By Alex BallingallOttawa Bureau
Wed., July 28, 2021timer5 min. read
updateArticle was updated 1 hr ago
OTTAWA—Burdened with high staff costs and legal fees from bitter infighting, the federal Green party is approaching a financial “tipping point” where it won’t be able to run an election campaign with “any effectiveness,” according to the party’s executive director.
The harrowing picture of a party in financial free fall was delivered Tuesday night to members of the Greens’ top governing body, the federal council.
Interim executive director Dana Taylor and Douglas Tingey, the president of the Green Party of Canada Fund, spelled out how the organization’s expenses are dangerously outpacing the money it makes through political donations.
“We don’t have a great deal of time to stop the bleeding before we get to a point where the situation is not recoverable,” Tingey said, according to a recording of the meeting that was obtained by the Star.
“There’s a tipping point of which there’s any effectiveness at all to conduct any type of a campaign, and I would suggest we’re very close to that tipping point,” Taylor added later in the meeting.
Tingey said he would not speak to the Star when contacted Wednesday. Taylor, meanwhile, did not respond to a request for comment.
With a federal election widely expected to begin in the coming weeks, the Green party has been consumed with strife as top officials push to depose leader Annamie Paul after months of infighting that has included accusations of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and poor leadership.
Amid the crisis, the party managed to rake in higher donations over the first six months of the year than it did during the same period in 2020. According to returns filed with Elections Canada, the Greens raised $1.36 million from January to June this year.
But Tingey and Taylor said during Tuesday’s meeting that the party is still losing money, in part because of how it is spending roughly 70 per cent of its revenues on staff. That includes Paul’s salary, since she is a Green employee without a seat in Parliament and the publicly-paid salary that would go with it.
The party now has less than $300,000 in cash and no guarantees it will be able to secure a bank loan to finance a national campaign, Tingey said.
That’s a fraction of the $3 million the party had in the bank before the 2015 election and $1.9 million before the 2019 campaign, he said.
Tingey also said the party incurred “nearly $100,000 in unexpected legal fees” this month and plans to set aside another $100,000 “should these proceedings not settle.”
On July 21, the Green party filed a legal challenge in Ontario Superior Court that seeks to overturn arbitration decisions that paused threats to Paul’s leadership.
According to the legal challenge, an independent arbitrator ruled the party’s federal council can’t hold a non-confidence vote on Paul’s leadership before the next general members’ meeting that is scheduled for Aug. 21. The arbitrator also halted a review of Paul’s Green membership until at least Aug. 19, when 12 new members of the federal council, who are currently courting votes in party elections, take over.
Tingey also noted at Tuesday’s meeting that the party no longer has director and officers liability insurance — coverage that protects officials from being personally liable in lawsuits over their actions in an organization.
Jean-Luc Cooke, a former Green party president who resigned last year, expressed shock on Twitter, stating that the members of the Green party fund “are now personally exposed” as they take Paul to court.
“How the living hell did it get this bad? The party’s finances were in great shape prior to this new fund board and interim executive director,” Cooke wrote.
He declined to comment further when contacted Wednesday.
With so little cash on hand, Taylor stressed at Tuesday’s meeting that the party needs to redouble its efforts to increase fundraising and pointed out the party has hired an outside consultant to help raise money.
But he also floated the prospect of further staff layoffs, just weeks after the party slashed nine staffers — including two who worked in Paul’s office.
The party is also trying to secure a loan with a bank, but the institution the party is speaking with is “very concerned” about the situation in the Green organization, Taylor said.
According to Tingey, the bank expressed concerns about whether the Greens will field enough candidates in the coming election and whether they will receive enough votes to qualify for partial refunds of campaign expenses from Elections Canada.
As of Tuesday, the party had nominated candidates in 84 of Canada’s 338 federal ridings.
“It remains unclear what position the bank will take with regards to our loan, but it is clear if the election is called in the near term — in August — we’ll be very hard-pressed to spend significant sums,” Tingey said.
“We have no choice but to continue cutting costs, even though we expect to soon be in an election,” he continued.
“We can’t afford, given where we are, to gamble with the future of the fund and the party in a financial sense… We simply cannot risk running out of money.”
Daniel Green, the French vice-president on the Greens’ federal council, expressed “extreme concern” after hearing the financial report.
“How could this have happened?” he asked. “Is this party facing bankruptcy if we do not increase our revenue massively? And how are we going to do that just before an election?”
Taylor responded that his preferred route was better fundraising, but he did not rule out staff cuts or asking employees to take voluntary pay cuts, which he said would need to be in the magnitude of 25 to 30 per cent.
Meanwhile, Paul, who objected at the start of the meeting that details of the financial report were not shared with council members in advance, distanced herself from the “unfortunate” situation where fundraising has not kept up with party spending.
“I don’t have any say or involvement on the financial side of the organization,” she said.
Paul also alluded to the crisis that has threatened her leadership and suggested it is holding the party back from raising more money.
“Our current circumstances and the controversy surrounding our party is a dampener to fundraising,” she said.
“If our only hope is to increase the fundraising of our party — and of course, we should always have hope of that — then we need to create the circumstances that make that possible.”
Paul did not respond to requests for comment from the Star on Wednesday.