'More wind in our sails': May on former NDP candidates backing the Greens
OTTAWA – Fourteen "prominent" New Brunswick New Democrats and one federal campaign executive have withdrawn their support for the federal party, and will be backing the Green Party and leader Elizabeth May in the 2019 election.
In an interview on CTV's Power Play, May said that the defection of these past provincial New Democrat candidates "certainly puts more wind in our sails."
In a statement declaring their departure from the NDP, outgoing NDP election planning committee member and representative for Atlantic Canada Jonathan Richardson said one of the reasons for their decision was the diminishing prospects for the party. He cited the provincial party's drop in support during the 2018 provincial race, where none of these now-defecting New Democrats managed to get elected, and the rise of the Greens, who saw three MLAs elected.
"Things are not going as well for the New Democrats… People are unsure what he [Singh] stands for," said pollster Nik Nanos on CTV's Power Play. "Rewind back to 2015 and the New Democrats were at twice the level of support than they are now nationally… he's got to engage Canadians in order to revamp his chances of doing well in the next federal election," he said.
In the join statement the defectors pointed out that federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has not visited the province once since winning the leadership in 2017. In contrast, May and the federal Green Party has "taken interest in our province," visiting numerous times.
In an interview, Richardson said that his issue is less with Singh's leadership, and more because he no longer sees the NDP as a viable option to deliver on the progressive policies that the party has championed. He said he doesn’t think it's possible for the party to elect an NDP MP in New Brunswick in the 2019 campaign.
"It takes a long time to do the ground work to get elected," he said.
The group of dissatisfied New Democrats is now encouraging other NDP supporters, and people in New Brunswick to vote Green in the federal election.
The defectors said they will be applying to become members of the provincial Green Party, led by David Coon, saying they "want representation from a political movement that respects and encourages the engagement at the community level while having the courage to lead by example" on climate change.
Former top NDP staffer and current Douglas-Coldwell Foundation President Karl Belanger questioned the eminence of these defectors, but said that nonetheless they blew up what was set to be a good news day for the NDP, with the unveiling of their main message to voters during the 2019 federal election campaign: "In it for you." This came alongside the release of two new TV ads, seen in part to be a re-introduction of the leader, who has yet to run in a federal election campaign.
"Hopefully they [the NDP] have a couple of good names, big names to announce in New Brunswick and elsewhere in the country in the coming days to counter that narrative," Belanger said in an interview.
The NDP have yet to name a single candidate in the province, with the election less than 50 days away.
NDP spokesperson Melanie Richer said the party will nominate “a full slate” of candidates in New Brunswick, with six nomination meetings currently being scheduled to happen before the end of next week.
"Sometimes, people change their mind for who they would like to support,” Richer said. “If these people are comfortable in supporting a Conservative government led by Andrew Scheer uplifted by Elizabeth May's Greens - that's also up to them to explain."
May said her party is showing new strength federally throughout the Maritimes.
According to the Green Party website, it has nominated candidates in six of the 10 New Brunswick ridings. It was not immediately clear whether any of these former New Democrats will be seeking to run as Green candidates in the remaining ridings where the party has yet to post who its representative will be.
"We have a very strong chance in Fredericton, throughout the province actually. The Moncton area, we're looking at some strong candidates even in places where historically we wouldn't have imagined we could elect anyone… So we're looking at New Brunswick as a place where we can make gains," May said.
May said that she is looking forward to this election. She said the Greens have seen "so much" volunteer enthusiasm, with the party’s electoral prospects potentially on the rise after electing a second Green MP during a B.C. byelection in May.
"I'm almost pinching myself, I can’t believe this is true, but I'm actually looking forward to an election. This is not an experience I’ve had before," said May.
With files from CTV News' Kevin Gallagher