Green leader Peter Bevan-Baker has offered an apology to his own members in the midst of a nomination process that had been heavily criticized within the party.
Bevan-Baker’s apology on Friday followed a controversy surrounding the party’s decision to restrict its number of nominees in the Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park byelection.
Five individuals had initially applied to be the party’s nominee. A party committee narrowed this down to two nominees who could face a vote by the membership. One was later deemed ineligible by Elections P.E.I.
Several party members had complained publicly about the process, with some accusing the party’s provincial council of being overly secretive and unaccountable.
In the end, most members voted for the sole remaining nominee, retired medical physicist John Andrew, by a margin of 128 to 33. The 33 votes were for a ‘no candidate’ option, a protest vote allowed in Green nominations, through which members can express a lack of confidence with all of the potential nominees.
"I'm dismayed and I'm bewildered to some extent by the reaction to our actions. And, to those who are upset, I offer a sincere apology,” Bevan-Baker told an audience of close to 100 people at the Hillsborough Community Centre.
“Despite our best intentions, some of you feel that we fell short and we did not represent the ideals of this party. And for that I am truly sorry."
Bevan-Baker said an e-mail sent to party members had described the process for the selection of nominees and what the criteria would be.
“Those who have been around the party for a while will understand that our nomination meetings have not always gone smoothly."
The party’s candidate selection committee was assembled following the sudden death of Josh Underhay, who had been the Green candidate in the district. Underhay died in a canoeing accident days before the April 23 general election. Elections P.E.I. deferred the vote in the district and has said it must occur before July 19.
The Green party website had initially stated the committee would restrict the number of nominees to ‘no more than five.’ Earlier this month, members were informed the committee approved only two nominees, Andrew and Green party vice-president Susan Hartley.
Hartley was later deemed ineligible by Elections P.E.I., as she had already run as a candidate in another district during the general election.
When asked by The Guardian, Green party officials did not identify the names of the individuals who sat on the party’s candidate selection committee. Party president Martin Ruben did state that it included a member of the Underhay family, a member of provincial council, a member of the party’s caucus and one or more local residents of Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park.
"All the decisions that we have made along the way were done with the best of intentions. Everybody on council was trying to do the best that we could to reflect the values of our party,” Bevan-Baker said.
Bevan-Baker pledged to review the party’s nomination process. The review would take into account issues that have come up in previous Green party nominations, he said.
“Those who have been around the party for a while will understand that our nomination meetings have not always gone smoothly," he said.
In his remarks to members, Andrew said he had been inspired to run with the party after attending a celebration of Underhay’s life. He said he had been touched by a speech given at that event by Underhay’s wife Karri.
Andrew, who lives in East Royalty, had worked as a medical physicist in both P.E.I. and Nova Scotia and is currently the director of the Hillsborough River Association.
"I'd never been in politics. I'd been a civil servant, working in a hospital, having to wear a neutral cap, talking to people, trying to get budgets for this and that," Andrew said.
"I was always just neutral."
He said he saw many areas of overlap between the minority Progressive Conservative government and the Green party. But he also said winning in Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park was key for the party’s fortunes.
"I think we really need to win this riding. The Green party has had some great momentum,” Andrew said.
“I don't want to see it slow down,"
Andrew will face Progressive Conservative candidate Sarah Stewart-Clark, Liberal candidate Karen Lavers and NDP candidate Gordon Gay in the deferred election.
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