As controversy broils and the federal election campaigns heats up nationally, the local Green party is still sputtering at the starting gate.
Just a day after the campaign officially started, Simcoe North Green Party candidate Erik Schomann was forced to resign due to scandal that resulted when a 12-year-old Facebook post surfaced that the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) claimed was islamophobic. (You can read the story here.)
His abrupt resignation, forced by party leader Elizabeth May, did not sit well with local party officials, who said “the consequences for this one post are out of proportion to the offence and are detrimental to our democracy.”
Fast-forward almost 10 days and the party is still without an official candidate.
“We’ve had a number of emergency riding association meetings and we’re all trying to figure out what is the best, most ethical, most democratic, most sensitive thing to do,” said Valerie Powell, a member of the riding association who has been a candidate several times in the past.
She said the association is committed to giving “people in this riding an opportunity to vote for a valid, quality, Green candidate (who will) respect and further Green values for Elizabeth May.”
Most local officials believe Schomann is that candidate and deserves a second chance.
However, the party’s leadership, nationally, doesn’t seem to agree. National campaign manager Jonathan Dickie did not return a call requesting comment for this story.
One of Schomann’s students at Seneca College, a Muslim, has started an online petition at change.org calling for May to reinstate Schomann.
Kashif Mahmood, who has known Schomann since 2013, started the petition to put pressure on the party.
“He is everything but an Islamophobic or anti-Muslim,” said Mahmood.
The petition has garnered 318 signatures.
Powell, who stressed she was not speaking on behalf of the party, said the hope is the petition might encourage the NCCM to reconsider their position. Based on the controversial post, they called on May to remove Schomann, which prompted his ouster.
"That’s why we’re in crisis,” said Powell. “It’s out of our hands at the riding level. It’s up to the national campaign team. They’re the ones who will make that decision.”
If the effort to reinstate Schomann fails, Powell will likely, once again, be the party’s candidate.
"I'm Plan B," Powell acknowleged. "I believe in the party too much to leave us stranded without a name on the ballot. But, I'm not Plan A."
Either way, the controversy and what followed will not be easy to overcome, Powell admits.
“It’s certainly not what a political party wants in the middle of a campaign,” she said. “It detracts from being able to talk about the platform - we’re preoccupied with this issue.”
It’s why, she believes, May forced Schomann to resign.
“The Green party made a very astute political move. That doesn’t mean it was right.”
Riding association president Alec Adams did not respond to an email request for an interview.