MP) have no intention of leaving the Canadian Green Party.”

Annamie Paul, leader of the Canadian Green Party, speaks at a press conference after New Brunswick MP Jenica Atwin announced she has left the Green Party to join the Liberals on Parliament Hill on June 10, 2021 .
Annamie Paul, leader of the Canadian Green Party, speaks at a press conference after New Brunswick MP Jenica Atwin announced she has left the Green Party to join the Liberals on Parliament Hill on June 10, 2021 . Photo by Justin Tang / The Canadian Press

May resigned as leader of the Greens in 2019 after 13 years at the helm. Her husband, John Kidder, recently announced that he was leaving his post as party executive.

Paul, who won the race for leadership to succeed May last fall, does not have a seat in parliament. She ran twice without success in the liberal stronghold of the Toronto Center and came fourth in the 2019 elections, but relatively close to second in the by-election last fall to replace the then Treasury Secretary Bill Morneau. She has announced that she will run again in the next election.

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At her own press conference, Paul said she accepted Atwin’s decision, but was disappointed with the revelation that Atwin had been talking to Liberals about the move for several weeks.

She also downplayed the idea that Atwin left because of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and that her leadership may have contributed to Atwin’s departure.

“I’ll take Jenica at her word,” said Paul. “She said that her decision had nothing to do with me, that it didn’t matter to her decision, that she wished me all the best, that she hoped that we would remain friends. And that’s why I take her at her word that she made this decision for other reasons. “

But urged by reporters on Zatzman’s post, Paul declined to express her own thoughts on the matter.

“The conversations between me and those who work in my office are between the two of us,” she said.

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Urged further, she again declined to speak about the Zatzman post, saying only that she was trying to create an environment where people can respectfully disagree.

“A number of views have been expressed in the past few weeks, and I’m really not going to underscore any of them that clearly put people at odds,” she said. “My job, my leadership approach is to bring people together and not pursue anything that should really be done between people who respect each other privately.”

With additional coverage from The Canadian Press

• Email: bplatt@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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