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Saturday, December 10, 2022

New Brunswick NDP faces more leadership turmoil | Nation World News

New Brunswick’s troubled New Democratic Party is facing another round of leadership turmoil with several members of the party’s governing council pushing for the removal of leader MacKenzie Thomason.

The unhappy members say Thomason has acted arrogantly, making decisions that go against the will of the NDP provincial council.

“He is on a power high,” said Karla Manning, a member of the council. “He just wants to run it like a club, not an actual party.”

The critics narrowly passed a motion of no confidence in Thomason at a meeting April 30, but it wasn’t binding. Thomason faces an automatic leadership review vote at the party’s provincial convention in July.

Former candidate ready to quit

Josh Floyd, a former candidate, said another cycle of conflict over the leadership may prompt them to cut their ties to the provincial party.

“I’ve seen this occur not once with Dominic Cardy, not twice with Jennifer McKenzie but three times with Mackenzie Thomason,” said Floyd, who ran for the provincial NDP in 2018 and 2020 and for the federal party in 2021.

“I’m at the point where I’m almost ready to bow out.”

The NDP won just 1.6 percent of the popular vote in the last provincial election and has not elected an MLA to the legislature since 2003.

The party recently lost its executive director, Jennifer Stairs.

Byelection blues

Ken Chartrand, another member of the party’s executive council, says Stairs quit after Thomason blocked her from running in the Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin byelection scheduled for June 20.

“She decided, ‘I’ve had enough, I’m out of here,'” said Chartrand, who was involved with the Ontario NDP before moving to New Brunswick a year and a half ago.

“The situation’s become extremely volatile at times. I’ve been extremely shocked at how the meetings have taken place over the last year. A lot of people are upset. … I’ve never seen such turmoil in my life.”

After stairs left, the party executive chose Floyd to run in Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin. But Thomason overruled that and chose former candidate Glenna Hanley instead.

Floyd identifies as gender-fluid and has accused Thomason of misgendering them in opting for Hanley in the interest of gender parity in the party’s candidates in two byelections.

Thomason said Floyd had offered to run “if no one else wanted to,” so he opted for Hanley because she ran in the riding before and lives in Fredericton, closer to the constituency than Floyd, who lives in Saint John.

“I didn’t know Josh was gender-fluid,” Thomason added. “It is recent news that has come to my attention.”

political wilderness

Thomason led the NDP into the last provincial election as interim leader after the party was forced to delay its leadership vote twice. He was acclaimed as party leader last September.

The party has been plagued by low support and a bare-bones organization for most of the last two decades, and since 2018 the provincial Green Party’s three elected MLAs have been the leading voice on the political left.

Thomason confirmed the NDP has not yet filed its last two political financing reports with Elections New Brunswick, a legal requirement.

“We are making sure that we are communicating with them to make sure we get things done,” he said.

But Rebecca Rogers, another member of the provincial council, said the missed deadlines could have consequences.

“Based on what’s going on right now, there’s a good chance that the party could be decertified.”

Thomason said the complaints about his leadership stem from the party’s weak position.

“I think it’s growing pains. I think we’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of getting where we want to be and making sure we are doing what we need to do, and we’re just not all on the same page with that right now.”

Proving progressive bona fides

Council member Saly Davis said Thomason used the mute button on a video meeting last year to shut down a report from the party’s visible-minority caucus, which she chairs.

She said the party is dominated by white privileged men who have “no sweet clue” about what other New Brunswickers have to deal with.

Saly Davis
NDP governing council member Saly Davis criticized the racial makeup of the party’s leadership. (Submitted by Saly Davis)

But Thomason said he wasn’t trying to silence anyone during the meeting last fall.

He said two people were “screaming at each other,” and he asked them to resolve their differences offline. When they said they couldn’t, he got the council to table the report until a later meeting “in the interest of keeping the meeting going.”

He also defended his progressive credentials.

“That is who I am. Anybody who is saying anything else about me is just simply lying.”

Thomason said he’ll respect the outcome of the July review vote, which is automatic at every party convention. It asks members whether they want a leadership race.

But he said another change at the top will hurt the party’s chances of returning to the legislature. The party hasn’t had the same leader for two consecutive elections since 2003.

“It hampers the public’s ability to get to know us,” Thomason said. “It hampers the public’s ability to trust us.”

The party has yet to find a candidate for the second byelection, which is being held June 20 in Miramichi Bay-Neguac. The deadline to nominate one is June 3.

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