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Green Party Leader Elizabeth May greets supporters as she arrives for the first federal election debate in Toronto on Sept. 12, 2019.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The first 24 hours of the federal election campaign left Green Party Leader Elizabeth May contending with inflammatory statements by three of her candidates. With one candidate expelled, another issuing an apology and a third receiving a talking-to from the Leader, the party’s screening of candidates and its reliance on self-disclosure has come into question.

During her campaign launch on Wednesday morning, Ms. May told reporters she would speak with the party’s star Quebec recruit, Pierre Nantel, about separatist remarks he made on a Quebec radio station. On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Nantel issued a carefully worded statement promising that he would not promote Quebec separatism in the House of Commons should he win the seat in Longueuil–Saint-Hubert for the Greens. He did not, however, disavow his sovereigntist position.

The Greens are not alone in candidate vetting issues. The NDP dropped Dock Currie as a candidate on Wednesday, after it was revealed that the Kamloops–Thompson–Cariboo hopeful had made threats over social media. On Thursday, the Conservatives asked Cameron Ogilvie to step down as the candidate for Winnipeg North after discriminatory social-media posts that he shared came to light.

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Ms. May said her party has a robust vetting process. To seek a Green nomination, the party asks prospective candidates a string of questions designed to avoid just these kinds of stories at the start of a campaign that offers the best electoral opportunity the Greens have ever enjoyed.

Would-be candidates must disclose if they disagree with any of the party’s policies, which list six core principles including sustainability, non-violence, social justice and respect for diversity.

Those core principles do not list national unity, so when questions were first raised about Mr. Nantel’s remarks to radio station QUB that he wishes to “separate as fast as possible” from the rest of Canada, the official party response was that he was not offside.

However, Ms. May later told reporters that her party does stand for national unity. “We will not have a candidate who thinks they can work to break up our county.” On Thursday, Mr. Nantel said he would avoid the matter of Quebec separatism.

“I have one, and only one, objective in seeking to represent the people of Longueuil–Saint-Hubert with the Green Party in our federal Parliament – to work together, across party lines, in a war cabinet with all political parties to help win the battle against climate change,” his statement read.

Elizabeth May clarifies position on abortion, says Green Party screens out candidates who disagree

The Green Party questionnaire is broad – applicants must disclose their education and employment history and provide links to all social-media accounts. If the list of specific questions about legal or professional misconduct missed anything, there is this catch-all question: “Are you aware of any other information, including information that can be found on the internet, not otherwise disclosed in this form that, if made public, could damage your electoral chances or the electoral chances of the Green Party of Canada?”

But in an interview, the Greens’ national campaign manager Jonathan Dickie said the vetting process requires candidates to self-disclose potential issues. That didn’t happen in the case of Dale Dewar, who had posted a string of anti-Israel comments on her Twitter account. “We were not aware of that account, nor did we find it in our screening,” he said.

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Ms. Dewar, the Green candidate for Regina–Qu’Appelle, has apologized and deleted the tweets. In a statement released by the party, she said: “I unreservedly renounce the comparison between Israel and Apartheid South Africa."

While the party accepted her apology, it did jettison its candidate for Simcoe North, Erik Schomann, for a social-media post in which he proposed sending a pig carcass to Muslims. “The Green Party has zero tolerance for sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia or hate speech of any kind," the party said in a statement.

John Ibbitson says this federal election boils down to one thing, trust. Either who voters trust the most to steer Canada in the years ahead, or who they distrust the least.
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