You didn’t miss it. There was no apology.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May didn’t take any reporter’s questions on Thursday as her “racism card” controversy went from simmering to boiling-over. But she did issue a press release.
No apology for misleading Canadians or smearing New Brunswickers
It is now a well-established fact that the story May was so boastful about on Tuesday turned out to be — as NDP leader Jagmeet Singh gently put in today — “misinformation.” Other New Democrats have characterized it perhaps less delicately. Yet there was no apology for making reporters look like fools or misleading Canadians.
Nor did May apologize to New Brunswickers — and Francophone New Brunswickers in particular.
Her newly-pressed Green Party member, Jonathan Richardson, claimed that New Brunswickers, particularly those in the north part of the province, raised the “racism card” in a “major” way — so much so it’s impossible for a person to win a riding as a local candidate with a national leader who is a person of colour or of Sikh faith.
No apology for dogwhistling for her political profit
Nor did May apologize for her party member, at the Green Party press conference, using that racist card to appeal for votes for her. Richardson not only falsely claimed a party lead by a person of colour can’t win in New Brunswick, he used his false claim about racism as a reason to vote Green.
Some say using a racist argument for political gain is not, in itself, racist. There’s been that debate about Donald Trump — whether he’s really racist or just deploys racist arguments for political gain. What’s not debatable is that it is always unprincipled to repeat racist arguments for political gain. And, in normalizing the belief a person of colour can’t win an election, it furthers white supremacy. So, yeah — it’s racist.
Worse, in May’s press release, she repeats the key element of Richardson’s line, reciting that “some people won’t vote NDP because they are racist.” She doesn’t include, as did Richardson, that because of racism Singh can’t win seats in New Brunswick, and that’s a reason to vote Greens.
But she is the leader of the Green Party and her new party member has already made the racist argument out loud. He gave the chorus and verse. Now May mentions the verse alone and leads the chorus by dogwhistle.
“You don’t leave your leader, you get behind your leader”
Without doubt there are racist people in New Brunswick — unfortunately there’s some almost everywhere. But Elizabeth May, in trying to use that fact for her political gain, stoops low and does what no actual progressive and anti-racist Canadian would ever do.
Because, as Jean-Maurice Landry, one of the New Democrats wrongly named on the Green Party list, told a CBC reporter, “in such situations you don’t leave your leader, you get behind your leader.”
“In leaving, what you’re doing is you’re basically in agreement with those that are using racism as a way to play politics,” said Landry.
And polling suggests the “racist card” argument isn’t even true. An Angus Reid survey done shortly after Singh’s election as NDP leader showed that 29 per of Canadians would never vote for him simply because he wears a turban. Without doubt, that’s upsetting news to read about Canadians. But surely that voter cohort doesn’t have much in common with progressive social democrats.
Because what’s more important, and where the NDP draws its support from, is 71 per cent of Canadians would vote for a Sikh person of colour. And while the poll didn’t give a break-down for New Brunswick, the racist response in Atlantic Canada is exactly the same as in Canada as a whole.
And, as seen in today’s Abacus poll, when Canadians are asked about which party they could support, Singh’s NDP, with a voter universe at 44 per cent, not only has the potential to elect MPs in New Brunswick, it has the potential to make Singh Prime Minister.
That universe, by the way, is not much smaller than that of the Liberals and Conservatives — and is bigger than the Greens.
Abacus put the NDP at 17 per cent nationally — a decent enough starting spot — and the Greens continuing their multi-month slide from the mid-May peak, now down to nine per cent.
So, Richardson’s “racism card” argument is just wrong. It is wrong that New Brunswickers are especially racist. It is wrong that because of racism the NDP can’t win in New Brunswick. And therefore the conclusion — that progressive voters need to switch to the Greens because New Brunswickers are racists — is also wrong, as well as being disgusting and unprincipled.
Without evidence, May claims it’s the NDP’s fault
What May does instead of apologizing for making reporters look like fools, misinforming voters, smearing a whole province, and using a racist argument for political gain — is blame Jagmeet Singh for the whole thing.
In her press release, May argues that after her party’s Tuesday press conference, someone from the NDP called up her new party members and “strongly urged them to renege and deny” their decision to join the Greens, which she characterized as “strong arm tactics.”
Now having had no facts or evidence to back up her claim on Tuesday — and so having the whole thing backfire — this might have been the time to provide evidence of her “strong arm tactics” claim made Thursday. But no, once again, May makes a claim without supporting evidence.
Continue to be proud of Singh and NDP, say candidates
In fact the evidence we have is that her claim — once again — is false. “We were proud to represent the New Brunswick NDP in the last election as candidates,” said a press release from four NDP candidates, “and continue to be proud to support the NB NDP — both provincially and federally.”
Far from being strong-armed, the candidates say they weren’t even aware of being on the Green Party list. “We are disappointed that our names were added to this letter without our consent,” said the candidate’s press release.
This campaign’s start has been an embarrassment for May. Her rank amateur and hyper-partisan attacks on Singh are a disservice to Canadians at a time when working people and environmentalists should be building a consensus around a green new deal to replace the failed climate plan of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
This embarrassing controversy should become an almost-forgotten footnote in a campaign — likely to start this weekend — in which Singh campaigns hard on his bold and progressive platform to elect an NDP government and developed a social democratic Canadian federation.
That’s what political leaders with integrity do.