The decision by P.E.I. Greens to delay further nominations for the approaching provincial election illustrates a new political reality for the party. The Greens are a close second place in recent polls and have become a looming power. It’s grown up now and must play by different rules.
Kitchen meetings and appointed candidates are no longer acceptable to voters and party members. Candidates must pass tougher scrutiny – before and during campaigns.
Third parties such as the Greens often had to scramble to find candidates, let alone hold nomination conventions. It was common for a leader to simply appoint someone to run in a district to fill a slate.
Things came to a head after the Greens held a nomination event in Summerside last month and announced four candidates to run in area seats. Four shadow critics – all credible party veterans – were declared. But they were also hand-picked and acclaimed. It smacks of elitism and dictating to members, that “we know what’s best.”
Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker is proud to stand with the four candidates. “People have been telling me that with the right candidates, there is no district that Greens cannot win in the next election.” The right candidates, apparently, are the ones selected and approved by the leader and party council, and not by Green members at large.
The negative reaction was apparently vocal enough for the party to abruptly postpone a similar nomination meeting scheduled for Charlottetown where as many as seven candidates were to be named. Officially, the party said there was a feeling among members that the process was too rushed. Unofficially, it was suggested the Greens halted the process because some of the declared candidates were considered mediocre. An attempt by the party council to get preferred candidates in place before the grassroots could oppose the process was reluctantly abandoned.
The party acknowledged that there may be some ridings that will face a contested nomination. That resulted is another political observer suggesting a Green backroom was hard at work trying to block a party member from challenging a selected candidate.
For a party which prides itself on transparency and inclusiveness – and doing things differently from the “old-line” Liberals and Progressive Conservatives - such a process flies in the face of those ideals. According to political observers, there is now a backroom in play within the Green party, an accusation which must really rankle party officials.
The party revolt actually contains some good news for the Greens. It shows there is growing interest in supporting and representing the party – which is a healthy problem. To be successful across the province, the Greens must involve the grassroots and not dictate from afar.
The Greens are well advised to get used to the added scrutiny and criticism. In the past, Liberals and PCs largely ignored third parties, as they were rarely seen as serious threats; and to avoid charges of ganging up on the little guy. Polls dictate those days are over. The gloves are off.