CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI — Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is calling out the NDP for sending out what she calls “blatantly dishonest” literature in battleground ridings in southern Vancouver Island. The NDP, however, says it is just repeating May’s own words.
“It is a typical smear campaign,” May told HuffPost Canada during an interview on a drive between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, where she visited provincially held Green seats the federal party hopes to win on Oct. 21.
“There is a question about coming at us hard, and lying,” May said Friday, of the leaflets dropped in ridings she identified as Victoria, Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke, Nanaimo–Ladysmith and Cowichan–Malahat–Langford. “That is a dividing line I did not expect.”
The leaflets claim that while the Greens have a plan to fight climate change, the party shares “many Conservative values.” The NDP says the Greens will not oppose “austerity budgets that cut services families’ need” and that their opponents will not “always defend the right to access a safe abortion.”
While May refers to the NDP’s allegations as “deliberately misleading,” the NDP called the leaflet “100 per cent factual.”
“We just repeated her words. Those are the things she said,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told HuffPost Saturday, at a campaign event in the Toronto riding of Davenport.
The NDP’s assertions stem from the fact that May — whose platform includes access to safe abortion services and billions in new spending, for programs such as free post-secondary education, universal pharmacare, and a guaranteed livable income — has not ruled out speaking to the Conservatives should the election result in no majority government. She argues that it is the right and prudent approach in a parliamentary system to talk to all parties and that saying she won’t talk to the Tories — as Singh has done — would limit her bargaining power.
“Imagine if [B.C. Green Leader] Andrew Weaver in negotiating had said: ‘I can never work with [then Liberal leader] Christie Clark’? It would have been kind of hard to get [NDP Leader] John Horgan to do anything,” said May. “I’m just trying to keep all the powder dry.”
“We just repeated her words. Those are the things she said.”
But for Singh, the question is about partnerships. “We do not have anything in common [with the Conservatives]. Their values do not align us. We will not be working with the Conservatives.”
May, however, pointed out that the NDP have worked with the Tories before. NDP leader Jack Layton helped defeat former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin and the billions he had pledge for climate, childcare and the Kelowna accord for indigenous peoples, and usher in a decade of Stephen Harper, May said. The NDP, under Layton and later under Thomas Mulcair, worked together with the Conservatives to prevent her from also participating in the federal leaders’ debate in 2011 and some of the discussions in 2015, the Green party leader noted.
If Canadians deliver a minority government and the Greens have enough MPs to hold the balance of power, May said she will go to both camps with her wish list. Her one demand is real tangible action on climate change that ensures Canada limits global warming to 1.5 degrees.
“We have a moral responsibility to ensure that before the window to 1.5 degrees closes, we actually achieve it.”
May thinks Singh’s demands for the Trudeau Liberals’ don’t force the Grits to make necessary investments to respond to the threat of catastrophic climate change. She wondered if Singh’s focus on pharmacare, cellphone bills, and dental care would make him a more attractive partner to the Liberals than her party.
The other assertion, which Singh pointed to, is May’s saying she will not whip any votes, even on abortion.
“First, she said she cannot stop any of her MPs if they wanted to bring up the question of a woman’s right to choose,” he said. “And she also said, and ‘frankly, and that’s a good thing.’ She can’t change that. Those are words that she said.
“For me, a woman’s right to choose are non-negotiable,” Singh said, to applause from his supporters.
Watch: May says she’s losing patience with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Story continues below.
In a September interview with CBC, May — who is firmly in pro-choice and said she expects all her candidates to support access to legal abortions — explained that the Greens don’t whip caucus votes.
“What I thought I was answering a question about was why we don’t whip votes. And it came out as why we won’t whip votes on abortion. That was my mistake, and I regret that I wasn’t — I thought I was answering a different question,” she told HuffPost.
She said the Greens ask every candidate to tell the party in advance if they have any disagreements with its policies. May said she expects candidates will not agree with all Green policies — she herself disagrees on the party’s Senate policy — but, she said, fundamental things, such as not believing in climate change or not believing in rights to a legal abortion, “they are not running.”
“There is a question about coming at us hard, and lying. That is a dividing line I did not expect.”
The NDP notes that while the Greens say they screen their candidates, some are out of step with May on the abortion question.
May said they screened and found one candidate that they felt shouldn’t run, “and we put her aside. Nobody else.”
The Greens and the NDP are fighting for the “none-of-the-above” vote in an election that has seen very little movement, according to public opinion polls, between the Conservatives and the Liberals. Both main parties have been neck-and-neck in national polls. While the Greens have seen their vote soften a bit, the party is focused on winning seats in areas of concentrated support, such as the southern Vancouver Island ridings the NDP has targeted with its leaflet.
In 2015 and 2011, for example, the contest in Victoria was a two-way race between the Greens and NDP. (The Liberals’ candidate in 2015 was disqualified.) May says the NDP engaged in another last-minute “fear campaign” back then, suggesting a vote for the Greens was a vote for the Tories. The NDP incumbent, Murray Rankin, beat out CBC radio personality Jo-Anne Roberts, who was running for the Greens, by 7,000 votes. The Tories ended up fourth.
This time, May said, she hopes voters won’t be swayed by the NDP’s tactics.
“It shows their general lack of integrity,” she said, lashing back at her attackers.
The Greens are looking at sending their own literature in the next eight days “to correct the record,” May said, and to warn constituents in that the NDP is saying “things that aren’t true” without it sounding like “squabbling” between parties.
“I really had expected more, I didn’t think that the NDP under Jagmeet Singh would think that throwing mud would be a good thing to do, and I think they have spent more time attacking us — and, of course, that is my perspective and it is very subjective — than they have attacking Scheer.”