Federal politics

Are Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott going Green?

Move will surely set off alarm bells at NDP headquarters
Photo: Province of British Columbia
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Sources connected to the federal Green Party and NDP expect former Liberal cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Phillpott to announce they are joining the federal Greens — including New Democrats who don’t think the NDP’s climate policies go far enough and say they too will consider switching parties.

Wilson-Raybould and Philpott have scheduled press conferences for Monday in their respective ridings. Asked to comment, Green Party press secretary Rosie Emery replied, “We will all have to wait until Monday.”

Wilson-Raybould famously resigned from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet over allegations she was pressured to provide SNC-Lavalin with preferential treatment in an ongoing criminal prosecution. Philpott, who was president of the treasury board, resigned from cabinet in solidarity with Wilson-Raybould in March, saying she had lost confidence in the government. Both women were expelled from the Liberal caucus in April.

Coming on the heels of a by-election upset in the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith earlier this month that provided the Greens with their second-ever elected MP, the move would give Elizabeth May’s Green Party momentum as a fall election approaches — and could spell more trouble for the NDP, which has struggled to gain traction under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh.

If the NDP fail to represent those priorities, a newly invigorated Green Party stands waiting in the wings.

Earlier this month Singh flip-flopped on the question of an LNG pipeline that is supported by the B.C. NDP government, and his struggles to articulate a clear policy agenda that would take the radical steps scientists and young people are calling for on the climate crisis leave his party vulnerable to the Greens, who recently released an ambitious climate plan modelled on the Green New Deal.

The Green proposal has been criticized for treating First Nations and other Indigenous Peoples as an afterthought, but it is the only federal policy that resembles the Green New Deal — which a recent poll found was supported by 61 per cent of Canadians.

Move could trigger defections

According to one source, a former NDP candidate in Montreal has told friends that if Wilson-Raybould and Philpott join the Greens they will switch parties. A former NDP MP from Quebec has also told friends she would consider such a move if Wilson-Raybould and Philpott join the Greens.

Ricochet spoke to another former NDP candidate in Montreal, who did not want to be named but indicated she was seriously considering switching parties as well, citing dissatisfaction with the NDP’s climate policies.

None of those defections may actually come to pass, but that they are being considered is indicative of the extent to which the NDP and Green Party share a political constituency with similar priorities. If the NDP fail to represent those priorities, a newly invigorated Green Party stands waiting in the wings.

Alarm bells for the NDP

Wilson-Raybould and Philpott have high levels of personal popularity and are widely seen to have acted on principle. However, the former Liberals also have a track record of supporting pipelines and advocating for a climate plan that most Greens and New Democrats find insufficient. They will now be called upon to defend that track record.

If they join the Greens, their greatest impact will likely not be in stealing votes from the NDP but from the Liberals. Liberal voters frustrated by that party’s record of broken promises and outraged over the SNC-Lavalin scandal may now find an obvious outlet for a protest vote.

If nothing else, this move will set off alarm bells at NDP headquarters. No longer able to take their left flank for granted, the NDP and Singh will likely be forced to commit to ending all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, including the LNG line supported by their provincial cousins in B.C.

The growing popularity of the Green New Deal, and the total lack of credibility of both Liberals and Conservatives on the subject, adds an interesting wrinkle to this fall’s election as both Greens and New Democrats will campaign to capture this substantial pool of voters.

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