There were no thanks being given between the NDP and Greens this past weekend, with the governing party accusing the Green Party of launching a “hostile takeover” of their leadership race.
Accusations have been floating for weeks that Anjali Appadurai’s campaign has been drawing in card-carrying Greens to support her bid for NDP leader, with plans to renounce their NDP memberships as soon as the race is done.
In an interview with BC Today on Tuesday, Appadurai said any claims of a hostile takeover were “frankly ridiculous.”
“I was surprised and concerned to see it play out that way,” she said. “This characterization of people coming in from other parties as hostile or fraudulent or illegitimate in any way is absolutely concerning to me, because, frankly, it is a wonderful thing that we’re drawing in people.”
She said the goal of leadership races is to attract new members who may have previously been members of other parties or never even involved politically. Appadurai said influxes of new members are what keeps a political party growing.
When asked about rumours that her campaign had brought in significantly more members than her opponent, David Eby, Appadurai said there was no way for her to know how many new members joined because of her, but acknowledged she has heard estimates anywhere between 8,000 and 14,000.
The party has not publicly released membership figures.
As for allegations of rule-breaking by her campaign, Appadurai said she and her team had done nothing wrong. Elections BC is investigating alleged campaign violations by environmental group Dogwood and the BC NDP is investigating whether anyone who recently joined the party had their $10 membership fee paid by a third party.
“I definitely support the investigations, and if there’s misconduct found in places that are not our campaign I support any and all actions to address that,” she said. “The Dogwood allegations are ultimately an investigation into Dogwood’s actions and aren’t connected to our campaign.”
Ultimately, she believes the actions of the NDP executive reflect the party’s own insecurities.
“I feel like this has less to do with me than it has to do with some of the other fears and anxieties that a lot of people are feeling,” she said. “So there’s the fear of [Liberal Leader] Kevin Falcon, of losing the province to the Liberals, there’s the fear of an unconventional rookie leader bringing in strong environmental values to the leadership of the party, and — this is the sad part — a fear of the grassroots, a fear of social movements and a fear of people being able to influence decision-making in a more robust way.”
Membership controversies reach climax
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, BC NDP provincial director Heather Stoutenburg sent a letter to the Greens asking for the party to turn over its membership lists.
In the letter, which was quickly leaked to Chek News’ Rob Shaw, Stoutenburg stated that “current and former Green members have told us directly that they told the BC Greens to temporarily suspend memberships so they could join the BC NDP,” before reminding the Greens that dual membership is against the constitutions of both parties.
Stoutenburg asked the Greens to agree to a third-party review, which would audit both parties’ membership lists and filter out those who are members of both or were Green members shortly before joining the NDP.
In response, BC Green provincial council chair Jeremy Valeriote said his party has a “legal and ethical obligation to [its] members and the personal information they share” with it before refusing the NDP’s proposal.
Stoutenburg expressed her disappointment, reiterating that election laws “require political parties to have as their primary purpose electing MLAs for that party.”
“If a significant portion of the BC Green membership is attempting a hostile takeover of the BC NDP, this does not reflect well on the BC Green Party and we would wonder whether it puts its status as a registered political party in jeopardy,” she wrote.
The Greens did not provide comment to that response in time for publication.
Stoutenburg said in a statement to BC Today that her party is conducting random spot checks of memberships as well as complaint-driven investigations.
She also said the party is aware of a letter appearing to have come from the United Steelworkers union, urging members to temporarily join the NDP to vote for Eby as he “isn’t going to advocate for the end of industrial logging” and that voting for him “gives us leverage.”
United Steelworkers District 3 director Scott Lunny told BC Today the letter didn’t come from his office, and that while he doesn’t doubt it came from the Steelworkers, he said it does not represent the position of the union.