NDP Candidate Troubles Continue as the Election Campaign Gets Underway

September 16, 2019

The NDP hoped that the start of the election campaign would turn a page from the struggles they have faced in the pre-election period. Instead, it renewed questions about the NDPs ability to attract, vet and run a full roster of candidates.

When the writ dropped, the NDP had confirmed 235 candidates. The Liberals had 305 nominated candidates, the Greens had 317 and the People’s Party of Canada had 318. The Conservatives were the only party with a nominated candidate in each of the 338 ridings.

The NDP have defended the criticism of their nomination and vetting process by explaining the delay is caused by their democratic recruitment process which necessitates riding associations approach “equity-seeking” groups including women, Indigenous people, people from racialized communities and the LGBTQ2+ community. The NDP has indicated that its approach to-date has been successful in helping it establish a diverse slate of candidates. Its roster so far is more than 50% women, 25% racialized candidates, 8% LGBTQ2+ and 8% Indigenous. However, both the Conservatives and the Liberals have also said that their candidate rosters are diverse. Even with the explanation provided by the NDP it is clear to most that there is disfunction and disorganization within the Party when it comes to candidate recruitment. This was especially evident when the NDP lost two prominent Ontario candidates who withdrew their names in the last few weeks because of the slow vetting process.

The saga of late nominations for candidates extends to Jagmeet Singh, who only received his official nomination for the Burnaby South riding at the end of August. The NDP were the last party to nominate their leader as a candidate for the upcoming election.

Last week, in the midst of the NDP releasing positive messaging and their campaign slogan, the internal struggle once again boiled over. While the full story remains hazy, it is clear a number of provincial NDP candidates in New Brunswick, along with the federal party’s executive member for Atlantic Canada, Jonathan Richardson, switched their alliance to both the provincial and federal Greens. In the initial narrative, Richardson stated that the NDP did not have a path to victory in any of New Brunswick’s 10 ridings and they had failed to nominate a candidate in any of them. In addition, they said, Singh had not visited the province since being nominated as NDP leader. Finally, Richardson made a comment about their motivation being related to race, indicating that the NDP could not find candidates in New Brunswick because of doubt that people would vote for a man wearing a turban. Some of the candidates initially listed as switching to the Green Party had not expressed a desire to switch alliances and were unaware of the announcement. The defections led to accusations flying between the Green Party and the NDP, including the NDP accusing the Greens of spreading misinformation. The bottom line remains that the NDP appear to be in disarray in New Brunswick, with only one candidate nominated in the province at the moment. The recent defections add to the prior loss of Quebec MP Pierre Nantel who left the NDP to join the Greens after criticizing the NDP environmental position. The Green Party appears to be capitalizing on the disfunction within the NDP and desire for meaningful action on climate change.

As the election got underway Singh told reporters that the party’s candidates “have to live up to our standards.” These comments were made after it was reported that two NDP candidates have resigned, one from Quebec and one from British Columbia, both key provinces for the NDP. Olivier Mathieu, the NDP candidate for the Montreal-area riding of LaSalle-Émard-Verdun, withdraw after allegations of domestic abuse against him were made public. Mathieu has claimed the allegations from his former wife were false but withdrew to prevent himself from being a distraction to the party. Dock Currie, the southern B.C. candidate nominated in the riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo was asked to withdraw his candidacy over “problematic” comments he made to pro-pipeline activists on social media. Currie’s comments were missed during the party’s initial candidate vetting process, but recently came to light prompting the request to withdraw. Singh responded to questions about the two candidates by saying, “As soon as information arises where they are not meeting the standards … we then move ahead to ensure that they are no longer candidates. And that’s what happened recently”. Singh also stated, “I’m confident that people can trust us to know that we’re making good decisions about the candidates we have.”

The delay in nominating the bulk of their candidates may make it difficult for some of them to campaign effectively. The NDP took the approach of releasing its whole election platform “A New Deal for People” in June, and so far, remain the only party to have published their full election platform. The party stated that the purpose of the early release was to give local campaigns, candidates and volunteers actual platform issues to discuss. While this in theory makes sense, the lack of nominated candidates during the pre-election period meant that the uptake on this opportunity was poorer than one would have thought when the platform was released. It also remains unclear how many of the NDP policies the actual general public is aware of. The NDP has not shared many details of its platform at public events that have drawn significant media attention. One exception to this is the Labour Day speech Singh gave where he talked about the party platform to raise the federal minimum wage and protect striking workers.

Political pundits from other parties have said the NDP lack of nominated candidates signals trouble within the Party recruiting and vetting candidates, especially since until last week there was large swaths including whole provinces missing candidates. In addition, to the delay in nominating candidates, media attention has focused on NDP members and one MP defecting to the Green Party and candidate withdrawals. The NDP continue to try to overcome their difficulties by nominating a slew of candidates daily. They have nominated about 65 candidates in the last ten days. According to the Election Canada guidelines, the deadline for confirming candidates is 21 days prior to election day. That means, this year each party has until September 30 at 2 pm local time to nominate candidates. The NDP has reaffirmed that all Canadians will have an NDP candidate in their riding to vote for so we will continue to watch for their nominations.