Several Green party members say they have been kept in the dark about the party’s selection process of its candidate in Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park.
The Guardian spoke to five Green party members who described what they saw as a lack of transparency regarding the party’s selection of nominees to run in the deferred election in the district.
The district has been without a political representative, due to the sudden death of Green candidate Josh Underhay in a canoeing accident shortly before the election. Elections P.E.I. delayed a vote in the district and stated that a deferred election would take place before July 19.
Last Friday, the Green party announced it would field two nominees – party vice-president Susan Hartley and former medical physicist John Andrew. Five individuals had applied to be the nominee. Party members were told they would have the chance to select either Andrew and Hartley as their candidate in a nomination meeting. This meeting is scheduled to take place Friday evening at the Hillsborough Park Community Centre.
But Green party member Derek Smith said he was dismayed to hear that only two candidates were given a chance to be the party’s candidate in the district. He said he has not received any information on why some applicants were turned down.
"The way it went down, it was like, backroom. 'We're going to hide in the back, we're going to pick who you're going to vote for. You're not picking,' " Smith said.
“That's not how a grassroots party works."
The Green party had campaigned on offering a more grassroots and accountable alternative to the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties.
Smith said he had hoped that he would have a chance to vote for Gavin Hall, a candidate who had unsuccessfully run for the party in Charlottetown-West Royalty. Hall, he later learned, had applied to be a nominee in Charlottetown-Hillsborough and had been turned down. Smith said he was told Hall was not given a reason for being turned down.
"It just reeks of old-time politics. Everything is decided in the backroom," Smith said.
Further exacerbating this confusion, Elections P.E.I. announced on Thursday, that Hartley, who sits on the party’s provincial council and is a vice-president, was deemed ineligible to run in the deferred election in Charlottetown-Hillsborough by Elections P.E.I.
A statement written by chief electoral officer Tim Garrity stated that, in the event of a death of a candidate, the province’s Elections Act prohibited unsuccessful candidates who ran in the general election from being eligible to run in a deferred election. Hartley had run in Georgetown-Pownal last month and lost to Progressive Conservative MLA Steven Myers.
As a result, Andrew will be the sole nominee to face party members during Friday's nomination meeting. Members will have the option of voting for Andrew or ‘no candidate’.
"The way it went down, it was like, backroom. 'We're going to hide in the back, we're going to pick who you're going to vote for. You're not picking.' That's not how a grassroots party works."
Party member Daniel Boudreau said he was frustrated with the party’s internal process.
“My view on this whole thing is, it's not about favouritism and it's not about one person over the other, it's about a fair, transparent process. And this hasn't been that way," Boudreau said.
"Really, to the party membership, it just looks like you're trying to cover up the process as to why you've already chosen the candidates that you've already chose."
Boudreau said he would have supported Hall’s nomination run, although he acknowledged that Hall would also have been deemed ineligible.
Several other party members echoed the criticisms expressed by Smith and Boudreau.
Explained in an email
Green party president Martin Ruben said the party’s process for selecting nominees in Charlottetown-Hillsborough was explained in an email to all party members in late April.
He said the party’s provincial council had assembled a candidate selection committee to evaluate potential applicants. The committee of five included representation from caucus, provincial council, local residents of Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park and a member of Underhay’s family.
“Our process for this particular nomination, given the short timeframe we had to carry it out, given the fact that we could be into a writ period fairly quickly, has to be designed in such a way that it respected that short period," Ruben said.
Ruben said the selection committee had considered the example of Underhay in its selection of the two nominees.
“We want to respect the approach to how he campaigned on behalf of the Green party and what he represented in the community," Ruben said.
Ruben did not reveal the names of members of the candidate selection committee or who the other applicants for the nomination were. The reason for limiting the list of possible nominees to only two was also not revealed.
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said the party’s criteria evaluated whether the proposed candidates “embodied the spirit of Josh and the campaign he ran.”
"The criteria that the committee used in order to put somebody through, rather than not, were very clear and they were also communicated to the membership," he said.
Bevan-Baker acknowledged Hartley had been a member of provincial council, which had final say over the selection of candidates, but that she had recused herself in recent meetings.
The leader said he did not believe revealing the names of members of the candidate selection committee was appropriate.
Progressive Conservative candidate Sarah Stewart-Clark, Liberal candidate Karen Lavers and NDP candidate Gordon Gay will also run in the Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park election.