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P.E.I. Green nomination review highlights flaws in process

Newly nominated Green party candidate John Andrew speaks to party members at a meeting in Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park Friday night. The retired physicist will take the place of Josh Underhay, a Green candidate who died in a canoeing accident in April, as the party’s candidate in the district.
Newly nominated Green party candidate John Andrew speaks to party members at a meeting in Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park in 2019 after being selected as the party’s candidate in the district. - Stu Neatby

An internal review of the candidate nomination process for P.E.I.’s Green party has acknowledged flaws related to the nomination contest in the riding of Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park during the spring of 2019. 

The review said party leaders “may not have had enough emotional distance” prior to altering the Green nomination process in advance of the deferred election in July 2019. 

The deferred election occurred after candidate Josh Underhay died in a canoeing accident during the 2019 election campaign. The subsequent nomination of a new candidate to run in that district was mired in criticisms from party members, several of whom argued the process lacked transparency and allowed only “hand-picked” candidates to stand.

“While it is important to recognize the human aspects of process, grief, and experience; the limitation would be that it is only appropriate to alter policy to the extent that it would be altered for any other candidate,” the review said.

“Adding an element to the process is reasonable, while developing an entirely new process with new committee members and criteria is not.”

At a glance
Here are some findings from the 2019 Green Nomination Review
• Some conflicts of interest observed in “green-light” committee 
• Committee members often unclear about mandate of committee
• Evaluation criteria of candidates sometimes based on subjective “Green values”
• Inconsistency in nomination timelines
• Appeals process often involved same members involved in initial denial of candidacy
• Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park nomination involved different “green-light” committee and criteria

The review said the party’s provincial council then put in place an entirely new “green-light” committee, despite the existence of a committee that had vetted candidates prior to the 2019 general election. The new committee included a representative of provincial council, a member of the party’s caucus and a member of Underhay’s family. A new criteria for evaluating potential nominees was also put in place, which considered whether candidates “embodied the spirit” of Underhay and his campaign.

Of the five individuals who sought the nomination, only two – provincial council member Susan Hartley and conservationist John Andrew – were green-lit. Hartley, who said she had recused herself from decisions relating to the nomination, was later disqualified as election laws prohibited candidacy of individuals who had run for office in the general election. 

Party members were left with a choice of Andrew or the option of “no candidate” in the ensuing nomination. Progressive Conservative candidate Natalie Jameson would go on to win the deferred election and become MLA for the district.

Sarah Charette, the Green party ombudsperson who conducted the review, wrote that the Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park nomination process occurred following a “tragic circumstance that is unlikely to be encountered again”. Party leaders were unclear on the rules governing deferred elections and put in place a process in a short time frame.

“I concluded that the formation of an additional committee and straying from the additional nomination and screening committee would be ill-advised,” Charette said in an interview.

Green party leaders have committed to putting in place a new “urgent nomination process” for future circumstances with short timeframes. This will closely resemble the party’s established practices for nominations and will involve an appeals process.

The review was also a broad examination of the party’s overall nomination process, which was described as “fair, transparent, and in alignment with Green values.” The review also noted several shortcomings of the process.

Hartley, now acting president of the party, said the candidate screening process will focus more on objective screening criteria, such as background checks and social media history. A focus on alignment with subjective criteria like “Green values” will be left to party members to decide in contested nominations.

"One of the recommendations that she has made, that we are very strongly in support of, is that we need to balance objective information gathering and subjective information gathering,” Hartley said. 

“We would like to bring the membership in more so that their decisions can be informed, and they make more of the decisions."

Hartley added that establishing local electoral district associations is a top priority of the party. Unlike the more established Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties, the Greens had few local district associations prior to the last election.

The party initially declined to provide The Guardian with a copy of the review in March. It was distributed to members in January.


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