With the Throne Speech coming down this afternoon, it makes sense that most of the attention of the Canadian political scene is fixed on Ottawa today. But in the past twenty-four hours another story is flying under the radar that deserves some extra attention. The Green Party is still in the process of choosing their new leader, with the results expected in a couple of weeks.
It’s been a quiet race with no clear front runners and a lot of discussion about the future direction of the Green team. At this point it’s hard to say exactly in which direction Green Party members will choose to go, which leads many outside observers looking for tea leaves to read to get a better idea. Well yesterday something came completely out of left field, like a bolt out of the green as it were, that was as shocking as it was telling:
You know everyone, it takes a lot to get thrown out of a party leadership race. Because of their nature and the discussions around the very existential future of a party, candidates tend to get more leeway when it comes to what can be said or suggested. That makes what happened yesterday so striking with the sudden removal of candidate Meryam Haddad for reasons that aren’t clear. In the statement that Ms. Haddad released on this development, she quoted the Greens decision referring to party codes of conduct including that members must not “intentionally undertake any action which would bring the GPC into disrepute”. They didn’t seem to specify exactly what “actions” Ms. Haddad undertook that would lead to this, but here are a couple of things that she said in the past 24 hours that might give an answer:
Less than twenty-four hours after Ms. Haddad suggested that the Greens should enter an electoral arrangement with the NDP and that she would back the BC Ecosocialists over the BC Greens in the BC Election, she’s gone. After her endorsement of the Ecosocialists she was criticized over ignorant comments made by the Interim Leader of the party regarding transgenered people, which could have been a reason for tossing her. But in response to that, she called that language out, demanding the resignation of said leader and then this happened:
Okay, so if anything she got results here, right? It was a rookie political mistake to go and publicly endorse a party without knowing what you were getting into, but it appears that she cleaned that mess up much better than others have. So I have a hard time picturing that being the reason why she was tossed. So what exactly was the “intentional action which would bring the GPC into disrepute” that she undertook here? Well the answer to that question may come from one reply to Ms. Haddad’s propositions on working with others & someone who retweeted it:
Yes folks, that is a Tweet from someone accusing her of “stabbing” the BC Greens in the back saying that she doesn’t deserve to be the leader of anything. And it was re-tweeted by none other than outgoing Green Leader Elizabeth May, who still holds a lot of sway over the current Green Party structure. May’s comments and involvements in this leadership race has caught the attention of so many, mostly because of incidents like these. Most leaders when they step aside stay quiet during the race to replace them, mostly out of respect for those running to replace them. They don’t comment on their ideas, attack any of them or put their thumbs on the scales of the race itself. Yet time and again in this race, May has done things like that and hasn’t shied away from throwing her political power around when it suits her.
So while we admittedly don’t know it for certain, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Ms. Haddad was ejected from the Green race because she dared to suggest working with other parties or endorsing other candidates against a fellow Green. That’s particularly galling when you consider the fact that Ms. May has done both of those things herself while leader of the Greens; she struck an electoral cooperation agreement with the Liberals and Stéphane Dion in her attempt to win a seat in 2008 and she openly backed former Liberal cabinet minister and Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould in her attempt at re-election last year, openly campaigning with her over her own Green candidate in Vancouver Granville. This is extremely hypocritical at best.
But the other thing I can’t help but consider here just how unwilling the Greens have been to employ this whole “intentionally undertake any action which would bring the GPC into disrepute” standard on basic election candidates. During the last campaign there were a number of Green candidates who came to the surface whose past actions and words clearly put the Greens into disrepute in the eyes of Canadian electors. The case that keeps coming back to my mind was the case of Jocelyn Rioux, the Green Party candidate in the riding of Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques in the last election, who was making false claims about being Indigenous. Rioux led group that openly claimed that their false-Métis group were the true Indigenous peoples of their region and the Mi’kmaw in the region weren’t. They actually went before a government commission to utter such crap. Yet even with all of that, when all of that came to light, all of those things that clearly brought a heaping helping of “disrepute” to the Green Party of Canada, Rioux wasn’t removed as a candidate. May stood by this guy to the bitter bloody end, refusing to toss him aside.
So how exactly does it make sense that Haddad got booted now from a leadership race, in the last couple of weeks no less? Honestly, it doesn’t. It makes no sense, it looks arbitrary and smells, regardless of how you feel about Haddad’s ideas. While I disagree with her proposal on NDP/Green cooperation, she’s not breaking any new ground there. Both Nathan Cullen and Joyce Murray ran for the leaderships of the NDP and Liberals respectively on similar ideas for their parties and they weren’t tossed from the races for that. And when it comes to backing another green party which will barely be of any consequence in the BC election over the BC Green Party (which will be of slightly more consequence but less so than before) that may be bad politics but it’s hardly rising to the level of being tossed. That’s especially true when the outgoing leader did the exact same thing as leader.
What this seems to be more about is internal party fighting and the May Team seeing that their control over their party is slipping. Between candidates like Haddad and Dimitri Lascaris who are offering Green voters a clear change in direction for their party, it’s clear that the more traditional former PC-style Greens are feeling nervous. Despite having solid candidates like Glen Murray, Annamie Paul and David Merner running from their side of the fence, it’s clear that they feel they could very well loose this race and therefore, loose control over the machine they have built.
Regardless of how you feel about Ms. Haddad’s views or proposals, it appears that the real sin seems to be running a strong campaign and being in a position to either win or being a king maker in this race. Her true “disreputable” action appears to be successfully mounting a campaign that challenges the views and ideas of the outgoing leader. If Ms. May believes that’s not the case, she really has no one but herself to blame for that impression being left by her own past inactions to act on cases of truly disreputable actions by Green candidates and her own re-tweets supporting attacks on this candidate. We’ll see if this expulsion stands or not but if anything it seems like a very good indication that this race to replace Elizabeth May as Green Leader may not be going as she had hoped. That in of itself makes for good reason to pay attention to what’s happening in this race and thanks to this overreaction from the Greens, more people will be watching.
UPDATE: Thursday September 24, 2020 @ 12:09 PM EST: Well the Greens have made a decision on Haddad’s appeal & they backed down. So all of this drama and pain for nothing.