OTTAWA—The man at the centre of what federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls a “fiasco” of false information is refusing to answer questions about his announcement this week that 14 former provincial candidates in New Brunswick flipped from the New Democrats to support the provincial and federal Green parties.
Jonathan Richardson, a former NDP executive for Atlantic Canada who staged the mass defection announcement in Moncton, refused to answer questions about the NDP’s response Thursday that five of the candidates listed in some reports as new-found Green supporters are still loyal New Democrats.
In joint statements released by the NDP Thursday, Jean-Maurice Landry, Hailey Duffy, Madison Duffy, Betty Weir, and Francis Duguay denied they were leaving the NDP to support the Greens.
The Star was unable to directly contact 12 of the former candidates Thursday. One hung up on a reporter when reached by phone, and another — Duguay — did not respond to a request for comment left with his office.
He told Radio-Canada, however, that he was “stupefied” to see himself named as an NDP defector.
“This is a fiasco that the Green party started,” Singh told reporters in Montreal on Thursday. “They put out a list of people, they spread some false information, and I think really the question has to go to them.
“Really it speaks to an act of desperation, maybe, by (Green Leader Elizabeth) May and the Green party. We’re really focused on recruiting real candidates,” he said.
The federal Greens declined to comment and referred questions to the Green Party of New Brunswick. It was the provincial party that issued a press release that said 14 former NDP candidates had flipped to the provincial and federal Greens. The federal Greens did not answer questions about how many — if any — of the former NDP candidates actually joined their party.
It was Richardson who provided the provincial party with the list of names, and the Greens were happy to welcome them, said Marco Morency, executive director of the New Brunswick Green Party. Morency said he agreed to organize a press conference, which included provincial Green Leader David Coon, to welcome six of the former New Democrats who attended the announcement.
But then, he said he was contacted Thursday morning by one of the named candidates — Duguay — who told him he was wrongly listed as an NDP defector. Other than that, Morency said he has received either membership applications or confirmations of support from eight of the 14 candidates named in Richardson’s list.
Of the six that Morency hadn’t spoken with, Willy Robichaud hung up when contacted by the Star, and the other five were those that issued statements reaffirming their support for the NDP on Thursday.
Morency accused the NDP of trying to convince the former candidates to retroactively withdraw their consent for joining Richardson’s announcement.
“To me this is vicious, old politics and the Green party would not stand for it,” he said. “I can understand that they’re not happy with what happened, that they want to retaliate.”
Richardson, meanwhile, refused to answer questions when contacted by the Star on Thursday. Responding on social media, Richardson said he wouldn’t comment “because it’s interfering with my work with vulnerable people now and they need me to be on my A game.”
The reports sparked by Richardson’s announcement — including in the Star — came as the federal NDP continues to lag behind the other parties in named candidates for the coming federal election. It also followed the departure of Pierre Nantel, a former NDP MP who was turfed from the party for secretly meeting the Greens this summers. He is now running for the Greens in his riding outside Montreal.
Richardson also sparked discussion about Singh’s ethnicity, when he told The Canadian Press this week that he believes the NDP leader’s race might deter some New Brunswickers from running for the party this fall. Richardson separately told the Star that he left the NDP for the Greens because Singh has never visited New Brunswick as leader and that the NDP still has not nominated any candidates in the province for the Oct. 21 federal election.
In Montreal on Thursday, Singh said the party will have more than 300 candidates in place by the end of next week — it had 181 as of Tuesday — and that officials are working hard to ensure there is a diverse slate of people vying for election. Singh said he wants to represent everyone who has been told they can’t achieve something because of the way they are.
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“People are judged based on the colour of their skin, their sexuality, their gender, where they come from, the language they speak or don’t speak,” Singh said.
“These are things that people face every day, and I’m a leader of a party that’s maybe experienced some of it, but I’m hoping to represent all those people who face it in their day to day lives. And I want them to know that yes, you can. Yes, you can succeed; yes, you can become elected; and yes, you can become Prime Minister of Canada.”