Elizabeth May says the weakened state of Canadian opposition parties on both the right and the left could spell opportunities for the federal Green party, both in P.E.I. and nationally.
May, who was in Charlottetown Tuesday night for a public town hall meeting at the Murchison Centre and for a nomination meeting at the Haviland Club, said the Conservative Party of Canada is likely to be split because of the resignation of former Conservative MP Maxine Bernier. Bernier, who has stated that he is libertarian, has pledged to run a national slate of candidates against Conservative candidates under the banner of the People’s Party of Canada.
"We have a Conservative party lead by someone who is uninspiring but at the same time malevolent," May said to Green members gathered at the Haviland Club.
"For Greens, maybe even for Canadian democracy itself, Max Bernier is the gift that keeps on giving."
The federal NDP under leader Jagmeet Singh, whom May called “the most cordial and decent NDP leader I’ve ever met,” are also in the political wilderness, May said. The NDP has seen its polling numbers and fundraising returns drop.
The federal Liberals, meanwhile, are embroiled in a high-profile scandal over a question of whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau interfered in the criminal prosecution of Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.
As a result of this, as well as recent gains the Greens’ provincial counterparts have seen in New Brunswick, P.E.I. and B.C., May believes the party could be headed for a breakthrough in October’s federal election.
"There's never been a constellation of factors more propitious for Greens getting elected," she said.
"I couldn't believe the NDP asked the ethics commissioner to look into it. The ethics commissioner mandate is not a good fit for the questions that need to be answered." -Elizabeth May
In P.E.I., the performance of the provincial Greens will play a key role in the federal party’s fortunes.
According to the most recent MQO poll, despite the growth in popularity of the provincial Green party, the federal Greens saw a drop in support of four percentage points in P.E.I., where just 10 per cent of decided voters said they planned to vote Green. The federal Liberals, meanwhile, continued to dominate public support at 52 per cent of decided voters, up eight percentage points from October.
May’s visit to P.E.I. occurred the day of the dramatic resignation of federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould from Trudeau’s cabinet. Her resignation came days after a Globe and Mail story, which cited unnamed sources who claimed staff in the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement. The agreement would have allowed the firm to avoid criminal prosecution related to a bribery investigation involving Libyan government officials.
On Monday, following a request from New Democrat MPs, Trudeau announced he would allow Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion to examine the allegations. May believes this was essentially a toothless gesture.
"I couldn't believe the NDP asked the ethics commissioner to look into it. The ethics commissioner mandate is not a good fit for the questions that need to be answered," May told The Guardian.
The ethics commissioner only has the ability to investigate what Trudeau, as an MP, did personally, and has no jurisdiction to investigate members of his staff, May said. She has called for an RCMP investigation, overseen by an independent commissioner, into the allegations involving the PMO.
Party members also nominated Darcie Lanthier as candidate for Charlottetown Monday night. Lanthier is a past leader of the provincial Green party and is a member of the its federal council.
Lanthier will face off against incumbent Liberal MP Sean Casey in the fall’s federal election.