Though climate change has never been more important to Canadian voters and the Trudeau Liberals are failing to meet carbon targets, the Elizabeth May Green Party appears to be wasting its breakthrough opportunity.
After a flush of positive attention earlier this year — and especially in reaction to Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin scandal and his subsequent split with Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Phillpot — May has been charging hard at the NDP.
May’s party peaked at about 12 per cent in national polls early this summer but many surveys continue to show the Green Party in the double digits.
On Tuesday, May’s party appeared to have a significant score. Jonathan Richardson, a member of the federal NDP executive, held a press conference with the New Brunswick Green Party leader to announce that he and 14 other NDP members would join the Greens.
Green “racism card” comment raises backlash
However, Richardson’s motives raised immediate backlash when, in an interview after joining the Greens, he told Canadian Press the NDP can’t win in New Brunswick because its leader is racialized.
Melanie Richer, an NDP spokesperson, said Richardson wasn’t giving enough credit to New Brunswickers. And on social media, many New Democrats accused Richardson of political opportunism, jumping ship rather than pushing back on racism.
The next day, May issued a statement saying her party had “no room” for racists but did not explain or apologize for Richardson apparently using racism in a political appeal.
Embracing people with troubling views is not new for May. In August, the NDP ousted Quebec MP Pierre Nantel, who had previously called a person who wears a turban “incompatible” with the exercise of authority in Quebec. May accepted Nantel as her candidate.
The Green Party has also advised candidates to low-ball discussion of Quebec’s contentious Bill 21, which bans workers from wearing religious symbols when in certain roles. The Green Party said it would take a position on the Bill 21 controversy after the election.
Green Party naming was wrong and without consent
And now it appears the Greens failed to vet Richardson’s story. Internal NDP emails distributed late Wednesday say “a number” of the 14 people listed by Richardson at his press conference have since confirmed they continue to be NDP members and were “named by Jonathan Richardson and the Green Party without their consent.”
During Tuesday’s press conference, Green Party officials did not say what steps they had taken to contact the 14 people Richardson said would join the Green Party.
Mother failed NDP vetting process
And far from being about the environment, a revenge motive appears to be part of the story.
Jennifer McKenzie, a former leader of the New Brunswick NDP, in an interview with Global News, said Richardson “orchestrated to try to put his mother in as leader, and this is what he’s doing because that didn’t work out for him.”
In July, Joyce Richardson abandoned her campaign for the leadership of the New Brunswick NDP after a standard vetting review by the party did not approve her candidacy.
Though the reasons her candidacy was blocked are confidential, in 2010 the Law Society of New Brunswick sanctioned Richardson for practicing law while unauthorized to do so.
The New Brunswick Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal of the Society’s sanction.